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The elementary grades are a time for children to shine! They gain increasing mastery in every area of their development and learning.

At Shanghai American School we believe that elementary school children benefit when teachers focus on each child holistically. Children prosper with warm and sensitive teaching; integrated learning; ongoing, authentic assessment; a blend of child-guided and teacher-guided learning experiences; and the strong support and involvement of their families. Elementary school students look for ways to apply their enhanced reasoning, problem solving, and other cognitive skills. Learning experiences that create strong, positive emotional connections such as cooperative, process-oriented projects, enhance their learning. Similarly, they find learning experiences that build on their interests and engage them more meaningful, complex and memorable.

Children in elementary school learn best and achieve optimally when the curriculum is intellectually challenging and also emphasizes positive relationships between teachers and children and students’ engagement in the learning experiences. One of the most important goals for this age group is developing an enthusiasm for learning. At Shanghai American School we build children’s motivation by showing we care about each child’s needs and interests, demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for the subjects at hand, and capitalize on teachable moments within the planned curriculum.

The Shanghai American School elementary school core curriculum includes language arts (the integration of reading, writing, speaking and listening), mathematics, science, and social studies. Core subjects are taught by your child's homeroom teacher. Students move to different areas of the building for classes taught by subject area specialists; supporting our academic subjects are physical education, art, general music, strings, band, and Chinese studies (Mandarin and Chinese culture).

Click on the tabs below to find more in-depth information on important program information.

English Language Arts

Our kindergarten through fifth grade English Language Arts Program provides balanced instruction in reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening. Literacy instruction is explicit and is integrated in all subject areas, providing students with interdisciplinary experiences for learning.

At Shanghai American School we value and embrace diversity as it enriches individuals and communities. With this in mind we recognize that our students arrive at school with a diverse set of language experiences and abilities. Teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade provide a wide range of literacy learning opportunities to meet all students’ developmental levels and learning styles. Using the workshop model from Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, students develop literacy skills and strategies that are introduced and practiced within the meaningful context of literature. Critical thinking and collaboration are vital aspects of our English Language Arts Program.

Reading lessons include class mini lessons, shared reading, independent, partner or small group reading, and interactive read alouds. During these lessons teachers explicitly teach decoding strategies, comprehension skills, book discussion strategies, and writing about reading.

Writing instruction includes modeled, interactive, shared, guided, and independent writing. Over the course of the school year, each grade level focuses on units of study that include narrative, information, opinion, and poetry.

All teachers monitor student progress through ongoing anecdotal record keeping, and formal assessments in reading and writing. Rubrics and checklist assessments are aligned with standards at each grade level. Assessment guides our instruction and gives the students opportunities to identify their strengths and set goals for further learning. Teachers utilize flexible grouping to organize their classrooms for more effective instruction.

Our English Language Arts Program is fundamental in developing passionate life long learners who are prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

Click here to learn more about Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts

Click here for Ideas on Supporting Readers and Writers Workshop at Home


Our Mathematics curriculum is based on the Common Core State Standards and is designed to achieve a balance among concepts, skills, and problem solving. The curriculum stresses rigorous concept development, presents realistic and relevant tasks, and maintains a strong emphasis on computational and procedural skills. At Shanghai American School our Mathematics curriculum empowers students to understand mathematical content far beyond simple arithmetic.

One of the primary shifts in the teaching and learning of mathematics are the Standards for Mathematical Practice. These standards focus two longstanding practices in mathematical education – process and proficiencies. The process standards develop students’ problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections, while the proficiency standards develop students’ adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding procedural fluency, and productive disposition. The eight Standards for Mathematical Practices are listed below along with descriptions.

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Younger students will use concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. They make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements to explore the truth of their conjectures. They are able to analyze situations by breaking them into cases, and can recognize and use counterexamples. They justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. They reason inductively about data, making plausible arguments that take into account the context from which the data arose. Mathematically proficient students are also able to compare the effectiveness of two plausible arguments, distinguish correct logic or reasoning from that which is flawed, and—if there is a flaw in an argument—explain what it is. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.
  4. Model with mathematics. Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. In early grades, this might be as simple as writing an addition equation to describe a situation. Mathematically proficient students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically. Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful, recognizing both the insight to be gained and their limitations. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.
  6. Attend to precision. Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other.
  7. Look for and make use of structure. Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Mathematically proficient students notice if calculations are repeated, and look both for general methods and for shortcuts. Upper elementary students might notice when dividing 25 by 11 that they are repeating the same calculations over and over again, and conclude they have a repeating decimal. As they work to solve a problem, mathematically proficient students maintain oversight of the process, while attending to the details. They continually evaluate the reasonableness of their intermediate results.

Click here to learn more about Common Core State Standards in Mathematics


The Primary School Science program at SAS focuses on the students’ discovery and wonderment of science, rather than the knowledge base resulting from past discoveries. Our curriculum is based on the Next Generation Science Standards (PreK-12) and in elementary school we focus on building a strong foundation for science. Foundational practices in the elementary classroom include building background knowledge, teaching scientific and engineering practices, integrating content, and developing scientific literacy. Our science curriculum is designed to be inquiry-based and aims to stimulate students’ natural curiosity, build interest in their world and themselves, and provide opportunities to apply scientific and engineering practices.

Hands-on experiences emphasize the important scientific and engineering skills of asking questions, developing and using models, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in arguments from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. These experiences are introduced and investigated as students explore the Life, Physical and Earth Sciences. Many topics and activities are integrated into units involving math, social studies, reading, writing and home connections.

Click here to learn more about Next Generation Science Standards

Social Studies

Social studies instruction at Shanghai American School recognizes all students as lifelong learners and responsible citizens who engage their talents and abilities in our global community. Social studies instruction provides active learning experiences integrating the skills, analysis, and research necessary for all students to inquire, problem-solve, and make informed decisions in school, personally, and in civic settings. The social sciences at SAS will provide the tools required for students to construct an understanding of the human condition.

At SAS, our social studies standards are based on recommendations from the NCTSS. The following standards are the foundation for student learning:
  • Analyze how individuals, groups, and institutions create and change structures of power, authority and governance
  • Explore and apply geographic knowledge and skills
  • Recognize how time, continuity, and change affect perspectives and relationships
  • Apply economic concepts
  • Examine cultural practices and human interactions


The Chinese Program at Shanghai American School is a comprehensive Chinese language acquisition and development program. The program aims to develop Chinese language knowledge, communicative skills, intercultural understanding and a global-minded disposition. We are committed to creating a stimulating, enjoyable and collaborative learning environment in all of our Chinese classes. We take a student-centered approach to teaching and learning Chinese, and promote real-life learning experiences. The elementary school Chinese Program consists of seven language proficiency levels, including Foundation, Foundation High, Intermediate, Intermediate High, Advanced, Advanced High and Language A (close to native proficiency). Please see the Chinese Program Progression Chart on the SAS website for more information.

Click here to view the Chinese Program Progression Chart

Click here to view the Chinese Program curriculum details


Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 receive classes in Art, Music, and Physical Education. The Art, Music and PE programs run on a rotational calendar. Students experience a variety of methods of discovery and creative expression that can help them achieve success in all areas of life through ceramics, drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. By providing avenues for cognitive exploration, elementary Art program encourages students to see the world through their own eyes and determine a path that inspires them. Students will be exposed to art of other cultures, the works of famous artists, as well as the basic elements and principals of art and design. When possible, projects are coordinated with the learning of the regular classroom to allow students to see connections and to deepen their understanding.

Click here to view The National Visual Art Standards.


Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 receive classes in Art, Music, and Physical Education. The Art, Music and PE programs run on a rotational calendar. In PK through 4th grade music classes, students sing, play instruments, dance, listen to music of diverse genres and cultures, improvise, compose, study music theory, and engage with music technology. Students receive feedback and are assessed on singing and playing instruments, alone or with others, reading and notating music, listening to and analyzing music, and evaluating musical performances.

In 5th grade, all students join our ensemble-based instrumental music performance program. Students learn to play an instrument and get instruction and ensemble experiences during the school day by joining either our band, or string program.

Click here to view the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) Standards.


Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 receive classes in Art, Music, and Physical Education. A portion of your child's Physical Education program is swimming. The Art, Music and PE programs run on a rotational calendar. The Physical Education program is designed around the philosophy of building fundamental physical skills while improving the brains ability to learn. Classes are designed to improve brain function through incorporating movements that cross the three planes of the body. Developing strength, agility, flexibility, coordination, balance, and confidence in one’s abilities is stressed through engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity. The units of study are as follows: Swimming, Throwing & Catching, Jumping & Landing, Footwork & Agility, Co-ordination & Movement. These units are repeated each trimester but increase in difficulty and complexity as the year progresses. It is the hope of the PE faculty that students develop a wide and solid base of skills upon which sport specific skills can be built.

Click here for more information on our PE Standards.


Technology is also a very important part of the academic program students will experience at SAS. Students are provided with exciting, meaningful, and challenging technology experiences that prepare them to effectively address educational and real world needs and issues. Technology education is designed to help students understand and participate in the technological society of today and tomorrow. At SAS, technology education is approached as a tool for learning and problem solving, exploration, investigation, and development. The technology curriculum uses the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards and then modifies them as technology changes and we take into consideration the parameters from our host country.

Technology education is closely integrated with each grade level's instructional program allowing students to apply their skills to their day to day learning. Classroom teachers meet with our instructional technology coach to develop projects that support the curriculum while building technology skills. A focus of instruction is to educate students on positive digital citizenship.

The Internet is now an integral part of learning. Teachers utilize various resources to allow students to create and share multimedia projects, research, collaborate with peers and view rich content.

Click here to view the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards