English Language Arts_Introduction

English Language Arts


The redesigned English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum presents what students are expected to know, understand, and be able to do from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

The curriculum is designed to empower students by providing them with strong communication skills, an understanding and appreciation of language and literature, and the capacity to engage fully as literate and responsible citizens in a digital age. Students are guided in learning to think critically, creatively, and reflectively; to construct a sense of personal and cultural identity; and to be respectful of a range of perspectives and worldviews. The accompanying Rationale and Goals affirm the foundational role of ELA education in British Columbia schools.

Features of the English Language Arts curriculum

Flexible teaching and learning

The components of the curriculum work together in a dynamic and flexible way to support deeper learning. Within each grade, there is no single or “correct” way to combine pieces from each of the curriculum components. Rather, the structure allows for a great deal of choice in the ways in which the pieces can be combined to create lessons, units, and learning experiences.
The curriculum also remains flexible in its accommodation of a variety of program structures, as well as school and community contexts. The open design promotes the creation of instructional approaches that combine two or more areas of learning, without mandating any particular form of interdisciplinary learning.

An integrated approach to learning

The redesigned curriculum represents an integrated and holistic approach to teaching and learning. In the ELA curriculum, all six of the language arts elements (reading, listening, viewing, writing, speaking, and representing) are inextricably interconnected. The development of competency in one element supports the development of competency in the other, often simultaneously.

The redesigned curriculum retains the organization of curricular competencies into the two modes of language use: “receptive,” represented by the Curricular Competencies listed under Comprehend and Connect, and “expressive,” represented by the Curricular Competencies under Create and Communicate.

First Peoples Principles of Learning

The First Peoples Principles of Learning (PDF) are embedded in the ELA curriculum. These principles were developed with First Peoples educators and community members and have been affirmed within First Peoples societies to guide the teaching and learning of provincial curricula. The First Peoples Principles of Learning not only honour British Columbia’s First Peoples and their perspectives on pedagogy, but also, with regard to the ELA curriculum, promote experiential and reflexive learning, as well as self-advocacy and personal accountability in learners.

Embedding the First Peoples Principles of Learning in the curriculum helps to create classroom cultures based on the concepts of community, shared learning, and trust. These principles and First Peoples content are not add-ons or separate units in ELA, but are woven into the fabric of the curriculum.

Transferability of learning

Students benefit from ELA not only by gaining the ability to communicate effectively in the classroom, but also by receiving knowledge, competencies, and understanding that are transferrable across the curriculum and to life outside school. The redesigned ELA curriculum supports students in becoming educated citizens by:

  • contributing to their overall cognitive development
  • helping them develop language and thinking strategies that can be applied to new contexts
  • developing their cultural awareness and understanding
  • helping them learn to read for information and enjoyment
  • deepening their understanding of the importance of identity
  • enhancing their understanding of how their language is constructed, how it works, and how it is dynamic, changing with time and circumstance
  • preparing them for success in future educational and career contexts

Design of the English Language Arts curriculum

As in all areas of learning, the key concepts and competencies of the ELA curriculum are organized around the Know-Do-Understand learning model. These are captured in Content (Know), Curricular Competencies (Do), and Big Ideas (Understand). More information about this model is available at www.curriculum.gov.bc.ca.

Big Ideas

The Big Ideas are generalizations and principles that students are able to discover through the Content and the Curricular Competencies of the curriculum. They represent the “aha!” moments of the curriculum. The Big Ideas in ELA reflect a variety of important concepts and competencies, such as strategies, connection-building, identity, diverse perspectives, and cultural awareness.

Many of the Big Ideas progress and deepen over time; others remain constant. The sample Big Ideas below illustrate how the curriculum grows with students and expands the scope and depth of learning.

  K-1 3 4-5 6-7 10-12
Big Ideas Everyone has a unique story to share. Stories can be understood from different perspectives. Texts can be understood from different perspectives. Exploring and sharing multiple perspectives extends our thinking.

People understand text differently depending on their worldviews and perspectives. 

Texts are socially, culturally, geographically, and historically constructed. 


Content represents the knowledge students will acquire as a result of their learning at a given grade in ELA; it is what students are expected to know. Content represents what students need to know to be able to achieve the Curricular Competencies. In each grade, each topic in the Content column can potentially be applied through multiple Curricular Competencies.

As the excerpt from the Grade 5 curriculum, below, shows, knowledge of “literary elements” and “literary devices” in the Content column enables the student to “Recognize how literary elements, techniques, and devices enhance meaning in texts” in the Curricular Competencies column.

Grade 5

Curricular Competencies

Using oral, written, visual, and digital texts,students are expected individually and collaboratively to be able to:

Comprehend and connect (reading, listening, viewing)
  • Recognize how literary elements, techniques, and devices enhance meaning in texts


Students are expected to know the following:

  • literary elements
  • literary devices


Students deepen their learning as they build on their Content knowledge from year to year, through the study of specific topics and through the range of texts in which they encounter the topics. Some topics appear in more than one year, as they may take longer to fully acquire or they may address more advanced Curricular Competencies. When identical topics appear in multiple grades, the elaborations further clarify the depth and breadth to which the topic should be addressed at each grade.


Elaborations have been provided for many of the Content and Curricular Competencies learning standards in the ELA curriculum. The Elaborations offer definitions, clarifications, examples, and further information about the topics or competencies at a given grade. Elaborations are not a mandatory part of the curriculum; they have been included simply to provide teachers with additional clarity and support. They may be particularly useful to teachers who are new to teaching ELA.

Content Elaborations

Some Elaborations are repeated across grade levels to avoid prescription and to allow teachers to use professional judgment in selecting specific aspects of the Elaborations according to the needs of the learner and the learning context. However, many Elaborations show increasingly elevated expectations across grade levels.

The sample topic below illustrates how the scope and depth of learning grows as learners progress along a growth continuum.







ELA 10–12


literary elements and devices

literary elements and devices

literary elements

literary devices

literary elements

literary devices

literary elements and devices


•  poetic language, figurative language, sound play, images, colour, symbols


•  descriptive language, poetic language, figurative language, images, imagery, rhythm, rhyme, simile, alliteration


•  literary elements: theme, character, setting, plot, conflict, and purpose

•  literary devices: sensory detail (e.g., imagery) and figurative language (e.g., metaphor, simile)

•  literary devices: sensory detail (e.g., imagery) and figurative language (e.g., metaphor, simile)


•  Texts use various literary devices, including figurative language, according to purpose and audience.



Curricular Competencies

The Curricular Competencies describe what students should be able to do with the knowledge they have gained. English Language Arts is a process-driven area of learning: students develop as they engage with language and texts. This emphasis on process can be seen in the greater detail of the Curricular Competencies learning standards, compared with the Content learning standards. The process-oriented focus reflects the fact that a primary goal of ELA is to enable students to become competent and effective users and creators of a wide variety of texts in diverse contexts, including digital texts. Through purposeful communication, learners can develop competencies in listening to understand; communicating effectively; presenting information and ideas with confidence and fluency; and understanding the connections between language
and culture.

Students build on their Curricular Competencies as they move through the grades. The sample Curricular Competencies below illustrate how the curriculum progresses from grade to grade, expanding in scope and deepening in complexity.





ELA 10–12

EFP 10–12


Recognize the structure of story

Recognize the structure and elements of story

Identify how story in First Peoples cultures connects people to land

Recognize and appreciate the role of story, narrative, and oral tradition in expressing First Peoples perspectives, values, beliefs, and points of view

Identify the role of story and oral tradition in expressing First Peoples perspectives, values, beliefs, and points of view

Important Considerations

Selection of texts

“Text” in the ELA curriculum is defined as any oral, visual, or written communication, including digital. Teachers are encouraged to use a wide range of engaging and grade-appropriate text types in their classrooms, including First Peoples and other Canadian texts, as well as multicultural texts in a variety of formats, such as digital and multi-genre texts. While allowing student choice as much as possible, it is important that students be introduced to text that is accessible yet challenging.

Grammar, usage, and conventions

Learning about the English language, including its grammar, conventions, usage, and the ways in which language develops over time, is important for students. The learning of grammar provides students with a valuable meta-language — that is, a language with which to talk about language. However, research evidence is clear that, in order for the teaching to be effective, grammar and language skills should be taught within a purposeful context rather than in isolation. Otherwise, there is little or no transference from learning about grammar and conventions to students’ abilities to read or write better.

All forms of text have conventions, including grammar and usage, which vary depending on the form. For example, punctuation applies only to written language. Film and oral language have their own conventions as well. The purpose of conventions is to assist in meaningful communication; their use should thus reflect the purpose of and audience for the text. Students should be introduced to standard written English while also recognizing that there are many other varieties of English, each reflecting a specific cultural, social, or professional context (Passman, Roger, and McKnight, Katherine S., 2007, Teaching Writing in the Inclusive Classroom: Strategies and Skills for All Students, Jossey-Bass).

Literary terms and techniques

Knowledge of literary terms and techniques builds students’ skills in literary analysis by giving them a language with which to talk about texts and the techniques used by authors. It also expands students’ awareness of the techniques available to them in their own writing. The ELA curriculum includes instruction on literary terms and techniques in a supporting role and in meaningful contexts only.


It is important that students be able to communicate in a variety of ways. In the past, written formats were the primary method of communication, and cursive writing therefore held a great deal of importance. Today’s students are able to communicate in a variety of ways and are not limited to paper and pen. However, it is still important that students be able to read others’ handwritten texts and communicate their ideas in handwriting, as well as in electronic formats. The focus should be on legibility in handwriting and the ability to communicate clearly, rather than on a particular style of handwriting.

Theoretical underpinnings

The theoretical underpinning of the ELA curriculum is constructivism, or meaning-making. Constructivism is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction, as opposed to passively receiving information. Learners are the makers of meaning and knowledge. The ultimate goal of reading is “a construction of meaning from text. It is an active, cognitive, and affective process,” where readers actively engage with the text and build their own understanding (Braunger, J., and Lewis, J.P., 2006, Building a Knowledge Base in Reading, 2nd ed., International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, 59).

Students should be provided with a variety of activities and texts that allow them to make meaning in their world. It follows that the content of the ELA curriculum should be taught, learned, and assessed holistically.

The ELA curriculum is informed by a strength-based approach to teaching and learning. In the early years, students come to understand that everyone can be a reader and a writer, and it is intended that this understanding will remain with them as they progress through the grades and become a lifelong understanding.

Critical literacy

Critical literacy is a lens through which all text is viewed as being constructed for a purpose. Students should be taught to question text, challenge authorial authority, investigate an author’s beliefs, and detect bias in relation to others’ texts, as well as their own. Critical literacy also allows students to determine viewpoints that may be missing, and to examine a variety of other perspectives (Booth, David, 2011, Caught in the Middle: Reading and Writing in the Transition Years, Pembroke).

In order to engage in active citizenship, it is crucial that students be able to assess and analyze text to avoid manipulation by others. Teaching students to read critically is especially important in an era in which they are exposed to an almost continuous stream of media and information.

English Language Arts 10–12 Draft Curriculum: English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12


As with English Language Arts K–9, the redesigned English Language Arts 10–12 curriculum will support both disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning, encourage locally developed curriculum, and enable a variety of learning environments and school and classroom configurations. This flexibility supports teachers and students wanting to organize learning through interdisciplinary inquiries that focus on project-based learning, problem-based learning, or learning through design. Central features of the English Language Arts 10–12 draft curriculum include the following:

  • Core and curricular competencies remain central to BC’s redesigned curriculum framework and apply from Kindergarten through to graduation
  • Curriculum in Grades 10–12 maintains the same structure as in Grades K–9, including Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, and Content
  • The Grades 10–12 provincial curricula consist of both curriculum that all students are required to study and curricula that students may choose from.

Both English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12 satisfy the English Language Arts requirements. These two courses are academically equivalent, and both are accepted for entrance to post-secondary education. The Communications 11/12 curriculum and the Communications 12 examination will be discontinued as of September 2017.

Students choose to take English 10–12 or English First Peoples 10–12, and they may move flexibly between the two courses (e.g., EFP 10 + English 11 + EFP 12). English 10–12 and EFP 10–12 share a similar structure, designed to ensure that all BC students receive a well-rounded and comprehensive language arts education during the Graduation years, and to provide BC graduates with the literacy skills and competencies required for success in further education, in careers, and in everyday life. Elements of the existing integrated resource packages for English and English First Peoples are incorporated throughout the redesigned English 10–12 and
EFP 10–12 curricula.

Students in ELA explore a wide range of First Peoples and other Canadian texts, as well as multicultural texts. A broad variety of genres and text types is included, such as oral, digital, mixed media, graphic, and visual texts. 

The following is the draft structure for the redesigned curriculum for English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12. Your feedback is encouraged.

Draft curriculum structure for English Language Arts 10–12 (includes English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12)

Curriculum Structure: English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12
(Minimum of 12 credits)
Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12

Areas of Choice
Choose 2 of 5

2 credits each (total of 4 credits)

ELA Composition 10 or
EFP Composition 10

ELA Creative Writing 10 or
EFP Creative Writing 10

ELA Focused Literary Studies 10 or EFP Focused Literary Studies 10

ELA New Media 10 or
EFP New Media 10

ELA Spoken Language 10 or
EFP Spoken Language 10

English 12 and EFP 12 (4 credits) represent essential learning in English Language Arts.

Can be taken in either Grade 11 or Grade 12


Areas of Choice
Choose at least 1 of 5 (4 credits each)

Can be taken in either Grade 11 or Grade 12

ELA Composition 11 or
EFP Composition 11

ELA Creative Writing 11 or
EFP Creative Writing 11

ELA Focused Literary Studies 11 or
EFP Focused Literary Studies 11

ELA New Media 11 or
EFP New Media 11

ELA Spoken Language 11 or
EFP Spoken Language 11

The learning standards of the Grade 12 course are common to those in the areas of choice.

English Language Arts Grade 12 course

All students take an English Language Arts Grade 12 course (English 12 or EFP 12), which represents “essential learning” in language arts, including reading and writing, speaking and listening, viewing and representing. As noted in the table above, students take the Grade 12 course once only, and it may be taken either in Grade 11 or Grade 12.

Areas of choice

The learning standards of the Grade 12 course are common to those in the areas of choice, so that foundational skills in language arts are addressed in both the Grade 12 course and the areas of choice. In this way, students are equipped with a comprehensive range of language arts skills and abilities, regardless of which specific area of choice is taken. For example, in Spoken Language, while the particular focus is on the development of strong speaking and listening skills in a variety of contexts, students will also be required to read and write, view and represent.

Enabling students to be active participants in their learning is well recognized as a powerful motivator. For this reason, choice is provided for students early in the Graduation years, as a testament to their capacity as young adults to make judicious selections from a variety of English Language Arts areas of choice and to allow them a sense of agency in their own education. This is consistent with a strength-based rather than a deficit-based approach to education.

In Grade 10, students take areas of choice only (2 credits each). In Grade 11 and/or Grade 12, they take areas of choice as indicated in the table above (4 credits each). The learning standards in the areas of choice at the Grade 11 level are more expansive and elevated than those at the Grade 10 level. 

The English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12 curricula include five areas of choice. Students may take the same area of choice at two different levels — for example, Composition 10 and Composition 11 — to allow them to explore a particular area with greater depth, complexity, and sophistication.

The five areas of choice for English 10 and 11 and English First Peoples 10 and 11 are:

  • Composition (10 and 11)
  • Creative Writing (10 and 11)
  • Focused Literary Studies (10 and 11)
  • New Media (10 and 11)
  • Spoken Language (10 and 11)

Maximizing student achievement: Underlying principles of the English Language Arts 10–12 curriculum structure

The English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12 curricula are designed to maximize student achievement through the application of the following underlying principles:

High expectations

It is important to maintain high expectations for all students. The intention is to provide English Language Arts 10–12 curricula with a “low floor and high ceiling” (Schnellert, L., Widdess, N., and Watson, L., 2015, It’s All about Thinking: Creating Pathways for All Learners in Middle Years, Portage & Main Press), with many entry points and with the high degree of academic rigour that is embodied in the existing English 10–12 and English First Peoples 10–12 curricula. The necessity for strong literacy skills for all students is recognized, whether students aspire to pursue a university degree or a college program or to proceed directly to the workplace: “Many trades programs require high levels of literacy, and feedback from employers involved in programs such as ACE IT is that we need to do a better job in K–12 of supporting high levels of literacy”
(FNESC Research).

An inclusive curriculum model

Approaches have differed in terms of how to best address the needs of our diverse BC learners. Some educators believe that providing an alternative pathway (such as Communications 11/12), where resources and instruction can be specifically targeted to the needs of struggling learners, is most effective. In the redesigned ELA 10–12 curriculum model, an inclusive approach is taken for the benefit of all learners.

Credit allocation

The English Language Arts 10–12 curriculum includes the same number of required credits (minimum of 12 credits) as the current curriculum.


The aim of the ELA 10–12 curriculum structure is to maximize students’ chances of success by allowing them to choose the areas of choice that are most engaging for them and to achieve deeper learning. Because the curriculum has been redesigned to be less prescriptive and more flexible, there are increased opportunities for students to pursue their interests, aspirations, and passions and to benefit from more specialized areas of language arts study. Choice also includes encouraging increased opportunities for students to select the types of texts they will use, such as in the context of literature circles.

“Research has demonstrated that access to self-selected texts improves students' reading performance….This is especially true for struggling readers…” (Krashen, 2011, as quoted at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Every-Child,-Every-Day.aspx)

Literacy across the curriculum

Students should be supported in their language and literacy learning across the curriculum so that all teachers help students with reading and writing in their subject areas. In this way, all teachers are teachers of literacy.

Provincial assessment

Provincial assessment will be aligned with the redesigned curriculum. A single Language Arts/Literacy assessment for all students at the Grade 12 level will replace the provincial exams. However, the current Grade 12 Language Arts provincial exams will remain in place for the 2016/2017 school year. 


Last updated: December 20, 2016