Elementary School Academics at St. Nicholas School

St. Nicholas recognizes children learn in different ways and sometimes on different timelines. No one child is exactly like the other.  In response, St. Nicholas School closely monitors student’s academic growth through adaptive standardized testing data as well as ongoing informal and alternate forms of assessment. St. Nicholas educators are able to gain immediate feedback on students’ progress and adapt  instructional plans to meet the need of their students. Our proven success with this instructional model prepares our students for their secondary schools.

To learn about our curricula,  please click on the topics below or contact us!

Curriculum for 1st - 5th Grade

Language Arts

At St. Nicholas School our robust Language Arts instruction is designed to maximize student growth and confidence in reading and writing. Our programs go above and beyond the CA Common Core Standards and create a dynamic learning environment in which students grow by leaps and bounds. Transforming the way we instruct students in language arts began with the implementation Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Reading and Writing in grades K-8. Training began at Teachers College, Columbia University where the curriculum was first imagined. Each week teachers meet to discuss student learning, examine growth and share best practices for instruction. These collaborative meetings have been the key to St.Nicholas School’s success-raising the quality of teaching resulting in high level student output as many schools come to watch and learn from our comprehensive model. St. Nicholas School also uses flexible guided reading groups and individual reading conferences to personalize reading instruction. These delivery strategies, coupled with the intimacy of a small group setting, yield an environment in which a love of reading develops. We utilize the Lexia® Core5® Reading program which differentiates literacy instruction for students of all abilities. Lexia’s program provides explicit, systematic, personalized learning.

Writers' Workshop

In addition to delivering a strong grammar and literature program, St. Nicholas School additionally uses Lucy Calkin / Teacher’s College, Columbia University’s Writers’ Workshop Curriculum from 1st grade through 8th grade. A child that can learn, observe and articulate the world around them using skillful writing is a well educated and well rounded student. In grades 1-5, this immersive program teaches narrative, informational and opinion writing while helping children build stamina. This exceeds CA Common Core State Standards and prepares them for the rigors of middle and high school writing. The Writing Workshop is a foundation upon which a lifelong love of writing can blossom. The Writers’ Workshop format allows teachers to deliver a short focused lesson on a specific writing skill and then conferences with students during work periods. Teachers meet the individualized needs of each student during these critical conferences, tailoring instruction appropriately. Children come together at the end of the workshop and celebrate each other’s writing successes! Paralleling St. Nicholas’s dedicated fifth grade Reading educator, fifth grader writers also benefit from a dedicated Writing teacher, Mrs. Mary Gallivan. The combined strength of elevated reading and writing in fifth grade, engineered to prepare for junior school readiness, sets our language arts program apart.


Grades 1-5 Mathematics is much more than rote memorization; the hallmark of a rigorous elementary math program is one where students successfully apply learned math concepts into everyday life moments and can articulate observed results to others. Discerning patterns and structures, making sense of quantities and relationships - all of these are critical beyond math facts. Our instructional model is data driven, personalized, and exceeds the California Common Core Standards. Our K-8th grade math teachers ensure each grade’s coursework builds from year to year, mapping curriculum and using data analysis to assure no gaps exist in learning progression. ST Math is a powerful visual instructional supplemental program that provides creative problem solving to engage, motivate and challenge students. At St. Nicholas School, students will be offered accelerated course work in Math when student’s mastery in K-5th has been clearly demonstrated. This ensures that each student can be challenged to stretch and reach their fullest potential but safeguards proper readiness for the rigors of high school math avoiding any gaps in student learning. Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKs) is one tool that is used for acceleration in grades 3-8th. It is a web-based, intelligent learning and assessment system that ensures student comprehension of math literacy through real-time assessment.


Our STEM-based Science curriculum used in 1st-5th grade uses on the science and engineering practice model of inquiry and is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our curriculum combines interactive lessons, active lab sessions, supplemental print and hands-on STEM experiences that engage every type of learner. Our youngest students come into our state of art science lab ready to explore the intersections of life, earth, and physical science, learning and mapping the concepts as they relate to each other. Young Celtics partner in lab experiments, utilizing our most advanced tools to actively evaluating and refining their understanding science phenomena. Students are often found testing and retesting hypotheses, seeking cause and effect and delving into practices that build, deepen, and apply their knowledge of core ideas and crosscutting concepts. St. Nicholas Elementary School has a dedicated Science Teacher, along with a state of the art fully equipped Science Lab. In addition, we have an outside classroom where many times you will find students gathering materials and evaluating different habitats.


The landscape of our world has seismically shifted; technology is no longer an ‘add on’ to life. Generation Z children have no awareness of LBI - Life Before Internet. Given this, technology skills are increasingly important - a mandatory language to understand. St Nicholas’ Technology program is designed to build this fluency. On a daily basis students use individual iPads for classroom assignments promoting curriculum integration, collaboration, creativity and communication with their teachers. Our Technology Center provides Mac desktops and laptops where students immerse in weekly Tech Lab Sessions covering age-appropriate lessons on coding, digital citizenship, desktop publishing, keyboarding, Google Suite and multimedia techniques. St. Nicholas students have a robust understanding of technology as they move into middle school ~ prepared to fluently speak this important language!


St. Nicholas’s religious instruction is a cornerstone of our foundational mission for our students. Our educational focus geared to reinforce the understanding that God loves each one of us and that our actions should serve his mission. Great focus is placed on becoming familiar with Catholic doctrine, scripture, sacraments and liturgy, moral formation and service. Special emphasis is given in 2nd grade to the Sacraments of both Reconciliation and the Eucharist; important achievements within our faith. Our goal is develop students who act out their faith beyond the schoolyard. Students become stewards in the community with numerous opportunities to provide service such as visiting and bringing companionship to the elderly Catholic sisters of Daughters of Charity.

Physical Education

The Physical Education program at St. Nicholas is an active and fun complement to the classroom. Each child is offered a broad range of individual and team sports and skill options. The program complies with the California State curriculum standards and includes grade appropriate lessons in nutrition, physiology and health and focused on improving individual fitness levels, rather than team results.


In a time when many schools are being forced to cut art classes, St. Nicholas offers a robust visual arts program. One day a week, a certified Art Instructor from The Community School of Music and Arts teaches art lessons in the classrooms. Students use different mediums including paint, clay, watercolor, pencil sketches and pastels as they explore well-known artists and techniques. The classes guide students through sequential lessons in drawing, painting, sculpting and more. In addition to hands-on instruction, emphasis is placed on art appreciation, including art history and cultural relevance. An end-of-year school art exhibit gives students an opportunity to present their creations. Selected student work is also entered into Community Art Shows.


Music instruction takes place in our multipurpose room and is taught by a dedicated Music Teacher. The curriculum includes learning about musicians, musical instruments, dances and singing songs. Students also practice liturgical music and will prepare for and perform in our Annual Christmas Program. In addition, St. Nicholas has a robust choir of our 40 students from grades 3-8th learn liturgical music have the opportunity to work on contemporary musical pieces that are showcased at our Annual Christmas Program and our Spring Choral Festival.