The Ontario Curriculum

The Arts, Social Studies, and Science and Technology

A Refresher for Teachers

How to Access Ministry Curriculum Documents

The Ministry Curriculum documents (such as The Arts, Social Studies, and Science and Technology) can be accessed online. The hyperlink to the documents is linked below:

The documents can also be ordered online and sent to your home. The hyperlink is linked below:

How These Documents Get Made and Who Makes Them

Ministry of Education develops the documents as they are responsible for developing the curriculum, whereas it is the responsibility of school boards and their schools to implement it (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015).

The Ministry of Education uses a review process to ensure that the curriculum is current, relevant, and developmentally appropriate for all grades (Kindergarten to Grade 12) (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015).

A list of questions and answers about how these documents are made can be found at the following website:

How the Ministry Documents are Organized

Each Ministry Document Contains A:

  • Introduction
  • The Program
  • Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement
  • Some Considerations for Program Planning in the Subject (i.e. Some Considerations for Program Planning in The Arts)
  • Glossary

The Arts Contains:

  • Overview of Grades 1 to 3
  • Overview of Grades 4 to 6
  • Overview of Grades 7 and 8

The Social Studies Contains:

  • Social Studies (Grades 1 to 6)
  • History (Grades 7 and 8)
  • Geography (Grades 7 and 8)

Science and Technology Contains Curriculum Expectations for:

  • Grade 1
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 8

Each Subject is also organized into strands which contain both overall and specific expectations:

  • The Arts: (The Arts, pg. 14 - 18)
    • Dance
    • Drama
    • Music
    • Visual Arts
  • Social Studies: (Social Studies, pg. 21)
    • Heritage ad Identity
    • People and Environments
  • Science and Technology: (Science and Technology, pg. 11)
    • Understanding Life Systems
    • Understanding Structures and Mechanisms
    • Understanding Matter and Energy
    • Understanding Earth and Space Systems

Key Vocabulary Terms

Big Ideas: “provide context for the overall expectations” and “reflect the enduring understandings that students retain from their learning, transfer to other subjects, and draw upon throughout their lives” (Social Studies, pg. 8)

Overall Expectations: describe the general knowledge and skills that students are expected to know by the end of the grade (The Arts, pg. 11)

  • Example: The Arts have 3 overall expectations for each strand in each grade

Specific Expectations: "describe the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail” (The Arts, pg. 11)

  • If you look in The Arts document you can see the specific expectations are organized in numbered headings which are related to the overall expectation that it corresponds to (The Arts, pg. 11)

Strands: are the “broad area of the curriculum” (The Arts, pg. 11) and are the “major areas of knowledge and skills” in the curriculum (Science and Technology, pg. 11)

Integrated Learning: teachers create units, lessons or activities that provide students with increased opportunities to meet expectations from two or more subjects (Social Studies, pg. 37)

Achievement Chart/Achievement Levels: is a “standard province-wide guide to be used by teachers. It enables teachers to make judgements about student work that are based on clear performance standards and on a body of evidence collected over time” (Science and Technology, pg. 23)

  • Example: below is an Achievement Chart for Science and Technology for Grades 1-8 (which can be found in The Science and Technology document on pg. 26)
Big image

How overall expectations, fundamental concepts and specific expectations should drive lesson design

The overall expectations, fundamental concepts and specific expectations outline what the students should be able to do and understand by the end of the grade.

- For Example: The Arts - Dance, Grade 3

  • Overall Expectation: “students will be able to apply the creative process to the composition of dance phrases, using the elements of dance to communicate feelings and ideas” (The Arts, pg. 12)
  • Fundamental Concept: “students will develop or extend understanding of the following concepts through participation in various dance experiences… with particular emphasis on time and energy” (Body: “body actions, body shapes, locomotor movements”) (The Arts, pg. 12)
  • Specific Expectation: “imitate movements found in their natural environment in a variety of ways and incorporate them into a dance phrase” (The Arts, pg. 12)

The documents provide ideas for lesson plans that are developed to meet the overall and specific expectations of the grade. The specific expectations provide Teacher Prompts and Sample Questions to help guide the lesson plans and offer various examples to assist teachers in developing their lesson plans.

  • Sample Question Example: “what were some differences in the ways First Nations and settlers viewed childhood?” (Social Studies, pg. 86)

How student learning in Ontario is assessed and evaluated

Student learning is assessed and evaluated using the Achievement Chart and Levels of Achievement based on the overall and specific expectations of each strand.

Teachers gather information from the students work (i.e. assignments, observations, conversations, projects, tests, etc.) that demonstrates whether the student is meeting the curriculum expectations for the given subject (Science and Technology, pg. 21).

Teachers also judge the quality of a student’s work based on criteria from the curriculum expectations.

Assessment and evaluation by teachers must be valid and reliable, and must lead to improved student learning. Therefore they “must use assessment and evaluation strategies that”:

  • "Address both what students learn and how well they learn"
  • "Are based on the categories of knowledge and skills and on the achievement level descriptions given in the achievement chart"
  • "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 students with special education needs, consistent with the strategies outlined in their Individual Education Plan"
  • "Accommodate the needs of students who are learning the language of instruction
  • "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 school year"

(Science and Technology, pg. 21-22)

How teachers’ understanding of student learning is expected to be communicated

Teachers provide students with descriptive feedback that will help the student develop their learning and understanding.

Teachers use descriptors to help communicate student learning. These are the “characteristic of the student’s performance, with respect to a particular criterion, on which assessment or evaluation is focused” (Science and Technology, pg. 24)

  • Example: a descriptor is Effectiveness in Science and Technology’s Achievement Chart for the categories.

Teachers also use qualifiers to define a student’s level of achievement (i.e. Level 1 - Limited) (Science and Technology, pg. 25)

  • Example of what a teacher may tell a parent: “John uses initiating and planning skills and strategies with limited effectiveness”

How curriculum documents expect teachers to design learning experiences that are culturally responsive

Canada is known for being a multicultural country, therefore it is important that teachers design learning experiences that are culturally responsive. In the Social Studies document, the Ministry of Education states that they expect teachers to give students opportunities to learn about diversity and differing perspectives (Social Studies, pg. 45). It is expected that teachers use learning activities and materials that reflect both Ontario’s multicultural society and the Ontario curriculum.

Teachers should draw attention to:

  • Contributions of women
  • Perspectives of various ethnocultural, religious, and racial communities
  • The beliefs and practices of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples

(Social Studies, pg. 45)


Ministry of Education (2007). Science and Technology. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2009). The Arts. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2013). Social Studies. Retrieved from

Ontario Ministry of Education (2015). Teachers: Curriculum. Retrieved from