Ontario Curriculum Documents

Social Studies, Languages and Mathematics for Grades 1-8

The Who, What, When, Where and How

The Ontario Curriculum documents are generated for teacher's and outline the general and specific expectations for student learning. Separate documents are created for each subject and provide educators with the resources needed to instruct. These curriculum documents are created by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Each year the Ministry of Education commissions a review of the documents. This review is constructed to ensure that the curriculum remains current and relevant with education research that is ongoing. Disciplines are selected each year by the Ministry to be reviewed.

How does the review work? It uses third party research and development to analyse the state of the curriculum. Teams review the work and implement desired changes. Reviews of the changes are done by experts to determine academic accuracy and to scan for any biases.

Ontario curriculum documents can be accessed through the Ministry of Education website: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/curriculum.html

Or hard copies can be found at the University of Ottawa Learning Resource Centre.

Curriculum Documents organization

All elementary curriculum documents have a similar structure, which will be outlined below.

1) Each document has an introduction section pertaining to what subject(s) are going to be covered in that document. It outlines the general items that teacher's need to know about the curriculum; such as the "Principles Underlying ________." In the Social Studies curriculum this information can be found on page 12. This section explains that the goal of the curriculum is not to learn facts but for students to learn disciplinary thinking. Ie, how you think differently depending on the subject matter, or how to look at material critically.

2) After the general outline of the basis of the curriculum comes a section entitled "The Program in _______."This portion is built to begin explaining what students will be learning in this subject.

  • The part of this section to be noted are the strands. Strands are the specific sections of learning that create the subject curriculum. Each of the strands are addressed throughout the grades and are structured to have students build on the knowledge they learned to year before.
  • For example in the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum the strands are number sense and numeration, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, patterning and algebra and data management and probability (p. 8).

3) Each strand has overall and specific expectations, these expectations form the learning expectations of the curriculum.

  • Overall expectations are the general standards of the subject matter that students are expected to achieve the end of the grade,
  • Specific expectations are more detailed explanations of what students will be doing and achieving in that subject. For example, in grade 2 number sense and numeration students are expected to "represent, compare, and order whole numbers to 100" (p. 43)

4) Documents also have a portion on "Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement." This section will contain the student achievement chart. Each achievement chart is the same, no matter the subject. They outline various categories of evaluation and levels that students are to be scored at. An example may be seen on page 21 of the Languages Curriculum.

Assessment and Evaluation of student learning

There are two central methods of student evaluation in the elementary school classroom. There is cumulative assessment and formal evaluation represented by a letter grade for each subject.

Assessment is the use of daily observation, small activities, conversations with students and tests to determine how students are proceeding with curriculum expectations. Teachers are to use these observations to provide students with feedback about their progress and should also use them to shape the progression of lessons.

Evaluation is judgement of assigned items against a predetermined criteria which reflect curriculum expectations. The quality of student work is assigned a value/ letter grade.

Assessment and evaluation strategies should:

"- address both what students learn and how well they learn;

• are based both on the categories of knowledge and skills and on the achievement level descriptions given in the achievement chart on pages 22–23;

• are varied in nature, administered over a period of time, and designed to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning;

• are appropriate for the learning activities used, the purposes of instruction, and the needs and experiences of the students;

• are fair to all students;

• accommodate the needs of exceptional students, consistent with the strategies outlined in their Individual Education Plan;

• accommodate the needs of students who are learning the language of instruction (English or French);

• ensure that each student is given clear directions for improvement;

• promote students’ ability to assess their own learning and to set specific goals;

• include the use of samples of students’ work that provide evidence of their achievement;

• are communicated clearly to students and parents at the beginning of the school year and at other appropriate points throughout the year" (p.18 Mathematics Curriculum)

The Achievement Chart

This chart is a representation of the provincial wide standard for teachers and provides clear guidelines for teachers to follow for evaluation.

The chart includes categories to be scored on a level from 1-4. The categories are: knowledge and understanding, thinking, communication, and application. Depending on the subject matter and grade level that standards for each category differ, but the overall structure of the resource remains the same. A level 3 is considered the provincial standard of achievement, level 2 identifies those approaching the standard while a level one indicates falling below the standard.


Teacher Communication of Student Learning

Communicating your thoughts and observations on student learning with the students themselves is essential for their progress! How do teachers communicate this?

1) Conversation: speak to your students on a daily basis so that they understand your expectations and know where they stand. Also communicate with parent guardians so that areas where the student is struggling do not come up as a surprise.

2) Report Cards: Elementary school students receive two report cards per year. These report cards contain a letter grade reporting on student achievement in the various subjects.

3) Tests and assignments: provide written and verbal feedback to students on work they submit to you. Use constructive feedback for them to apply for their work

4) The Achievement Chart: Use to achievement chart! Make it a visual component of your classroom so students can begin to understand what the various levels and categories mean. Allow for open communication for students to learn how they can obtain higher levels. Use examples of what each level looks like for students to model their work after

The Variety of Learners

Every classroom will have students of different cultures, needs and abilities. Teachers must know how to address these and are expected to design instruction that meets the needs of different learners.

When designing lessons teachers should recognize and believe that: "all students can succeed, each student has their own unique patterns of learning, successful instructional practices and founded in on evidence-based research, tempered by experience... [and] fairness is not sameness" (p 31 Social Sciences curriculum). Teachers should be respectful of any accommodation that students may require and should take advantage of all resources available in the school (resource teachers, special needs teachers).

Checking in with the students to assess how they are understanding the content is very important for meeting the needs of every learner. Students need to be provided with multiple opportunities to transfer content and to demonstrate their understanding of content in a variety of environments.

For example, in Social Studies students should be able to critically interpret the information, not simply regurgitate a list of historical facts. To accomplish this teachers should provide a variety of mediums for students to engage with the content. Such as completing a research project, journal entries, an arts performance of an event or creating a visual representation of the subject. Using a variety of mediums allows students to play to their strengths. Maybe some students are not comfortable with their writing skills but are highly artistic and are able to convey their understanding better that way.

You will also encounter special needs and English language learners. Take the time to get to know what level these students are at and develop plans for their success. Not all students will be able to follow the same model.

A Culturally Responsive Classroom

The Ontario curriculum documents look at creating a culturally responsive classroom by encouraging teachers to incorporate the multiculturalism of students into the class (p 32 Languages curriculum).Teachers should also note relevant issues occurring around the world and think about how to teach a young class about international issues. There are a variety of ways this can be done, including:

-Create lessons on the diverse backgrounds of your students

-Depending on the age of the group, have students teach others about their culture

-If you have a large group of Arabic speaking students, for example, have an Arabic guest speaker in the class so others can learn what it is like to not have English as a first language

-Take the interests of your students and use them in lessons to promote their engagement

The Ontario curriculum is also coming to include more lessons and units on Canadian Aboriginal history and culture (p. 5 Languages Curriculum). It is increasingly important for students to learn about the various populations that exist in our country.

Key Vocabulary (in curriculum documents)

STRAND: The types of learning that will be engaged in during a subject

OVERALL EXPECTATION: Overarching goals of a strand

SPECIFIC EXPECTATION: The particular means by which an overall expectation will be achieved. These are different for each grade level

LEVELS OF ACHIEVEMENT: A scale on the achievement chart used to determine the progress of students

ACHIEVEMENT CHART: A province wide guide for teachers to evaluate the performance standards of students

CRITERIA: The knowledge and skills required in each category of the achievement chart

DESCRIPTORS: "The characteristic of the student's performance, with respect to particular criterion.=," within the achievement chart (p. 18 Language)

QUALIFIERS: The standard of each level of achievement in an achievement chart (ie level 1 is "limited," level 2 is "some.")

CROSS-CURRICULAR LEARNING: Using the skills or content of two or more related subjects to build student ability to interpret information

INTEGRATED LEARNING: The idea of meeting two or more subject expectations within a single unit or lesson. This reinforces student use of knowledge in a variety of environments.

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION EDUCATION: Mandate to provide all students with a safe and respectful learning environment.