Understanding the Curriculum

Helpful tips for anyone exploring the Ontario Curriculum

What does "curriculum" mean?

The Ontario Curriculum, created by Ontario's Ministry of Education, provides educators with a framework to guide lesson planning in order to ensure the success of students. Student success is based on normative statements of what should be learned. The curriculum documents are divided by subjects according to grade.

Here's a link to all of the curriculum documents:


Where do I start?

All of the curriculum documents, no matter for which grade or subject, are structured in the same easy to read format. They are divided into many categories which focus on the importance, expectations, and assessment of the subject being taught.

Here are some key terms to help you understand the curriculum using examples from different subjects:

Strand: Each subject is broken into several strands, which are the categories of the subject. For example, the Arts curriculum is broke into 4 strands; Dance, Drama, Music, and Visual Arts.

To learn more about the strands of the elementary Arts curriculum, follow the link below and read pages 13-18.


Expectations: Each strand of a subject has 2 sets of expectations listed; general expectations and specific expectations. The general expectations describe the knowledge and skills that students should have acquired by the end of each grade. The specific expectations describe in greater detail what students should be learning as they progress from strand to strand, and provide teachers with specific goals while lesson planning.

To learn more about the expectations of the elementary Math curriculum, follow the link below and read page 7.


Achievement Chart: Each subject contains an achievement chart, where levels 1-4 are used to evaluate student achievement based on 4 different categories. For every subject the categories of achievement are knowledge and understanding, thinking and investigation, communication, and application.

To learn more about achievement charts as used in the elementary Science and Technology curriculum, follow the link below and read pages 23-27.


How are lessons designed?

Educators design their daily lessons based on overall expectations, fundamental concepts within the strands, and specific expectations.

Once teachers have established where their students should be academically by the end of each grade, they analyze the fundamental concepts of what they will be teaching, and then base their lessons around the specific expectations. The curriculum documents provide detailed explanations for all of these factors, and examples for how teachers can implement them.

Here is an example of a helpful section designed to guide teachers in their lesson planning for elementary school Geography (pg. 20)


Frequently Asked Questions

1. My child has a learning exceptionality - how will the curriculum address this?

Check out the fantastic handbook below which is provided to teachers as a guide to reach all of their students.


2. What are some changes that have occurred in the Ontario Curriculum?

As of 2013, Social Studies (grades 1-6), Geography and History (grades 7-8) and French as a Second Language have undergone curriculum updates. The Native Languages curriculum (grades 1-8) is currently under review.

Interested in finding out more?