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.

Standards Based Report Card

Elementary teachers and administrators worked together over three years to develop an updated report card for K-5 that better communicates what students are expected to know and be able to do based on current New York State standards. Niskayuna’s new Standards Based Report Card will be introduced in fall 2022.

The report card is designed to help families reflect on the teaching and learning happening inside classrooms. It focuses on showing growth towards the end-of-year grade-level skills and knowledge. 

Chinese Subtitles- K-5 Standards Based Report Cards Video
Spanish Subtitles-K-5 Standards Based Report Cards Video
Tagalog Subtitles-K-5 Standards Based Report Cards Video
Presentation in Pashtu- K-5 Standards Based Report Cards
Presentation in Udru- K-5 Standards Based Report Cards

More Resources


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 a choice as to the topics to write about.

The Writer’s Workshop approach is truly differentiated. This means that every child is working at his/her 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 he/she can 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. Health education is taught by the classroom teacher in grades K-5. Additionally, a certified health teacher instructs the fifth grade classes in the areas of Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention as well as Family Life Education.

The curriculum is focused around six main units – Bullying and Violence Prevention, Nutrition and Physical Fitness, Body and Growth Development, Self Worth, Mental/Substance Abuse, and HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Parents can request that their children be allowed to “opt out” of the human sexuality portion of any health education course. To request this option, parents should secure the “Opt Out Form” and submit it in a timely fashion to either the classroom teacher or the building principal.

Music – General & Instrumental

General Music

All students in Kindergarten through grade 3 attend two 30-minute periods of music instruction each week. Students in grades 4 and 5 attend two weekly instructional periods; one for 30 minutes and the other 45 minutes. The 45-minute instructional period is a large choral experience. Our goal is to provide the skills for each student to become both an active participant and an educated consumer of music.

Students engage in a variety of musical activities, including singing, dancing, musical games, listening activities and playing classroom instruments (mallet and rhythm instruments, recorders and world drums).

Fourth Grade Instrumental Music – Orchestra

All students are offered the opportunity to play violin, viola, cello or bass. Students choosing to study a string instrument are provided one 30-minute group lesson per week during the school day. To provide performance opportunities, grade four string students are combined with the fifth-grade string players for Winter and Spring concerts.

Fifth Grade Instrumental Music – Orchestra

The fifth-grade string program is a logical extension of fourth grade study of violin, viola, cello or bass. It is anticipated that students who played a string instrument in fourth grade will continue in the fifth grade. Students are provided one 30-minute group lesson per week during the school day. Winter and Spring concerts provide performance opportunities for the orchestras at the elementary level in each school.

Fifth Grade Instrumental Music – Band

Grade five students who do not already play in orchestra are offered the opportunity to study a band instrument. Students choosing to study a band instrument are provided one 30-minute group lesson per week during the school day. Fifth grade band students have the opportunity to combine their new skills in a large group setting at each building by rehearsing for and performing winter and spring concerts.

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 psychologist 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.


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.