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The New Ontario Language Curriculum: From Balanced Literacy to Structured Literacy 2/5

In 2022 the Ontario Human Rights Commission released it's Right to Read Inquiry. It included a set of 157 recommendations. In our last post, we introduced recommendations related to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit experiences. Today, we will turn our attention to the curriculum and instructional strategies that teachers use to teach reading.

Right to Read Recommendations 27-58 focus on Curriculum and Instruction

Recommendations related to curriculum and instruction had two main themes:

  1. Remove "THIS" non-evidence-based practice

  2. Require explicitly teaching "THIS" evidence-based practice

Here is a summary of the next 31 recommendations from the Right to Read report:

  • Remove all reference to...

    • Cueing, cueing systems and guessing strategies for word reading

    • Any other instructional approaches to teaching foundational reading skills that have not been scientifically validated

    • Balanced literacy and associated concepts

    • Any other instructional approaches in teaching foundational word-reading skills that have not been scientifically validated

    • Running records, miscue analyses and other assessment approaches that have not been scientifically validated

    • Levelled readers

  • Require mandatory explicit, systematic and direct instruction in foundational reading skills, including:

    • phonemic awareness

    • phonics

    • decoding

    • word reading proficiency

  • Explicitly state expectations for teaching:

    • phonemic awareness

    • letter-sound associations

    • word-level decoding

    • word-reading proficiency or

    • fluency and

    • knowledge of simple morphemes

  • Clarify Early Literacy Skills (Expected in Kindergarten)

    • Phonemic Awareness

    • Knowledge of letter names and sounds

    • How to print letters

    • Decoding Simple Words

The Previous 2006 Ontario Language Curriculum

We see the word 'cuing' 17 times. It is even included in the definition of 'reading strategies'. Starting in grade 1, we see the third overall expectation: "use knowledge of words and cuing systems to read fluently". This overall expectation is repeated verbatim for grade 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

The term phonemic awareness occurs twice in the curriculum. Once in the front matter and is defined in the glossary. Recall that phonemic awareness is a critical early literacy skill. Printing legibly is mentioned as part of the grade 1's publishing expectation. The term 'decode' occurs once and is being used within the context of the cuing system. We see minimal references to knowledge of letter names and sounds embedded in the cuing system. We see the term 'reading with fluency' in the third overall expectation but it is intertwined with the cuing system. The term phonics occurs only in the glossary. However, it is intertwined in the Graphophonic cues where we see it alongside evidence-based terms: blending and segmenting. Unfortunately, we also see references to non-scientific strategies like using visual features, cuing and guessing strategies. The 2006 Ontario Curriculum has cuing as the main way we teach reading. That all changes when we look at the new curriculum!

The New 2023 Ontario Language Curriculum

When looking at the primary grades, I think this is where we see the largest shift when comparing the 2006 and the 2023 curriculum. The previous curriculum was divided into four strands (Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, and Media Literacy). The new curriculum starts fresh with four newly named strands:

  1. Literacy Connections and Applications

  2. Foundations of Language

  3. Comprehension: Understanding and Responding to Texts

  4. Composition: Expressing Ideas and Creating Texts

Within this second strand: Foundations of Language, we see 3 overall expectations:

  1. Oral and Non-Verbal Communication

  2. Language Foundations for Reading and Writing

  3. Language Conventions for Reading and Writing

It is within the second expectation where we see many evidence-based literacy strategies that were suggested in the Right to Read Report:

  1. Word-Level Reading and Spelling: Using Phonics Knowledge

  2. Word-Level Reading and Spelling: Using Orthographic Mapping

  3. Word-Level Reading and Spelling: Using Morphological Knowledge

  4. Vocabulary

  5. Reading Fluency: Accuracy, Rate, and Prosody

If you look closer at the expectations, Phonics includes phonemic awareness and we distinctly see evidence-based literacy strategies.

The curriculum also included Appendix A which is a scope and sequence that guides primary teachers.Language Foundations Continuum for Reading and Writing, Grades 1–4, Overall Expectation B2

At Latch Onto Learning, we are excited about these changes. Our tutoring programs are now in alignment with the 2023 curriculum. We are happy that the Ministry of Education has embraced the Science of Reading. While we now have a science-based Language curriculum in Ontario, few of teachers were trained in their teacher training programs on how to do this. There is still more work to be done.

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