The Ontario Curriculum!

Through The Arts, Social Studies and Language

A Brief Introduction to the Ontario Curriculum

Ontario Curriculum documents outline the expectations at each grade level, for all subjects in schools across the province.

These documents and the policies surrounding them are created by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry uses a cyclical, research-based and evidence informed review process to keep content relevant and up to date.

It is the teachers who plan the units of study. It is up to them to develop teaching approaches and select appropriate resources that reflect the needs and abilities of their students.

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Ontario Curriculum Documents

Click here to browse through all Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents


The following are key vocabulary terms often discussed throughout these documents:

Strands: the broad areas of learning covered within each program, for example, Oral Communication, Reading, Writing and Media Literacy are the four strands evaluated within the Language curriculum.

Overall Expectations: in general terms, the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of each grade (Arts Curriculum, p.11)

Specific Expectations: describe the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail (Arts Curriculum, p. 11).

Level of Achievement: the four characteristics given in the achievement chart, level 3 being the "provincial standard" for achievement of the expectations (Arts Curriculum, p.30).

Key Ideas

The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning (Social Studies Curriculum, p. 26).

Some key ideas that are central to the design and implementation of curriculum documents include inclusiveness; in reflecting the diversity of Ontario's student population, and the importance of mental health, with a focus on cognitive, emotional, social and physical development.

While it is the vision of the Social Studies program for students to become responsible, active citizens, who are critically thoughtful and informed, similar ideas of encouraging independent ways of thought can be seen across the curriculum documents.

Organization of the Curriculum

All curriculum documents are organized using the same structural format, which includes:

  • a breakdown of the program
  • Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement
  • considerations for Program Planning
  • overall and specific expectations for each grade level
  • and an extensive glossary and overviews

Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning

Student's learning is assessed through reference to the Achievement Charts outlined in every curriculum document. The Achievement Chart is broken down into four categories:

  1. Knowledge and Understanding
  2. Thinking
  3. Communication
  4. Application

and broken down into subcategories within each of these. Students are then given a level number based on their achievement. For example, if a teacher was assessing a student's Knowledge of content, the student would be assigned a Level 1 if he/she demonstrates limited knowledge of content, a Level 2 if he/she demonstrates some knowledge of content, a Level 3 if he/she demonstrates considerable knowledge of content, and a Level 4 if he/she demonstrates thorough knowledge of content (The Ontario Curriculum: The Arts, p34).

Below is an example portion of the curriculum's achievement chart

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Effective Teaching

Every student is different, and every classroom a diverse mix of students, that a teacher must be able to view individually. For a teacher to meet the needs of every learner in their class, they must identify each individual's learning needs through assessment. A teacher may then have to alter their teaching strategies to better address the needs of their class. Through differentiated instruction, a teacher takes into account each child's needs and current stage of development and incorporates it into their teaching of that individual child.

Effective teachers should encourage "higher-level thinking skills", be able teach and instil positive learning habits, and stay informed with current research in education (Language Curriculum, p.24), so they themselves are always learning and improving as educators.


A Useful Curriculum Resource

Communication is Key

While students receive three formal report cards during the school year, continuous communication between teachers, students and parents is imperative to student success. Parent-teacher conferences, portfolios of student work, student-led conferences, interviews and student checklists (Social Studies Curriculum, p. 29) are just some of the ways through which teachers, parents and students can stay in communication in regards to student learning.

Three Subjects of the Ontario Curriculum