This is the Ontario curriculum policy for American Sign Language as a Second Language in secondary schools. Beginning in September 2021, American Sign Language as a Second Language programs in secondary schools will be based on the expectations outlined in this curriculum policy.
The study of ASL is an important part of the secondary school curriculum. ASL is one of the languages of instruction and study in the province of Ontario, and is also widely used around the world.
Knowledge of a second language is valuable for a number of reasons. Through learning a second language, including a sign language, students strengthen their first-language skills, enhance their critical and creative thinking abilities, and increase their understanding of other cultures, including sign-language cultures. In addition, the ability to use another language provides students with a distinct advantage in a number of careers, both in Canada and internationally.
The primary goal of the ASL as a second language program in Ontario is to increase, within realistic and well-defined parameters, a student’s ability to use ASL effectively. The program enables students to better understand the stages of language learning and the use of language learning strategies in order to become proficient second-language learners. The program emphasizes the development of conversation, comprehension, and construction skills through the use of a contextual approach and a variety of authentic ASL resources.
In the ASL as a second language program, the type of course offered is “open”.
Open courses are designed to broaden students’ knowledge and skills in subjects that reflect their interests and prepare them for active and rewarding participation in society. These courses comprise a set of expectations that are appropriate for all students.
It is necessary to use ASL as the language of instruction in the classroom so that students develop the ability to study and use ASL, and interact effectively with others, including those whose first language is ASL. Also, learning activities must include a balance of skills and strategies associated with all four strands, taught in contexts that reflect students’ interests, which allows students to apply their knowledge of, and skills in, ASL in authentic situations and contexts that are meaningful to them.
In an ASL course, students are taught a range of specific language structures and are given opportunities to use these structures in a variety of contexts. The use and re-use of both familiar and newly acquired structures, vocabulary, and classifiers are natural in language use and essential in language study. The more students use ASL, and the more varied the contexts in which they use it, the greater the competence they will develop in the language.
As students study ASL, they gain an appreciation of ASL language, ASL literary works, and ASL texts, including ASL media works. They also gain an understanding of ASL communities in Canada and around the world. Because language and culture are inseparable, the study of ASL culture should be integrated throughout daily instruction rather than presented in an isolated fashion or on an occasional basis. Such an approach will increase students’ intercultural awareness – for example, their awareness of the use of regional variations in ASL. As students move through the ASL curriculum, they will develop the ability to use the language with greater fluency, proficiency, and accuracy in an increased range of situations, and they will apply their language skills in more challenging and complex ways.
The expectations identified for the course describe the knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop and demonstrate in their class work, on tests, and in various other learning activities on which their achievement in ASL as a second language is assessed and evaluated.
Two sets of expectations – overall expectations and specific expectations – are listed for each strand, or broad area of the curriculum. (The strands are numbered A, B, C, and D.) Taken together, the overall and specific expectations represent the mandated curriculum.
The overall expectations describe in general terms the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of each course.
The specific expectations describe the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail. The specific expectations are grouped under numbered headings, each of which indicates the strand, and the overall expectation to which the group of specific expectations corresponds (e.g., “B2” indicates that the group relates to overall expectation 2 in strand B). This organization is not meant to imply that the expectations in any one group are achieved independently of the expectations in the other groups. The numbered headings are used merely to help teachers focus on particular aspects of knowledge and skills as they develop various lessons and plan learning activities for their students.
Most specific expectations are accompanied by examples, teacher prompts, and instructional tips, as requested by educators. The examples are meant to clarify the requirement specified in the expectation, illustrating the kind of knowledge or skill, the specific area of learning, the depth of learning, and/or the level of complexity that the expectation entails. The teacher prompts are meant to illustrate the kinds of questions ASL teachers might pose in relation to the requirement specified in the expectation. The instructional tips suggest instructional strategies and authentic contexts for the effective modelling, practice, and application of language in real-world situations.
The examples, teacher prompts, and instructional tips have been developed to model appropriate practice for the grade and are meant to serve as illustrations for ASL teachers. They are intended as suggestions for ASL teachers rather than as exhaustive or mandatory lists. ASL teachers can choose to use the examples, prompts, and tips that are appropriate for their classrooms, or they may develop their own approaches that reflect a similar level of complexity. Whatever the specific ways in which the requirements outlined in the expectations are implemented in the classroom, they must, wherever possible, be inclusive and reflect the diversity of the student population and the population of the province.