Key Ideas in the Ontario Curriculum

Elementary: Arts, Language, Social Studies

Primer on Ministry Curriculum in Ontario: PED 3141 Student Resource

How are the Ministry Documents Organized?

The documents start with overall expectations, followed by the breakdown of each subject's strand. These strands are then organized into smaller specific expectations.

Also, there is a very useful Achievement Chart. For the Arts Curriculum, as for Language and Social Studies, there are four categories on the Achievement Chart: Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication, and Application. These delineate the levels (1,2,3,4) which students are placed in according to the Achievement Chart.

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Key Terms to Become Familiar With:

Achievement Levels: Description of the four various levels of achievement. Level 3 is the provincial standard, therefore teachers should model what all levels look like in order to encourage students to meet provincial standards. Readers can see models for each level and strive to achieve higher levels for efficient learning.

Overall Expectations: A few key points that state what students must learn from each subject. For example, the Language Curriculum for Grade 1 states that by the end of Grade 1, students will:

1) listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes;

2) use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes;

3) reflect and identify their strengths as listeners and speakers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in oral communication situations.

Readers can have a clear view of what students should be learning and teachers can plan around these objectives to ensure all points are covered.

(The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Ministry of Education, 2006. pg. 36)

Specific Expectations: The specific expectations are categorized into many sections which explain specific elements of the student's learning in that subject. Readers can understand each specific component of the strands.

Strand: Strands are specific categories of subjects that students must learn. Teachers can integrate their lessons with multiple strands in order to cover material more frequently.

How are these documents made and who makes them?

The Ontario Curriculum Documents are made by the Ministry of Education, who develop the documents. They are revised and made available to school boards and schools for implementation by teachers. Teachers then use the documents as a guideline for unit and lesson plans, incorporating all strands for each subject. This way, students are exposed to material delineated in the Ontario Curriculum documents through classroom lessons and other modes provided by teachers.

For more information about the Ministry of Education or FAQs, click here

How should overall expectations, fundamental concepts and specific expectations drive lesson design?

As an important part of every lesson, curriculum expectations are used as a guideline for lesson design. Teachers read documents and explore new ways of integrating expectations in lessons.

For example, in Grade 1 social studies, students examine 2 strands:

A) Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities

B) People and Environments: The Local Community

The overall expectations of application, inquiry, and understanding concepts are used by teachers in lessons with the specific expectations. These should drive teachers' lessons by providing a basis for activities, discussions, reading, writing and much more.

A teacher could for example take strand B (People and Environments) and plan a lesson for specific expectation B.2 by reading a book about people and occupations, which could then lead to discussion about the students' own communities and jobs they observe within them. From this, an activity could be done using concepts from B2.2 (Inquiry: Interrelationships and Their Impact), where the teacher would take a survey about people and their different communities. As an integrative lesson, this activity could include an art project. Using overall expectation D1(Creating and Presenting), students could construct a 2 or 3 dimensional artwork about a rural or urban community. Also the teacher's lesson could include a word bank that is made during discussion about the storybook, which would implement the writing strand of language, specific expectation 3.3 (Vocabulary).

How is student learning in Ontario Assessed?

In Ontario, student learning is assessed by teachers using the achievement chart provided in the Curriculum Documents for each subject. This rubric is used on a four level scale in order to determine the Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication and Application of each student throughout the year. This chart overlaps in many subjects, and requirements are very similar through the 3 subjects explored in this resource page: Arts, Language and Social Studies. These subjects contain all four categories and all four levels, making it easy and consistent to follow along through the students' development. This is a wonderful tool that can be used by teachers and parents alike, to ensure students progress with provincial standards using criteria, descriptors and qualifiers.

How Curriculum Documents expect teachers to design learning experiences that are culturally responsive:

According to the Social Studies Ontario Curriculum Documents (The Ontario Curriculum, Social Studies, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013) the Equity and Inclusive Education in Social Studies, History and Geography describes that Ontario teachers are to respect diversity by in all ways. Teachers strive to encourage students to be inclusive and open to learning, and positive self-image.

Activities implemented by teachers are meant to reflect diversity in Canada, especially throughout the Social Studies curriculum. A good example of a Social Studies activity that could be part of lesson planning would be to read a storybook about multiculturalism and hold a class discussion and survey of different cultures.

Theses lessons plans are to be more than a lesson for students, they should be experiences for students. Students should feel a sense of community and appreciation of cultural aspects of the world.

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How Curriculum Documents expect teachers to design instruction so that it meets the needs of every learner:

Students are unique and therefore have different ways of learning. Teachers make accommodations in lesson plans to take into consideration the wide variety of learning styles in the classroom. Students with special needs, IEPs or modified expectations are provided with accommodations to the core lesson plans.

As the Ontario Curriculum Documents state that all students can succeed and the school support team is dedicated to be active contributors to a student's overall academic success. Also, teachers provide alternate instruction to the lessons, which will enrich the learning opportunity for students with individual education plans as well as other learning needs.

For additional information about planning for special needs children, click here