Vision and Goals
Literacy is essential for success: it affects all academic achievement and is associated with social, emotional, economic, and physical health. The Ontario language curriculum is designed to support students in developing the language and literacy knowledge and skills they need to succeed in education and in life, and to encourage students to experience the joy and possibility that literacy learning can ignite.
Language is the basis for thinking, communicating, and learning. Students need language skills to comprehend ideas and information, to interact socially, to inquire into areas of interest and study, and to express themselves clearly and demonstrate their learning. Learning to communicate by using language with clarity and precision, and in a variety of media and modes, will help students to thrive in the world beyond school and to become lifelong learners.
Literacy skills are embedded across the Ontario curriculum. However, literacy development lies at the heart of the language curriculum. This curriculum emphasizes evidence-based systematic and explicit instruction of foundational knowledge and skills, including oral language, word-level reading and spelling, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The systematic teaching of foundational knowledge and skills is critically important. It requires focused and dedicated time and must follow a carefully planned sequence for introducing specific concepts, knowledge, and skills. It must also happen in purposeful and meaningful contexts where students are immersed in rich literacy experiences that cultivate a sense of enjoyment about learning. These experiences must be grounded in responsive teacher-student relationships.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that strong oral communication skills are critical for academic and vocational success as well as social-emotional well-being. Oral communication is a complex set of skills that includes both oral language (i.e., listening comprehension and speaking) and non-verbal communication (e.g., body language, facial expression, gestures). In the classroom, intentional communication – using language in a purposeful way – and rich oral language experiences can help students improve their oral language skills. Giving students the opportunity to listen to a wide range of oral texts, including songs, poems, teacher read-alouds, conversations, and presentations, is important. This helps students to develop their own oral language and presentation skills. Developing oral language skills in the early years is essential to the development of literacy, knowledge, symbolic thought, self-regulation, identity, self-advocacy, self-reflection, and lifelong learning.
Research shows that there is a strong connection between early oral language development and later reading comprehension and writing ability. Strong reading comprehension occurs when students derive meaning from oral language and combine it with fluency in reading words and texts. Oral language continues to impact reading proficiency as students progress through school and build a growing vocabulary. It is important to note that the process of reading acquisition will be different for students whose first or primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). For these students, ASL and English bilingual teaching methods are used for the development of biliteracy between ASL and English as a second or additional language.
The language curriculum provides many opportunities for students to develop reading fluency and comprehension as they progress through the elementary grades. A comprehensive and rigorous reading program teaches students to read competently and critically, and provides students with opportunities to read widely for the pleasure of reading and for the discovery of new information as well as for self-discovery and self-enrichment. Reading materials should reflect the diversity of students in the classroom and Canadian and world cultures, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures.
In the language program, students have the opportunity to read various forms of texts and to set learning goals for their reading. This helps to develop and sustain their curiosity and excitement about reading. In addition to reading teacher-selected materials that are well planned and purposefully chosen to support instructional goals, students can choose from a wide variety of texts that are engaging and relevant to their personal interests. In this way, literacy enhances students’ development of their sense of self and their unique and shared identities. It fosters a deep appreciation of the diversity of human experience and expression.
The language curriculum provides a strong foundation in both reading and writing, and emphasizes teaching these two different skills in an interdependent way, so that one skill reinforces and strengthens the other. The curriculum allows students to harness the power of the written word and develop higher-order literacy skills. Students learn to research, synthesize, and organize information to create literary and persuasive texts reflecting their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Reading and writing enable students to understand and tell stories about their communities, cultures, and histories, expressing their sense of global citizenship or personal commitment. Through reading and writing, students become receptive to new and varying ideas and perspectives and develop their ability to think independently and critically. They can convince and be convinced and differentiate between what is true and what is misinformation. In this way, literacy can help transform them and enable them to achieve their hopes and dreams.
Successful and confident language learners share the following characteristics:
- They display accuracy and automaticity in foundational language skills.
- They understand deeply as they listen, read, and view and speak, write, and represent, effectively and with confidence.
- They make meaningful connections between themselves, the texts they encounter, and the world around them.
- They think critically about the texts they read and create.
- They understand that all texts have a specific point of view that must be recognized, questioned, assessed, and evaluated.
- They acknowledge the cultural and social impact of texts and appreciate their aesthetic power.
- They use language to interact and connect with individuals and communities, for personal growth and for active participation as global citizens.
- They recognize that language learning is a necessary, reflective, and life-enhancing process.
- They use cognitive strategies to learn from complex texts.
- They are motivated and purposeful in their learning, including learning related to their goals.
The Ontario language curriculum recognizes the value of embedding literacy learning throughout the day. Students must have authentic opportunities to apply their language and literacy skills in all subject areas. The curriculum also recognizes the important role of other subject areas such as social studies, history, geography, science, the arts, mathematics, and health and physical education in supporting the growth of students’ vocabularies and background knowledge, both of which are critical components of language comprehension. By building students’ foundational skills, the language curriculum enhances each student’s learning across all subject areas. This fosters a love of learning and paves the way for future success.