A Guide to Curriculum

Key ideas of the Ontario Curriculum Documents

How can I access the Ministry Curriculum Documents?

All the curriculum documents can be easily found online on the Ministry of Education website.

Hard-copies of these documents are also available to order for free from:


Simply enter the following publication numbers to order the documents you require:

  • Language Arts – 007702
  • Mathematics – 007511
  • Health and Physical Education – 232277
  • Social Studies – 007333
  • The Arts – 231998
  • Science and Technology – 231579
  • The Kindergarten Program – 007687

How are the Ministry Documents organized?

The curriculum documents are all organized following the same format, making them easy for users to navigate. The contents include the following:

  • Introduction -The importance of the subject, principles underlying its curriculum, and roles and responsibilities.
  • The Program for that subject -Curriculum expectation and strands in the subject
  • Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement -Basic considerations and achievement chart
  • Some Considerations for Program Planning -Instructional approaches, integrated learning, planning programs for students with special needs and English language learners, the role of technology, etc.
  • Overview of Grades 1-3, 3-6, and 7 & 8
  • Glossary

(Language, p. 1-2)

In each subject, there are strands which have two sets of expectations; overall expectations and specific expectations. For example, the strands for the Language curriculum include:

  1. Oral Communication

  2. Reading

  3. Writing

  4. Media Literacy

The strands for the Mathematics curriculum include:

  1. Number Sense and Numeration

  2. Measurement

  3. Geometry and Spatial Sense

  4. Patterning and Algebra

  5. Data Management and Probability

The strands for the Arts curriculum:

  1. Dance

  2. Drama

  3. Music

  4. Visual Arts

Key Vocabulary Terms

Strand: A broad curriculum area. For example, within the Language curriculum, there are 4 strands, including: oral communication, reading, writing, and media literacy. (Language p. 9)

Overall expectation: A general description of the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate at the end of each grade.

Specific expectation: Describe the overall expectations in detail. For example, “By the end of Grade 1, students will:

  • solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of single-digit whole numbers, using a variety of strategies.” (Math p. 33)

Achievement Levels: Four different levels of student achievement, ranging from Level 1 (achievement falling below the provincial standard) to Level 4 (achievement that surpasses the standard). (Language p. 16)

How are these documents made and who makes them?

The Curriculum Documents are developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education. In order to ensure that the curriculum remains current and developmentally-appropriate from Kindergarten to Grade 12, it is constantly reviewed by a team of experts. For more information on the review process, visit their website and look under frequently asked questions.

How is student learning assessed and evaluated?

Students are assessed and evaluated using achievement charts. In all subjects across the curriculum, there are four categories of knowledge and skill which are assessed:

  • Knowledge and Understanding - Subject- specific content acquired in each grade (knowledge) and the comprehension of its meaning and significance (understanding).
  • Thinking - The use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes.
  • Communication - The conveying of meaning through various forms.
  • Application - The use of knowledge and skills to make connections within and between various contexts.

(Language, p. 17)

These four areas are interconnected and teachers ensure that student work is assessed and evaluated in a balanced manner considering each category.

There are 4 grade levels or "levels of achievement".

Level 1 - Student is performing much below provincial standards

Level 2 - Student is approaching the provincial standards

Level 3 - Student is meeting provincial standards

Level 4 - Student is exceeding provincial standards

Note: In grades 1-6, students are given letter grades, while in grades 7 and 8 they are assigned percentages.

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How do teachers communicate students learning?

Teachers' understanding of student learning can be expected to be communicated through:

  • Descriptive feedback throughout the year
  • Communication and conferences
  • Report Cards

How does instruction meet the needs of every learner?

The Ontario curriculum takes into consideration that in every classroom there will be students with a wide range of learning styles and needs. Teachers use a variety of instructional approaches in order to best meet the needs of each students. Depending on the needs of the student, teachers make accommodations and modifications.

Accommodations provide alternatives which help students participate at the regular grade-level. There are three types of accommodation:

  1. Instructional accommodations -changes in teaching strategies (e.g. style of presentation)
  2. Environmental accommodations -changes required within the classroom/school environment (e.g. special lighting, or preferential seating).
  3. Assessment accommodations -changes in assessment procedures (e.g. Allowing additional time for tests, or oral answers to tests).

(Language, p. 25)

Modifications require teachers to modify expectations of achievement; they will differ from regular grade-level expectations.

How do teachers to design experiences that are culturally responsive?

Canada is an extremely multicultural country, therefore it is expected that the curriculum be culturally responsive. Ontario Curriculum Documents expect teachers to design learning experiences that are culturally diverse. This includes giving students the opportunity to learn about different communities from around the world. This is evident in the Social Studies curriculum but can also be seen in the Arts curriculum.

For example, one of the expectations in each strand of the Arts curriculum is, "Exploring Forms & Cultural Contexts". This could be seen as describing or performing a variety of dances from different communities around the world. (The Arts, p. 67)

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