Ontario secondary school literacy test

Cross-curricular literacy skills

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Cross-curricular literacy skills

Students in Grades 7 to 12 need well-developed literacy skills to succeed in all subject areas, and all subjects provide opportunities to develop those skills. In math, for example, students learn to identify the main idea in a word problem and use key words to determine what operation to use; in geography they construct and interpret maps, draw meaning from symbols, and make notes; in science and technology they build subject-specific vocabulary and interpret diagrams, charts, procedures, and safety information, and write lab reports. All subjects require students to connect with and build on their prior knowledge and experience – which is a key strategy for reading. All subjects also require students to communicate what they have learned, orally and in writing.

Content-area teachers can do the best job of teaching the reading and writing skills required by their discipline.

This teaching doesn't require "time out" from content-area instruction. It happens side by side with content acquisition. The objective is to increase content learning; the invaluable by-product is overall improvement in students' literacy skills.

When teachers of all subjects work together to equip their students with explicit strategies to improve reading, writing, and oral communication, they reinforce the students' ability to use those strategies across subject disciplines, in later grades, and beyond school. They make higher-level literacy both relevant and achievable in an idea-fuelled and information-driven world.


Whole School Practices that Support Literacy Development of Students

  • Provide explicit instruction in reading and writing.

  • Integrate effective strategies for ELL and exceptional students in all professional development activities and all classrooms.

  • Offer, support and promote the After-School Literacy Program. Encourage teachers delivering the After-School Literacy course to attend the workshops provided through Curriculum and Instructional Services.

  • Offer and support the Grade 12 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC).

  • Use EQAO Support Materials, Response and Rubric items.

  • Practice assessing student work with EQAO Response and Rubric items. For example, grade nine students write a practice news report or opinion piece and staff participate in examining the work in conjunction with the EQAO anchor papers. Teachers discuss their findings in small groups. This will provide a baseline for classroom writing in all subjects and support teachers in developing their understanding of student needs.

  • Encourage consistent use of assistive devices for students to ensure they are familiar with them before the OSSLT.

  • Support the summer ELL Literacy Courses.

  • Support the use of technology for students with special needs (Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Word Q, Inspiration)

  • Provide on-going professional development and encourage professional dialogue in the area of effective literacy practices, diagnostic assessment, assessment for learning and differentiated instruction.

Reading: Cross-Curricular Classroom Strategies

  • Reinforce teaching of specific reading strategies:

  • making an inference;

  • drawing conclusions;

  • marking the text;
  • using the indices, glossaries, and table of contents in texts:

  • using context to identify the meaning of important words;

  • making meaning from visuals: photographs, statistics and tables; and

  • synthesizing.

  • Teach text structures for complex text such as text books, written directions and technical manuals.

  • Provide exemplars of real-life text materials related to subject content.

  • Provide a folder of graphic organizers for a range of subject areas (e.g., science, history, geography).

  • Build background knowledge and new vocabulary by using read-aloud / think-aloud and shared reading activities such as Reader’s Theatre (a practised script reading),and by reading at least one passage of text (book, magazine, newspaper…) out loud every class, in all subjects.

  • Use “short texts” on the overhead and on student copies to demonstrate how proficient readers “make meaning”. (See teacher package for sources of “short text”.)

  • Provide time for independent reading with accountability, allowing for student choice; use subject-related resources and accessible “text sets” other than the text book.

Writing: Cross-Curricular Classroom Strategies

  • Teach students to emulate the style of authentic text forms (e.g., newspapers) using real-life models to guide their writing.

  • Explicitly teach question and instruction words: who, what, where, why, when, how… define, explain (see Think Literacy)

  • Explicitly teach How to Follow Directions-use Think Literacy or resources in this binder.

  • Show clear examples of effective writing and have students use them as models for their own work.

  • Scaffold student learning through teacher modeling, whole class sharing, small group guided practice and descriptive feedback, and independent practice. Provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to write an opinion piece and a news report.

  • Teach the use of writing templates and organizers as writing tools.

  • Teach students to pick out the important words in questions and prompts and demonstrate how to stay on topic in developing their answers. Teach them how to use sentence stems that relate to the tasks.

  • Teach students to complete a monitoring check at the end of the writing task by providing checklists and rubrics.

  • Have students identify the main ideas in paragraphs and write paragraphs which demonstrate coherence, unity and emphasis.

  • Model, teach and reinforce the importance of correct sentence structure, grammar and punctuation and discuss how these elements contribute to the clarity of communication.

  • Use the track changes feature on a computer / LCD to show editing and revision.

Literacy Development and Gender
Throughout all administrations of the OSSLT boys have lagged behind girls. Although the success rate for boys has been improving, the gender gap is still evident.
The OSSLT - Provincial Report and YRDSB Report for 2006 continue to show this gap in literacy achievement for boys.

Provincially, the results, for fully-participating, first-time eligible boys was 81%. This is 7% below the 88% success rate for girls.

This gap is also evident in York Region as the success rate for boys was 85%, while it was 91% for girls.
Me Read? No Way?: A Practical Guide To Improving Boys’ Literacy Skills” is invaluable in providing a whole school approach to supporting success for all students. The following topics are just of few of the issues addressed in the document:

  • choosing appropriate classroom resources for boys - use non-traditional materials such as magazines, webzines and manuals in all subject areas;

  • influencing boys’ attitudes toward literacy through the use of role models;

  • providing magazines/newspapers for class use where appropriate;

  • understanding boys’ learning styles;

  • using technology to get boys interested in literacy;

  • making reading and writing relevant to boys;

  • appealing to boys’ need for social interaction; and

  • providing frequent opportunities to read and write.

Examining this document within each department and then reporting back to the entire staff on its’ practical application would be a very worthwhile professional development activity for all schools.

This resource is available at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/brochure/meread/meread.pdf.





Autobiographies, biographies, art, drama, concert reviews, art gallery pamphlets / brochures, photographs

Reviews / Critiques (emphasis on stating and supporting opinions)


Newspapers, magazines, business reports, case studies, editorials, company websites

Text features (layout, aspects of print, syntax, punctuation in a variety of text types)

News Report (emphasis on summarizing an event - 5 W’s Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? )


Narratives, non-fiction (essays, editorials, reviews), informational text (news reports, biographies, websites related to literature study), photographs, editorial cartoons, excerpts – including representative paragraphs and other “short texts” to demonstrate and practice reading comprehension strategies

Series of Paragraphs Supporting an Opinion (emphasis on stating opinion and providing relevant details and examples), Editorials, Response Paragraphs – making connections (self, text, world) to something they have read

News Reports – based on photograph and headline from which they must infer the

5W’s + H


Informational text: journal articles, news reports, essays, graphs, photographs, government brochures and guidelines

Literary text: novels, short stories, poetry

Series of Paragraphs Supporting an Opinion

News Reports – based on photograph and headline from which they must infer the

5W’s + H


Graphs, charts, maps, travel sections / weather reports, photographs and other visuals

Analysis of a graph, personal response and opinion about an article, editorial related to environmental issue





Primary and secondary sources, autobiographies, biographies, newspapers, current events, websites

- Also examine text structures (cause and effect; problem / solution; question and answer)

News Report based on a headline and photograph (emphasis on reporting facts);

Series of Paragraphs Supporting an Opinion


Sports page statistics, graphs, charts, news articles, word problems, layout, glossary and appendix of texts

Examine text structure - problem-solution

Response journal – students identify how to read a variety of math related text types, explain their reading of a graphic, explain how reading instructions and explanations in their text helps them to solve math problems


Newspapers, sports sections, scores and statistics, graphs, photographs, articles, editorials, diagrams, biographies, short stories, cartoons

News Report based on a headline and photograph (emphasis on reporting facts about a game);

Series of Paragraphs Supporting an Opinion (emphasis on supporting position related to a sports issue)

Response Paragraphs – making connections (self, text, world) to something they have read


Charts, diagrams, news articles, magazines, biographies, autobiographies, websites, reports, photographs

- Also examine text structures (cause and effect; problem / solution; question and answer)

Explanations of graphs, charts, photographs, diagrams

Summaries of informational text – focus on identifying the main idea

Lab Reports

YRDSB - Literacy Resources



Adolescent Literacy Document

Parts I, II, III

Reaching Higher



Resource Binder

Think Literacy: Cross-Curricular Approaches, Grades 7-12

Increase classroom reading of informational text (e.g., newspapers, biographies, manuals)

Part II: Pgs. 9-10, 13-14

Part III: Pgs. 1-4


Reading Strategies Pgs. 16-28, 32, 34 47, 70-77

Teach specific strategies for reading informational text (e.g., select key words, text features of textbooks)

Part I: Pgs. 31-38

Part III: Pgs. 8-13, 16-22

Pgs. 5, 6, 7, 8, 11

Teacher Section

Reading Strategies Pgs. 8-19, 24-39

Oral Communication Pgs. 166-168

Read Aloud/Think Aloud to model proficient reader strategies

Part I: Pgs. 6-9 Appendices



Teacher Section

Reading Strategies Pgs. 56-59

Oral Communication Pgs. 156-157

Teach reading comprehension strategies

Part I: Pgs. 31-32, 42-45

Part II: Pgs. 11-18, 44-45

Pg. 12

Teacher Section

Reading Strategies Pgs. 78-95

Show students how effective reading connects to writing and effective writing comes from reading

Part III: Pgs. 1-2, 14-15

Pg. 15

Reading Strategies Pgs. 16-19, 24-28, 48-54, 60-65

For gender issues

  • Increase reading of information materials

  • Use read aloud/modeled/ shared/guided reading strategies

  • Increase student choice in reading materials

Part I: Pgs. 6-20, 31-38

Part II: Pgs. 1-10, 19-21, 41-45

Part III: Pgs. 3-13, 14-18

Pgs. 6, 7, 12

Teacher Section

YRDSB - Literacy Resources

Next Steps

for Writing

Adolescent Literacy Document

Parts I, II, III

Reaching Higher



Resource Binder

Think Literacy: Cross-Curricular Approaches, Grades 7-12

Teach step-by-step plan to show students:

  • how to write a news report

  • how to write an opinion piece

Part I: Pgs. 46-58, 59-60

Part II: Pgs. 32-35

Part III: Pgs.14-16, 19-33


Teacher Section

Writing Strategies Pgs. 102-103, 140 148, 166-168

Teach students how to write a clear and concise main idea

Part III: Pg. 32

Pg. 8

Writing Strategies Pgs. 102-103, 112 116

Teach students how to support main ideas and provide details

Writing Strategies Pgs. 104-107, 112 121

Teach students how to organize ideas

Writing Strategies Pgs. 108-116

Reading Strategies Pgs. 16-19

Oral Communication Pgs. 172-174

Have students write a variety of tasks across subjects (e.g., editorial writing, technological reports, biographies)

Part III: Pgs. 5-6, 14-16, 34-41


Writing Strategies Section

Use plans/templates for writing tasks

Part III: Pgs. 27, 29, 31

Pgs. 5, 13

Teacher Section

Writing Strategies Pgs. 140-148

Revise/Edit written work

Teacher Section

Writing Strategies Pgs. 140-148

For gender issues

  • Use exemplars, teacher- modeling and partner-writing

  • Use real-life writing activities

Part I: Pgs. 46-53

Part II: Pgs. 30-33

Part III: Pgs. 24-31


Teacher Section

OSSLT Preparation


Think Literacy: Cross-Curricular Approaches Grades 7-12

Strategies which Support Reading and Writing Skills

Assessed on the OSSLT


Skill / Task

Page #

Finding Organizational Patterns

Navigating Text / Information Paragraph / Multiple-Choice Writing Questions


Using Context to Find Meaning

Comprehension / All Reading Selections


Reading Between the Lines (Inference)

Comprehension / All Reading Selections


Most / Least Important Ideas and Information

Summarizing / Multiple-Choice Writing Questions


Making Judgments (Both Sides Now)

Connecting, Synthesizing / All Writing Tasks


Reading Informational Texts

Navigating Text


Reading Graphical Texts

Navigating Text


Supporting the Main Idea

Developing Ideas / Series of Paragraphs / Multiple-Choice Writing Questions


Adding Details

Developing Ideas / Series of Paragraphs


Proofreading without Partners

Developing Ideas / Series of Paragraphs / News Report


Writing for a Purpose: Using Templates

Identifying Purpose and Audience / All Writing Tasks


The following resources are available for use on the EQAO website.


Released 2006 Items (with answer key)

Released OSSLT Rubrics and Responses

OSSLT School Success Stories

Characteristics of Successful and Unsuccessful Student Performance on the OSSLT

School and Board Results

Provincial Report

Highlights of Provincial Results

Detailed Steps for Schools Using the School Verification Report: Spring 2006 – The Complete Guide

Teacher Bulletin 2005-2006

Getting Ready Guide for Students

Planning and Preparation Guide

The Complete Guide for Administering the OSSLT

Using Data to Promote Student Success

Framework Document

Standard Setting Process

EQAO Guide to School and Improvement Planning

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