The Ontario Curriculum: A Refresher

Using The Language and Social Studies Documents as examples



The Ontario Curriculum Documents describe the mandatory content or information that is taught in our classrooms and are useful resources for teachers to explain to parents what their children can expect to learn in each subject, by the end of each grade. Good teachers build lessons around the curriculum with defined goals, but also pay attention to what they observe in their classroom to ensure children are engaged in their learning. Every child should have individualized goals that are challenging but ensure his or her success and achievement. Curriculum is developed by the Ministry of Education and it is reviewed and revised by teams of experts in the subject area on a regular cycle to reflect best and evolving knowledge and teaching practice. The documents are designed in such a way that once you understand the layout of one, you understand the layout of all of them. Each one has three components:

  • The curriculum itself and how that learning connects to Ministry policies, program and priorities
  • The curriculum expectations or the knowledge and skills students are expected to demonstrate in each subject at each grade level by the end of the grade, and
  • Additional supports and information to support curriculum implementation.
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We follow it- but who makes the document?

The Ministry of Education posts Frequently Asked Questions on its public website There, it states "The Ministry of Education is responsile for the development of curriculum. School boards and schools are responsible for the implementation of curriculum. To develop the curriculum, the Ministry of Education established a curriculum review cycle to ensure that the curriculum remains current, relevant, and developmentally-appropriate from Kindergarten to Grade 12."
  • The Ontario Ministry of Education is responsible for curriculum documents.
  • Experts in the field and writing groups of educators come together to review, revise or develop it, in line with Ministry priorities.
  • A Curriculum Council, a group of knowledgeable community leaders are brought together to provide high level, strategic advice to the Minister on issues related to curriculum.


You can easily locate all curriculum documents online on the Ministry of Education Website.
You can download the documents as PDF or choose to order them in hard copy. All curriculum documents are available free of charge at government book stores or kiosks should you wish to have them available for parents.


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Organization within the documents

Both documents start with a Table of Contents including:
  • Introductions
  • The Program
  • Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement
  • Some Considerations for Program Planning
  • Specifics per grade

Each grade section has very similar stucture (examples):

  • Overall Expectations
  • Specific Expectations


There is a VERY helpful Glossary located at the back of each document outlining specific language related to the subject matter.

Strand: The overarching themes that are looked at in each grade in each document
Expectations: Are the understanding and demonstration of the skills and knowledge by the end of the grade
Levels of Achievement: Are located on the Achievement Chart and identify 4 levels of achievement where the student fits. Qualifiers in those levels are:
Level 1: limited
Level 2: some
Level 3: considerable
Level 4: high

Student Learning Assessments and Evaluations

The Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement is similar among all documents they include:
  • Basic Considerations: "The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning." (Language doc, p. 16)
  • The Achievement Chart which examines:
    1. Knowledge and Understanding
    2. Thinking
    3. Communication
    4. Application

Using this chart, teachers are able to examine where students fit on the chart and assign a mark accordingly. The chart is designed to cover all aspects of the curriculum and the teacher is supported in consideration of different learning styles along with examples.

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How are we expected to communicate student learning?

Teachers not only collaborate with each other to ensure consistent expectations within our schools, we partner with:
  • Students
  • Parents
  • Administration
  • and Community Partners
"As part of good teaching practice, teachers should inform parents about what their children are learning and when various topics are to be addressed." (Social Studies doc, p. 16)
  • Teachers are expected to have communication with families so support is coming from all angles of the students life
"Teachers provide students with frequent opportunities to communicate their understanding, practice their skills, and apply new learning and, through regular and varied assessment, give them specific, descriptive feedback they need in order to further develop and refine their learning." (Social Studies doc, p. 16)
  • Providing regular feedback and communicating with your students about their progress supports them in their understanding of the subject matter. By doing so, you are providing them with the basis to succeed by providing an open and supportive environment.
  • Regular communication with parents is also vital to engaging them with their child's learning and expectations.
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Culturally responsive curriculum

The Curriculum Documents themselves include a section that outlines considerations for program planning:

  • The section is designed to incorporate a variety of considerations.
  • Ontario is extremely multicultural and there is understanding build in for teaching for English Language Learners (E.L.L.) students and students with special education needs
  • The Language document has a subsection on antidiscrimination education

Teachers are expected to reflect our country and all the students represented within it in curriculum delivery to ensure all students feel comfortable and supported with their learning.

Training and Implementation

Whenever new curriculum is reviewed and released, training is provided. The Ministry develops resources to support School Boards with their training. Some training is provided at the school level, for example during a Staff Meeting; other is provided at the Board level during Professional Development Days. Some training is mandatory. Staff are encouraged to take advantage of all training opportunities to ensure their own understanding.