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English Language Arts

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Conventions of Language

Sounds, words and images are read and produced differently. The following chart specifies the knowledge students are expected to develop about these codes and conventions throughout their secondary education. As many texts today are multimodal, students are expected to integrate the knowledge of the affordances of spoken, written and media language to read and produce multimodal and multigenre texts. However, it is understood that students are not expected to locate or identify parts of speech in a discrete fashion, such as in an objective test. Rather, it is anticipated that students learn these codes and conventions in increasingly more complex contexts and in relation to more complex texts.

Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.

Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.


Student reinvests knowledge.


  1. Spoken Language
    The student understands and applies conventions of spoken language to express thoughts, ideas and information for a specific purpose and intended/target audience.
6 1 2 3 4 5
  1. Rhetorical strategies
    1. Makes effective use of visual aids to support spoken language, such as handouts or photographs
    1. Adapts the rhetorical aspects of spoken language to purpose, intended/target audience and genre (e.g. uses a register that is appropriate in a formal context; uses intonation for dramatic effect in a poetry reading; links own ideas to previous speaker in an informal plenary)
    1. Adapts the rethorical aspects of nonverbal language to achieve a particular effect, such as maintaining eye contact and using gestures for emphasis in a debate
  1. Affordances
    1. Exploits the possibilities of spoken language as a system in the context of learning (e.g. constructs or negotiates knowledge by searching for answers, pratices active listening by paraphrasing)
    1. Uses the aesthetic qualities of spoken language to give added meaning and depth to specific spoken genres (e.g. rythm, repetition, pacing, rhyme, alliteration, assonance)
    1. Uses knowledge of affordances of spoken language to achieve a specific effect in different contexts (e.g. exploits rhetorical conventions during a speech)
  1. Written Language
    The student understands and applies conventions of written language to express thoughts, ideas and information for a specific purpose and intended/target audience, in own reading and writing.
6 1 2 3 4 5
  1. Organization
    1. Uses a structure that fits the genre (e.g. letter format, narrative, play, essay)
    1. Employs a variety of paragraphing strategies (e.g. topical, chronological, spatial) appropriate to genre, intended/target audience and purpose
    1. Uses paragraph breaks to indicate an organizational structure
    1. Employs a strong beginning/introduction/lead to engage the reader
    1. Uses relevant details and elaborates on these to support the main idea
    1. Uses an ending that provides a sense of resolution or closure
    1. Uses smooth, effective transitions to maintain unity and coherence
  1. Syntax and usage
    1. Uses the following parts of speech correctly: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections
    1. Uses different kinds of sentences (e.g. declarative, conditional, exclamatory)
    1. Uses a variety of phrases and clauses to add detail and depth (e.g. appositive phrase, adverbial clause)
    1. Uses a variety of sentence structures (simple, compound, complex and compound-complex) and transitional words or phrases to reinforce relationships among ideas and to enhance the flow of the writing
    1. Demonstrates consistent variation in sentence beginnings, lengths and patterns (i.e. sentence arrangement)
    1. Respects subject/verb agreement, including verb tense, point of view, pronouns, etc.
    1. Uses active and passive voice to good effect (e.g. uses a passive voice in a research report to create a sense of authenticity)
    1. Uses syntax to suit the genre (e.g. compound-complex in an argument; compound in a descriptive narrative)
  1. Mechanics
    1. Applies capitalization rules, including proper nouns, abbreviations and acronyms, literary titles and other titles in modern usage such as official titles, song titles, etc.
    1. Spelling:
      1. Applies spelling rules, including exceptions such as: i before e except after c; dropping silent e and/or doubling the final consonant before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel; changing end y to i before adding any suffix except those beginning with I; and, numbers/statistics/dates, etc.
      1. Applies spelling patterns/generalizations correctly, including exceptions such as: word families; prefixes and suffixes; regular and irregular plurals; homonyms and homophones
      1. Uses resources to correct own spelling (e.g. word lists, dictionaries, peers, spell check)
    1. Punctuation:
      1. Applies end punctuation rules: period, question mark, exclamation point
      1. Uses apostrophes to punctuate contractions, singular and plural possessives
      1. Applies rules for commas: items in a series, greetings, introductory words, direct address, compound sentences, phrases and clauses
      1. Uses quotation marks to punctuate dialogue, title short works, cite excerpts from different sources
      1. Uses colons and semicolons correctly
      1. Uses hyphens, dashes, parentheses, ellipses and brackets correctly
      1. Uses punctuation to suit the genre (e.g. parentheses to indicate asides in plays; brackets and ellipses points for citations in an essay; ellipses points or asterisks to indicate passage of time in a novel)
    1. Uses relevant/required print cues (e.g. underlining or italicizing titles of major works; all caps or bold to add emphasis; increased font size for headlines or (sub)headings)
    1. Uses appropriate format to cite sources (e.g. Chicago, APA, MLA, UPI, any other recognized style manual)
  1. Word Choice/Diction
    1. Uses words that consistently support style, intended meaning and the organizational structure of the genre
    1. Uses a metalanguage to discuss own texts, own progress as a learner and/or literary texts
    1. Demonstrates an extensive, varied vocabulary (i.e. derived from experiences with a range of texts and contexts)
    1. Uses specific vocabulary and/or terminology and/or discourses from other disciplines or fields to convey meaning(s) and/or message(s) and/or information
  1. Media Language
    The student understands and applies the conventions of media language in a specific context when reading and producing texts.
6 1 2 3 4 5
  1. Codes
    1. Identifies and analyzes the codes used in a media text to convey the producer’s intentions (e.g. a popular logo in advertising; music to convey suspense in a movie; the colour red to signify embarrassment in a graphic novel). See also SELA, p. 105 and SELA2, p. 62.
    1. Identifies and analyzes how the codes of media language can be adapted to different purposes, texts and audiences:
      1. Depiction of products in advertising (e.g. magazine, television, web)
      1. Adaptation of a genre in different media (e.g. a novel and its adaptation to film)
      1. Coverage of same action or event by a single medium (e.g. two different radio stations reporting the same story)
      1. Coverage of same action or event by different media (e.g. a baseball game that airs on radio and television)
    1. Demonstrates how specific codes and conventions combine to:
      1. Position an intended/target audience (e.g. prime-time programming is aimed at delivering the target audience to advertisers; appeals in a PSA position the reader to consider making a donation to a charity)
      1. Communicate a producer’s stance (e.g. an anti-whaling stance taken by National Geographic in a documentary on whaling)
      1. Establish relevance (i.e. image/word/sound coexist and/or are juxtaposed to create meaning/message such as the image of a baby on a cigarette pack as a reminder that second-hand smoke poisons innocence)
  1. Representation
    1. Explains how layout cues the reader to the social function of a text (e.g. posters highlight visual elements rather than print to catch a viewer’s attention; captions are used in televised news reports to establish credibility, as in providing the personal credentials of an expert on the topic or issue)
    1. Explains how the conventions of sound:
      1. Create a sense of tone, mood, emotion, pacing (e.g. quick tempo to create a sense of urgency in a drama)
      1. Situate viewer/listener in a context (e.g. canned laughter in a comedy, sound effects in a car chase scene)
      1. Add depth and/or dimension to a text (e.g. voiceover in a narrative sequence depicting a hazardous voyage by sea in another century)
    1. Explains how the conventions of image:
      1. Capture and maintain a viewer’s attention (e.g. camera shots and angles)
      1. Create atmosphere (e.g. dark lighting)
      1. Move action forward (e.g. camera movement and transitions, editing)
      1. Establish continuity (e.g. repetitive use of the colour blue in a graphic novel to characterize a protagonist)
      1. Add depth and/or dimension to a text (e.g. camera shot and/or angle that makes a subject appear powerful or threatening; use of the colour pink to suggest a cancer survivor in a photo essay)
    1. Explains how symbols and signs connote more or less, respectively, than what they stand for (e.g. the symbol of the Canadian flag; the sign for hazardous materials)
    1. (Reading only) Analyzes how specific codes and conventions combine to convey concepts, message(s) and meaning(s):
      1. Bias or stereotyping
      1. Promotion of a product, idea or action
      1. Inferences (e.g. a surge of music to underscore the reunion of lovers in a movie; the downward glance of a villain to suggest secrecy or deceit)
      1. Individuals, groups and cultures (e.g. gendered images in advertising campaigns; the use of camera shots/angles to create a sense that homeless people are powerless)
      1. Values, beliefs, ideologies (e.g. a close-up of a sleeping baby is associated with a new beginning; the manipulation of images and events in a political message reinforces the opinion that an opponent leans too much to the Left)
1.  The blue bar signifies that students require the guidance of their teacher to reinvest the knowledge gained by the end of a certain grade level in progressively more demanding contexts, with increasingly more challenging material, to ensure that their understanding deepens over time.

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