Whereas in other countries, such as the UK, the first years of schooling are usually referred to as primary school, in the United States, the term elementary school is common. As a result, when discussing the curriculum, or course of study, for such a school, it is common in the United States to refer to the elementary curriculum. Elementary education is defined differently in different circumstances. Often, it is thought about as including kindergarten to the end of middle school, or junior high — usually grade eight — with the term secondary school being reserved for high school, usually beginning with grade nine. Elementary curriculum does not refer to any extracurricular activities that might be offered at schools.
Elementary curriculum in the United States is guided by standards developed by national and international subject area organizations. These include the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) for language arts, the National Council of Teachers of Math (NCTM) for mathematics, the National Academies for science, and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and/or the National Council for History Standards (NCHS) for social studies and/or history. Physical education standards are provided by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), while the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations (NAEA) developed the standards for arts education. There are also state standards.
The elementary curriculum for Reading and Language Arts generally includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Viewing multimedia may also be included. The Mathematics curriculum includes number operations, pre-algebra and algebra, geometry and measurement, probability, statistics, and data analysis. Elementary curriculum in science draws on the life sciences, earth and space science, physical science, and health. The social studies curriculum is likely to include geography, history, government, civics, economics, anthropology, sociology, and historical analysis and interpretation.
The elements of physical education usually included in the elementary curriculum include body management, exercise, game and sport skills, healthy lifestyles, locomotor patterns, physical fitness, safety, and social discipline. Arts coverage may vary significantly, possibly including 2D and 3D fine art, theater, and music. In each case, emphasis is often more on practice, although some history and criticism may be included.