The Program in Social Studies, History, and Geography
The Ontario Curriculum: Social Studies, Grades 1 to 6; History and Geography, Grades 7 and 8, 2023 identifies the expectations for each grade and describes the knowledge and skills that students are expected to acquire, demonstrate, and apply in their class work and activities, on tests, in demonstrations, and in various other activities on which their achievement is assessed and evaluated.
Two sets of expectations – overall expectations describing in general terms the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of each grade and specific expectations describing the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail – are listed for each grade in each strand, or broad area of the curriculum, in social studies, history, and geography for Grades 1 to 8. (The strands are lettered A and B.) Taken together, the overall and specific expectations represent the mandated curriculum.
In each strand in social studies, the overall expectations and their related specific expectations are organized into three sections – Application, Inquiry, and Understanding Context. The arrangement of these sections is not meant to represent the order in which they are to be taught. The Application and Inquiry sections are placed at the beginning of each strand to encourage teachers and students to focus on these as learning goals. Teachers should tailor instruction connected with the expectations in the Understanding Context section to support the focus of the Application and Inquiry sections. Such an approach enables students to develop the knowledge and understanding that will underpin their inquiries and that they will apply in new contexts.
In social studies, history, and geography, each overall expectation (and its related set of specific expectations) is connected to at least one concept of disciplinary thinking. The concepts specified are the ones that are most relevant to that group of expectations. This does not imply, however, that other concepts cannot be considered in connection with those expectations.
Most of the specific expectations are accompanied by examples and “sample questions”, as requested by educators. The examples, given in parentheses, 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 sample questions are meant to illustrate the kinds of questions teachers might pose in relation to the requirement specified in the expectation. Both the examples and the sample questions have been developed to model appropriate practice for the grade and are meant to serve as illustrations for teachers. Both are intended as suggestions for teachers rather than as exhaustive or mandatory lists. Teachers can choose to use the examples and sample questions that are appropriate for their classrooms, or they may develop their own approaches that reflect a similar level of complexity. In Grades 1 to 3, an additional element, “student talk”, follows a number of specific expectations. “Student talk” is included to demonstrate the scope and possible focus of the intended learning as well as to show how a student might discuss the topic or issue in a way that makes it personally relevant. 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.
Social Studies, Grades 1 to 6
The expectations for social studies (Grades 1 to 6) are organized into the following two strands:
- A. Heritage and Identity: In this strand, students are provided with opportunities to explore various topics that will enable them to develop an understanding of the connections between the past and present; of interactions within and between diverse communities, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities and students’ own communities; of the impact of colonialism; and of the rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship. Students will develop an understanding of personal, cultural, and national identities, both past and present, and of various contributions to heritage in Canada.
- B. People and Environments: This strand focuses on natural and built environments and the connections between the two. Students explore geographic, social, political, economic, and environmental issues in the context of local, regional, national, and global communities, and they develop an understanding of the social and environmental responsibilities of citizens and of various levels of government.
The topics treated in the two strands for Grades 1 to 6 are listed below.
A. Heritage and Identity
Grade 1: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities
Grade 2: Changing Family and Community Traditions
Grade 3: Communities in Canada, 1780–1850
Grade 4: Early Societies to 1500 CE
Grade 5: Interactions of Indigenous Peoples and Europeans prior to 1713, in What Would Eventually Become Canada
Grade 6: Communities in Canada, Past and Present
B. People and Environments
Grade 1: The Local Community
Grade 2: Global Communities
Grade 3: Living and Working in Ontario
Grade 4: Political and Physical Regions of Canada
Grade 5: The Role of Government and Responsible Citizenship
Grade 6: Canada’s Interactions with the Global Community
History and Geography, Grades 7 and 8
In Grades 7 and 8, the expectations for both history and geography in each grade are also divided into two strands. The strands for history, which are organized chronologically across the two grades, focus on the story of Canada from the early eighteenth century until 1914. Students learn about the experiences of and challenges facing different groups, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, in Canada during this period. They also learn about the legacy of colonialism and how it continues to impact people in Canada today. Students learn how to apply concepts of historical thinking and develop their understanding of how we study the past. The topics, concepts, and methodologies covered in these strands prepare students for the compulsory history course in Grade 10, which focuses on Canada from 1914 to the present.
The strands for geography, which are organized thematically across the two grades, provide students with opportunities to explore a variety of topics in world physical and human geography. Students develop their spatial skills and learn how to apply concepts of geographic thinking and the geographic inquiry process. These strands provide the foundation for topics covered in the compulsory geography course in Grade 9, which focuses on issues in Canadian geography.
The topics for Grades 7 and 8 are listed below.
New France and British North America, 1713–1800
Canada, 1800–1850: Conflict and Challenges
Creating Canada, 1850–1890
Canada, 1890–1914: A Changing Society
Physical Patterns in a Changing World
Natural Resources around the World: Use and Sustainability
Global Settlement: Patterns and Sustainability
Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life
Although there are differences in focus, concepts, and the types of questions asked, the inquiry processes for social studies, history, and geography are based on the same general model. This model represents a process that students use to investigate events, developments, and issues; solve problems; and reach supportable conclusions. The inquiry process consists of five components:
- formulating questions
- gathering and organizing information, evidence, and/or data
- interpreting and analysing information, evidence, and/or data
- evaluating information, evidence, and/or data and drawing conclusions
- communicating findings
It is important for teachers to understand that the inquiry process is not necessarily implemented in a linear fashion. Not all investigations will involve all five components; moreover, there are different entry points within the process. For example, teachers may:
- provide students with questions and ask them to gather and analyse information, evidence, and/or data to investigate them;
- provide students with a piece of evidence and ask them to analyse it and to draw conclusions based on their analysis;
- ask students to apply the entire process.
The entry points into the inquiry process may depend on student readiness. Prior knowledge, resources, and time may also be factors.
It is important to be aware that inquiries will not always result in one “right answer”. Rather, to assess the effectiveness of their investigations, students must develop the ability to reflect on their work throughout the inquiry process. Such reflection requires the ability to develop criteria that can be used, for example, to evaluate the relevance of their questions, the accuracy and strength of their evidence, the depth and logic of their analysis, and the strength of the support for their interpretation and conclusion. Teachers need to demonstrate the skills needed for reflection, and provide opportunities for students to practise them, while encouraging students to continually reflect on their work.
Likewise, students are engaged in aspects of communication throughout the inquiry process, as they ask questions, organize and analyse information, and critically evaluate their findings. The final communication of a student’s findings should take the form most suited to the nature of the inquiry, as well as to the intended audience, and should take the student’s learning style and strengths into account.
The Inquiry Process
Each subject brings a particular way of thinking through content, and a different approach to the inquiry process. Skills and strategies for each stage of the social studies, historical, and geographic inquiry processes need to be taught explicitly. The type of questions asked, the information, evidence, and/or data gathered, and the analysis applied will vary by subject. See charts outlining approaches to the inquiry process in social studies, history, and geography.
Spatial skills underpin spatial literacy, enabling students to develop and communicate a sense of place. Map, globe, and graphing skills help students visualize and make meaning of spatial data. These skills help students understand how data relating to three-dimensional spaces can be represented on two-dimensional surfaces. Although students learn spatial skills in social studies and geography, they apply them, in conjunction with the concepts of disciplinary thinking, in all three subjects in the social studies, history, and geography curriculum, and in Canadian and world studies as well. In addition, students may apply these skills in everyday contexts and in other subjects.
Spatial skills are directly linked to literacy, mathematical literacy, and technological skills.
- Literacy: Maps, globes, and graphs are graphic text forms, and students need to develop both literacy and spatial skills in order to extract information from, analyse, and construct these forms. To construct these graphic texts, students must learn how different types of maps, globes, and graphs can represent natural and human characteristics and the relationships between them. Students learn that the same spatial data set can support various interpretations and can be used to communicate different messages, depending on how the data are presented. In order to make meaning of maps and graphs, students must understand and be able to correctly use mapping and graphing conventions, just as they need to understand language conventions when using other text forms.
- Mathematical Literacy: There is a close connection between spatial skills and mathematics. In order to extract information from, analyse, and construct maps and graphs, students need to understand the intent of different types of data and how variations in scale interval can influence their meaning. Many of these skills are reflected in the following strands in the mathematics curriculum for Grades 1 to 8: Data, Algebra, and Spatial Sense.
- Technology: The social studies, history, and geography curriculum provides many opportunities for students to combine technological and spatial skills. For example, students may use online atlases or interactive maps when gathering data or information, or may use graphing and mapping applications to communicate their findings. Spatially literate students need to be able to use geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS), which require the development of both spatial and technological skills.
The Use of Globes and Maps and Mapping Applications in the Inquiry Process
Each strand in the social studies, history, and geography curriculum includes a section entitled Inquiry, which guides students through the inquiry process for the particular subject. Included in each Inquiry section is an expectation that focuses on map skills, which may include using mapping applications, extracting information from globes or maps, and analysing and/or constructing print or digital maps. Maps – and the spatial skills associated with them – may be integrated into any component of the inquiry process, as the following examples illustrate.
- Formulating questions: Students formulate questions related to the type of map or maps best suited to their inquiry.
- Gathering/organizing: Students determine the purpose of different maps and which are most relevant to their inquiry.
- Analysing/interpreting: Students extract information from, plot information on, and/or analyse various types of maps to help them determine patterns, trends, and/or interrelationships.
- Communication: Students construct maps in order to communicate key pieces of information.
Teachers need to determine the best entry point for teaching map and globe skills based on their students’ readiness.
It is important to note that map and globe skills can also be applied in expectations outside the Inquiry section. Students need to be aware of the uses of and conventions associated with various types of maps. Teachers should demonstrate and provide opportunities for students to practise the skills of constructing, extracting information from, and analysing maps in a variety of contexts.
The Spatial Skills Continuum
The appropriate development of spatial skills is central to the social studies, history, and geography curriculum. The final column of the chart that appears in the overview for each grade in social studies and history and geography in this curriculum document highlights sample spatial skills and activities that are appropriate for that grade and that are relevant to some of its specific expectations. To provide teachers with a clear indication of appropriate skills development throughout the social studies, history, geography and Canadian and world studies program, selected skills have been organized into a continuum, which appears in Appendix C. This continuum illustrates progression in the spatial skills categories of map and globe skills (divided into map elements and spatial representation) and graphing skills from Grades 1 to 12.