Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course: OLC4O

Semester 1

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC) is a full-credit Grade 12 course that will be offered as part of the English program in Ontario secondary schools starting in the 2003–2004 school year. This document is designed for use in conjunction with The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: English, 1999;The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: English, 2000; and The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 to 12: Program Planning and Assessment, 2000. The latter document contains information relevant to all secondary school courses and disciplines represented in the curriculum; however, the present document outlines aspects of assessment policy that are unique to the OSSLC.

Purpose of the Course

To participate fully in the society and workplace of the twenty-first century, today’s students will need to be able to use language skilfully and confidently. The Ontario curriculum recognizes the central importance of reading and writing skills in learning across the curriculum and in everyday life, and prepares students for the literacy demands they will face in their postsecondary endeavours. To ensure that they have the essential competencies in reading and writing that they will need to succeed at school, at work, and in daily life, students in Ontario must demonstrate those skills as a requirement for graduation. The standard method for assessing the literacy skills of students in Ontario for purposes of meeting the literacy requirement for graduation is the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), implemented in the 2001–2002 school year.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course has been developed to provide students who have been unsuccessful on the test with intensive support in achieving the required reading and writing competencies, and with an alternative means of demonstrating their literacy skills. The reading and writing competencies required by the OSSLT form the instructional and assessment core of the course. (The comparison chart on pages 4–5 shows how the course incorporates and builds on the requirements of the test.) Students who successfully complete this course will have met the provincial literacy requirement for graduation, and will earn one credit. The credit earned for successful completion of the OSSLC may be used to meet either the Grade 12 English compulsory credit requirement or the Group 1 additional compulsory credit requirement (see Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9 to 12: Program and Diploma Requirements, 1999, pp. 8–9).

Curriculum Expectations

The expectations identified for this course describe the knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop and demonstrate in the various activities through which their achievement is assessed and evaluated.

Two sets of expectations are listed for each strand, or broad curriculum area, of this course. The overall expectations describe in general terms the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of this course. The specific expectations describe the expected knowledge and skills in greater detail. The specific expectations are organized under subheadings that reflect particular aspects of the required knowledge and skills and that may serve as a guide for teachers as they plan learning activities for their students. The organization of expectations in strands and subgroupings is not meant to imply that the expectations in any one strand or group are achieved independently of the expectations in the other strands or groups.

Many of the expectations are accompanied by examples, given in parentheses. These examples are meant to illustrate the kind of skill, the specific area of learning, the depth of learning, and/or the level of complexity that the expectation entails. They are intended as a guide for teachers rather than as an exhaustive or mandatory list.


The course is divided into three strands: Building Reading Skills; Building Writing Skills; and Understanding and Assessing Growth in Literacy.

Building Reading Skills

Students need to be able to read and understand a variety of texts accurately for a variety of school and other real-life purposes. The competent reader, according to the OSSLT criteria, is able to read informational, narrative, and graphic texts4 with reasonable accuracy and proficiency, to understand directly and indirectly stated ideas and information, and to make connections between texts and his or her own experiences and knowledge. The competent reader reads for a variety of purposes, and is able to understand texts of varying levels of challenge.

Reading is an active process of thinking and constructing meaning from texts. Competent readers use strategies before they read, to preview the text and to activate their prior knowledge of the topic; while they read, to track and record ideas and monitor comprehension; and after they read, to consolidate and extend understanding. Competent readers know that reading plays a vital role in learning, opening the door to knowledge about themselves, others, and the world.

The Reading strand of the OSSLC is designed to help struggling readers to learn and use effective strategies to understand a range of texts. It requires students to read and respond to a variety of informational texts (e.g., opinion pieces, information paragraphs, textbooks), narrative texts (e.g., newspaper reports, magazine stories, short fiction), and graphic texts (e.g., tables, line graphs and bar graphs, schedules). Students will have numerous opportunities to learn appropriate reading strategies and use them to understand directly and indirectly stated ideas and information in texts, and to make connections between personal knowledge or experience and the ideas and information in texts. As in the OSSLT, the emphasis in the course is on informational texts; however, students will also engage in independent reading for personal, school, and career-related purposes, thus going beyond the requirements of the OSSLT.

Building Writing Skills

Students need to be able to write competently for a variety of school and other real-life purposes. The competent writer, as defined by the OSSLT criteria, states and supports main ideas, organizes writing clearly and coherently, and uses the conventions of standard Canadian English.

A variety of research in the field of writing reveals that the quality of student writing is greatly enhanced when students use the writing process in their writing tasks. Unlike the OSSLT (which specifies the topics students write about and the forms of writing they produce, and sets limits on the time allowed for writing), this course gives students regular, ongoing experience in using the writing process to produce and craft their writing, and allows them to choose some of their own topics and writing forms to suit their own purposes.

To help students develop into competent writers, the Writing strand of the OSSLC requires them to produce a variety of forms of writing for school and other real-life purposes, including summaries, information paragraphs, opinion pieces (series of paragraphs expressing an opinion), and news reports. Students will use the writing process and their knowledge of the conventions of text forms to organize ideas for writing, to develop main ideas and provide supporting details, to match tone and language to purpose and audience, and to use grammar, punctuation, and spelling correctly.