Ontario Curriculum Refresher

Elementary: Arts, Language and Social Studies

How Are Ministry Documents Organized?



Each document begins with a section regarding the importance of that specific subject and how it is essential as a part of the Ontario Curriculum. Whether it is the crucial learning of literacy and language in students to aid in intellectual growth, or the transferable skills students learn in Social Studies that help them outside the classroom, the importance of each subject is highlighted to prove the positive long term effects. The documents then focus on curriculum expectations and how there are "Overall Expectations" along with "Specific Expectations." The overall expectations describe the expected skills and knowledge students are expected to display by the end of each grade. The specific expectations describe the knowledge and skills in further and more specific detail. This aids teachers in developing their lessons by knowing which aspects of knowledge they should focus on when they begin planning. This is followed by each specific strand within subjects. These strands are then organized into smaller, more specific expectations.
For example: Social Studies for Grades 1-6 focus on two major strands.


  1. Heritage and Identity

  2. People and Environments

    It is important to remember that although each grade has the same strands, they differ from grade to grade. A grade 2 Social Studies class would focus on "Changing Family and Communications" while a grade 5 class would learn "First Nations and Europeans in New France and Early Canada".

How to access Ministry Documents!

How Overall Expectations, Fundamental concepts and specific expectations should drive a lesson design:

A mandated curriculum is made up of the overall expectations, the specific expectations that go with them and the fundamental concepts students must grasp in each subject. The curriculum documents give helpful examples when integrating overall and specific expectations into lesson plans. Educators are encouraged to think of new innovated ways to make the curriculum more interesting for the students to learn. The documents also mention "Teacher Prompts" which help clarify the requirements specified in the expectations.


The Arts curriculum gives and excellent example of combining expectations with fundamental concepts. Take a grade 3 Art class with the overall expectations of:



Creating and Presenting



Reflecting, Responding and Analyzing



Exploring Forms and Cultural Concepts



The Fundamental concept of dance is broken down into a specific focus on time and energy.



The specific expectations further specify the lesson by adding the expectation of "imitation of movements found in a natural environment in a variety of ways and incorporate them into dance". This could mean dancing like different types of weather, showing how different animals move through dance and other examples. These examples help clarify the lesson so the teacher can fully understand the expectations and hopefully, create new, inventive ways to teach it.

How Student Learning in Ontario is Assessed and Evaluated:

There are many methods to evaluate and assess student learning. Over time, teachers learn multiple methods for assessing that go beyond the test scores. Conversation between colleagues, observation, and other resources can be used to assess students.

For the Arts Curriculum, as for Language and Social Studies, there are four categories on the Achievement Chart:

  1. Knowledge and Understanding
  2. Thinking
  3. Communication
  4. Application.
Within each category in the achievement chart, criteria are provided, which are subsets of the knowledge and skills that define each category. For example: In the Language Curriculum "Thinking Category" under "Use of critical/creative thinking processes" the student would be evaluated in reading and writing process, oral discourse, critical analysis and other important areas.


How is the acheivement chart helpful?

-It assists teachers in providing meaningful feedback for students

-Acts as a guideline/ framework for curriculum expectations

-Aids teachers in planning instruction for learning


These outline the levels which students are placed in according to the Achievement Chart, either 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Level 1 - Student is performing well below provincial standards

Level 2 - Student is close to provincial standards, needs improvement

Level 3 - Student meets provincial standards

Level 4 - Student exceeds provincial standards


All in all, these tools used for assessment all focus on furthering student's learning.

Who is responsible for the creation of the curriculum documents?

The Ministry of Education is responsible for creating the curriculum and the developing of the document. All over Ontario, the school boards are responsible for the implementation of the curriculum within the classroom. The subjects taught in the school boards are frequently reviewed to ensure they are current, relevant and are "developmentally appropriate" for students in kindergarten to grade 12. Educators are able to use these documents to keep up to date with changing methods of evaluations, new strands, and become inspired for more innovative ways to teach. You can find more information regarding the Ministry of Education in the link below.

Meeting the Needs of Every Learner

"Teachers who provide quality instruction respect students’ strengths and identify their learning needs, using assessment information to plan instruction" (Language 22).

Not every student learns at the same pace, or with the same methods of teaching. It is the responsibility of teachers to recognize the different learning needs and develop instruction in a variety of ways. The Language curriculum states that the use of flexible groupings for instructions and and the provision of ongoing assessment are important elements of programs that accommodate a diversity of learning needs. Teachers need to address all students needs and bring new teaching strategies to accomodate for those who may not learn at the same pace as others.

There are three types of accomodations:

1)Instructional accommodations: changes in teaching strategies, including styles of presentation, methods of organization, or use of technology and multimedia.


2) Environmental accomodations: changes that the student may require in the classroom and/or school environment, such as preferential seating or special lighting


3)Assessment accommodations: changes in assessment procedures that enable the student to demonstrate his or her learning, such as allowing additional time to complete tests or assignments


For the Language curriculum specifically, there is a whole section on Antidiscrimination Education in the Language Program as well as a section of English Language Learners.

Culture in the Classroom

It is important to make every student feel welcome in the classroom. Instead of looking at their cultural backgrounds as different, they should be looked at as something to be celebrated. The Ontario Curriculum's recognize this and incorporate learning experiences into the classroom that are culturally responsive. In the Social Studies Curriculum it states "The Ontario equity and inclusive education strategy focuses on respecting diversity, promoting inclusive education, and identifying and eliminating discriminatory biases, systemic barriers, and power dynamics that limit the ability of students to learn, grow, and contribute to society."

Students should be able to see their own culture reflected in the choices of materials, resources, and examples selected by the teacher. Some strategies for fostering a culturally accepting classroom could be:
- Incorporating some of the different backgrounds of the students into the lesson plans for subjects such as Geography and Social Studies.

-Altering your instruction strategy for those who may not be familiar with it and seeing alternative methods for teaching in order to enhance that student's learning

-Explore different traditions or histories of countries or cultural backgrounds.


There are many ways you as a teacher can make a student feel included. The more comfortable they are at school, the easier it will be for them to learn!

Key Terms


  1. Achievement Levels: Brief description of four different degrees of student achievement of the provincial curriculum expectations, for any given grade. The levels range from 1-4 and level 3 is the "provincial standard". A student at level 3 can will more than likely be prepared for the next grade's amount of work.

  1. Strands: broad area of the curriculum for Grades 1– 8. Certain subjects have certain amounts of strands in order to assure the curriculum is completely covered. For example, the Language curriculum expectations are organized into four strands: Oral Communication, Reading, Writing and Media Literacy. Language is such a broad subject to cover for students, but these strands aid in breaking it down.

  1. Overall Expectations - Overall expectations describe the knowledge and skills students are expected to demonstrate by the end of the each grade.

  1. Specific Expectations - Specific expectations describe the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail.