Curriculum Information

K-12 Departments


Testing Dates

Report Card Schedule

Lauren Gemmill

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction

(518) 377-4666 x50703 

Niskayuna Schools > Academics > Elementary Curriculum Information

Elementary Curriculum overview

The elementary level curricula are designed using New York State Common Core Standards. Scroll down, or use the links below, for more information about each program area. For more information about the Common Core, click here.

Reading and Writing | Writing | Mathematics | Science | Social Studies | Music | Health

Special Education | Speech/Language Services

Standardized Testing and Assessments



Reading instruction at Niskayuna incorporates research-based practices that include both direct, explicit instruction and opportunities for students to practice skills and strategies in authentic reading experiences. Teachers plan lessons and units to include whole group, small group, and, in some cases, one to one instruction.

In addition, reading instruction is balanced to include important components of literacy learning including: vocabulary and comprehension development, decoding strategies, building fluency, sight word acquisition, and phonological awareness development.

Teachers have access to a variety of instructional tools, materials and resources to design lessons that best meet the needs of the readers in their classrooms. Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are provided for students who are in need of additional support, in order to meet the state standards in English language arts. Instructional goals and teaching are based on the NYS English language arts standards. This year, you may notice some shifts in instructional practices as teachers begin to align their classroom teaching to the new New York State Common Core Learning Standards for English language arts and literacy.



All of the elementary schools in the district are in the process of transitioning to the use of Writer's Workshop model for writing instruction. The Writer''s Workshop model focuses on writing instruction within different units of study. The Writer's Workshop embraces student choice. Students find the writing instruction extremely motivating. Although they work within the set unit and are
responsible for learning three to five predetermined goals within each unit, students have choice as to the topics they choose to write about.

The Writer's Workshop approach is truly differentiated. This means that every child is working at their own developmental level. Although all students receive instruction around the unit goals, they also conference individually with the teacher to insure that instruction is tailored to their own needs.
Students spend about four to six weeks in each unit. During that time they are drafting and revising their writing. At the end of the unit, each student picks one piece that they bring through the complete writing process. Students also publish writing in other content areas on a regular basis.


In the primary grades, students participate in a hands-on approach to learning mathematics. Manipulatives are used to teach concepts and foundational skills. Fact practice begins in first grade. The district used the Math in Focus textbook series, and such strategies as Singapore Math's model drawing. In third grade, students are grouped based on their mathematical ability. However, ALL students participate in the grade level curriculum. There is no math acceleration in third grade. Grouping is fluid and students are moved within the three third grade classrooms based upon their instructional needs for each unit. Placement in third grade does not solely determine placement for fourth grade. Early in September, all classroom teachers use data to form math classes. In fourth and fifth grades, students are grouped into either an accelerated classroom or grade level classrooms. Teachers are provided a spreadsheet of data points which assist them in forming math groups. A number of data points are used to determine which students are selected for math acceleration. The data points may include math scores from the previous year's cumulative tests, scores from a
beginning of year inventory, chapter test and other classroom test results, scores from the New York State Math Assessment(s), NWEA MAP results, and teacher recommendation. Parents will be notified if their child is being offered the opportunity. Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are provided for students who are in need of additional support, in order to meet the state standards in math.


A brief outline of the topics explored at each level is below.

  • Kindergarten: Five senses, Promoting Good Health, Weather/Seasons, Animals, Sunshine and Shadows, Plants, Water play
  • First: Seasons/Earth, Sky and Moon, Properties of Matter, Force and Motion, Embryology
  • Second: Chemical and Physical Interactions, Measurement, Plant Adaptations & Life Cycles, Solar System
  • Third: Water, Matter, Energy and Life Cycles (using the butterfly)
  • Fourth: Earth's Landforms, Properties of Matter, Electricity & Magnetism, Simple Machines, Plants & Animals
  • Fifth: Pond Life, Sound and Light, Looking at Liquids, Minerals

Social Studies

A brief outline of the topics explored at each level is listed below.

  • Kindergarten: All about me, All About My Family, My classroom Community, Holidays and Traditions
  • First: Families, Traditions and Communities, Economics, Geography Skills
  • Second: Communities, Geography Skills, Citizenship
  • Third: Geography Skills, Countries
  • Fourth: NYS History and Government, Geography Skills
  • Fifth: Western Hemisphere, National Government, Geography Skills


All Niskayuna elementary schools follow the same health curriculum. All lessons are done at a developmentally appropriate level. This includes the content and vocabulary introduced and taught. The curriculum is focused around six main units - Bullying and Violence Prevention, Nutrition and Physical Fitness, Body and Growth Development, Self Worth and Mental/Substance Abuse, HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Special Education Services

Under federal regulation, a student who meets criteria for special education classification is entitled to have an IEP written to meet specific learning needs. If you suspect your child may qualify, please contact your elementary school pscychologist or your child's classroom teacher.

Section 504

Under federal regulation, a student who is deemed to have a disabling condition and who has a life skill impairment may qualify for a Section 504 plan. If you suspect your child may qualify, please contact your child's school principal classroom teacher.

Speech/Language Services

The speech/language pathologist provides services to eligible students for help with articulation delays, stuttering, voice disorders, or language impairments. Mandated services are provided through the Committee on Special Education for students with speech or language disorders. Additionally, speech
improvement services are provided at the building level on a space available basis for students with less severe speech or language difficulties.

English Language Learners

Instruction is provided to students whose native language is not English. Students qualify based on test results and must be provided services until they are tested out of the program.

Standardized Testing and Assessments

All students are assessed in the area of reading with the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Assessment System at the beginning and end of the year. This assessment is formative in nature and helps teachers assess individual students' areas of strengths and weaknesses, as well as plan both small and whole group reading instruction.

Students in third, fourth and fifth grade take two New York State Assessments, one in the area of English Language Arts and the other in the area of Mathematics. These assessments take place at the end of April/early May. Fourth grade students also take a New York State assessment in the area of science. The science test is given at the end of May/early June. All New York State Assessment scores are sent directly to the home once scores are provided to us and the district gives the direction to do so. This sometimes occurs well into the summer or even into the fall.

Additionally, all students take NWEA Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments. Students take these exams online in the areas of reading and math, three times a year to measure academic growth. A test taken in September can identify a predicted growth score for each child. Students are retested two more times, and progress is measured, comparing the predicted growth score with the
actual growth score. Several reports are provided to teachers to allow them to adjust their instruction after a mid-way test point, to better meet the needs of their students.