Ontario Curriculum Documents

for dummies (...or for the general public)

Where can you find these documents?

As a Teacher Candidate, it is important to familiarize yourself with these documents. My university is kind enough to supply all of us with these documents, however it does take some time for us to receive them. So in the meantime, it is easy to find PDF versions of all the curriculum books online!

Click HERE to see the different curriculum documents organized by subject for the elementary school level!

You can browse through the Ontario Ministry of Education website for all of the other curriculum documents (other grade levels) as well as policy and resource documents.


Each of the curriculum documents are structured the same way. The book can be divided into 3 main sections which break off into smaller sections and sometimes even mini sub-sections. It sounds confusing, but it is quite simple!

There is the first part of the document which is broken into four smaller sections. Then within those sections, you see some mini sub-sections.

The Circles represent the small sections in the first of three main sections of each document. The arrow is a list of some mini sub-sections in each of the circle sections.

Big image

The second section of the curriculum documents is the curriculum broken down for each individual grade. The second section is divided up by Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6, and Grade 7-8 (remember: we are looking at the documents for the elementary grade levels). Each mini division or grouping of grades, starts with an overview. Click to enlarge the photo on the left for clarification.
The third and final section of the curriculum documents is the glossary. The glossary offers some additional support for teachers who may not be so familiar with the terminology used throughout the curriculum documents.

Some terms specific for and from the Language curriculum glossary are: Reading Fluency, Semantics, Writing Process. (Glossary starts on page 151 of curriculum document)

A Few pecific terms for and from the Arts curriculum glossary are: Blending, Focal Point, Kiln. (Glossary starts on page 159 of curriculum document)

Some terms specific for and from the Math curriculum glossary are: Degree, Inductive Reasoning, Venn Diagram. (Glossary starts on page 120 of curriculum document)

Key Vocabulary Used In Documents

Some of the key terms you need to know in order to truly understand the curriculum documents are:

Strands - The major areas that each subject is broken down into and organized by.

For example, in the Language Curriculum there are 4 strands: Oral Communication, Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy. (See pages 9-14 of curriculum document for descriptions of each strand)

Overall Expectations - The knowledge and skills students are expected to be able to demonstrate at the end of each school year, explained in general broad-like terms.

For example, in the Grade 1 Math Curriculum one of the overall expectations is that the student will be able to solve problems with addition and subtraction of single digit whole numbers using a variety of strategies. (p. 33)

Specific Expectations - Descriptions in much greater detail of the knowledge and skills students are expected to demonstrate at the end of each school year.

For example, the specific expectation to go along with the overall expectation mentioned above could be solving problems using concrete materials (i.e pictures or drawings), solving problems using mental strategies, or even add and subtract money amounts to 10 cents.

Integrated Learning - This is a very common type of teaching and learning in the elementary grade levels. This can be best defined as cross-curricular learning, when students have the opportunity to explore and meet expectations from multiple curricula at once.

For example: Read a story about a butterfly (Language), then explain the concept of symmetry (Math), and conclude the lesson by creating a visual art project including butterflies or other symmetrical objects (Art).

Who Makes These Documents and How?

The Ministry of Education (for us, the Ontario Ministry of Education) creates the curriculum documents. There is quite an long review process on how the books are reviewed and updated. Please watch THIS VIDEO to gain an in-depth understanding of how this is done.

What Drives Lesson Plans?

The overall expectations, specific expectations, and fundamental concepts for each subject and grade level are clearly stated in the curriculum documents. It is the job of the teacher to ensure that these pieces of knowledge and understanding of the fundamental concepts in each strand of each subject are learned by the students. Therefore, it is the teachers responsibility to follow the curriculums guide when creating lesson plans. The curriculum is not a lesson plan for the teacher to copy, however there are some suggested prompts found the the various curriculum books in order to help teachers drive their lessons in the correct direction.

How Is Student Learning Assessed and Evaluated?

The curriculum books each outline that assessment is done through a large of variety of sources that may include, but are not limited to, tests, assignments, conversations, observations in class, and projects. Part of the assessment involves the teacher providing feedback to the student on his or her work (i.e. letter grades on work, in progress reports, and report cards).

Evaluation is based on a standard from the Ontario curriculum expectations and achievement levels which are outlines in each document. Each curriculum document has an achievement chart (or rubric) for the teacher to follow in order to assess the student's work.

Please click the photos below to enlarge rubric achievement charts.

How Can we meet the needs of every learner?

The curriculum documents take into consideration that there are many different types of learners in a classroom. The expectations for each subject and strand are flexible in the sense that the teacher is able to use his or her own discretion while creating lesson plans in order to accommodate the different learning styles and needs of each student, as long as the expectations are met by the students.

As previously mentioned, in the first of the three sections of each curriculum book, there is a section titled "Some Considerations For Program Planning". This section offers great support to teachers by explaining various instructional approaches, integrated learning, planning for students with special needs, IEPs (individual education plans), modified expectations, and more.

This section varies slightly in each curriculum document as the information is subject specific. You can read the considerations in great detail starting at page 22 in Language, page 24 in Math, and page 36 in The Arts.

How do we create culturally responsive lesson plans?

The Ontario curriculum recognizes that each classroom will be culturally diverse and that a teacher must tend to tees diversities. The curriculum clearly outlines various opportunities for the teacher to incorporate Canadian and International cultures from around the world into his or her lessons.

For example:

In the Language curriculum, in Media Literacy expectations of Grade 3 students are expected to understand Audience Responses. The curriculum suggests discussing how students from different cultures or countries would respond to a certain magazine.

In the Arts curriculum, an expectation of the Music strand is singing and performing songs from different cultures.

In Conclusion...

The Ontario Curriculum Documents seem complicated and extremely wordy at first glance. However, once you open them up it is quite obvious that the structure of the documents and the information inside is laid out extremely well. As a Teacher Candidate, or even as a seasoned teacher, the curriculum documents become your bible. These documents drive your lesson plans and offer support through program planning suggestions, glossaries, and prompt questions for specific expectations.

Whether you are a parent, student, or just interested in the education system of Ontario, I hope this has helped you navigate your way through and understand the Curriculum Documents!