Sequence

There are a lot of factors to consider when putting a course together: assessment, holidays, timetables, course requirements and IB deadlines. Although this may seem overwhelming, you will find that if you ask yourself the right questions in the right order, many of the puzzle pieces will fall into place. The challenge lies in prioritizing and sequencing. Keep in mind that we want the most worthwhile learning experiences for the students. 

On this page you will find:

  • a list of questions to help you plan your course
  • guidance on curriculum design and external assessment
  • guidance on curriculum design and internal assessment
  • a sample weekly planner

Backward planning

Here are eight questions to ask yourself when designing a curriculum and planning a course. As you create a plan, it helps to have a large calendar and post-its or labels that can be easily moved around. 

  1. When are the holidays, test weeks, vacations and field trips?
     
  2. When are the IB deadlines? How do you want to set your deadlines (i.e. internal deadlines) in relation to these? Do you have to consider any deadlines or exams for national exams or in-school testing?
     
  3. How many weeks do you need to prepare for internal and external assessment? Will you have a round of mock exams for both internal and external exams? Mock exams are often used as a means of preparation. If your school has test weeks, where classes are cancelled for testing, you may have more time to run mock exams.

  4. How many written tasks, further oral activities, or practice exams will you want to have at SL and HL? How will all parts of the course be represented in the final written task portfolio? What kind of workload can your students handle? When are good deadlines for written tasks? 

  5. Will you take a part-by-part approach, a holistic approach or both? If you take a part-by-part approach, in which order will you tackle each part? If you take a holistic approach, make a list of several themes that you will use. Is there an equal representation of all parts in these themes?

  6. Which texts are you going to read for Parts 3 and 4? Which topics are you going to study from Parts 1 and 2? (See page on selecting texts for help.) Another possible approach to the course content: Is there a favorite text (literary or non-literary) that you have taught? Check the learning outcomes and topics for each part to see in which context you can continue to teach these texts?

  7. Are there theoretical concepts that you like to teach directly, such as literary devices, propaganda techniques or advertising techniques? Which texts do you use to teach these? Can you meet the learning outcomes by teaching these texts? Can you study a suggested topic while focusing on these terms?

  8. How many weeks will you need to deal with a topic (Parts 1 and 2) or literary text (Parts 3 and 4), before you feel that you have met one or more of the learning outcomes?

Sequence and external assessment

Working backwards, we can start at the end, with the exam in May or November. During the exam session, students have two papers to sit. 

Paper 1 - students use the analytical skills they have learned in Parts 1 and 2 to analyze one (Standard Level) or two (Higher Level) non-fiction texts. Because this exam tests skills, we need to be sure we are developing these skills continuously through the course. Skills are slow-growing plants, and need frequent watering and feeding, so we need to be sure that we scaffold our students' learning at the start of the two years so that they can perform independently by the end.

Paper 2 - students respond to one question and use their Part 3 texts to answer the question. It is therefore important for students to have studied their Part 3 texts last, right before the exam, as these texts will be fresh in their minds, and examples will hopefully be ready and present in their memories. 

Written task - The written tasks can be related to any part of the course. Standard Level students complete at least three tasks, while Higher Level students must complete at least four. Students need to be given ample opportunities to practice their skills in this area, and we suggest writing at least one written task for each part of the course. This way students have a choice in what they submit.

Sequence and internal assessment 

Individual oral commentary - students analyze an extract from a text for Part 4 of the course. Generally, students abilities improve as they mature, and it is best to carry this exercise out in the second year. Some schools set internal dates for the orals, as they require some coordination. The latest possible date will be just a week before the IBO deadline, but this is not a good idea. Students and teachers fall ill, life intervenes. However, it may be possible to do this oral earlier in the second year, so that students are not focusing solely on Part 3 and Part 4 for the last six months of the course.

Further oral activity - students present at least two orals based on Part 1 and Part 2. As teachers submit one mark to the IB for this, students should be doing many orals so that they improve their abilities in time, and teachers can select the strongest performance. These orals should be scheduled during the teaching of Parts 1 and 2. 

Possible sequence

Below is a possible sequence. There are several points worth noting: 

  • The sequence goes: Part 1, Part 4, Part 2, and Part 3, followed by several holistic units for review and revision. 
  • This sequence ensures a balance on non-literary and literary texts. 
  • All forms of assessment have been done at least once in the first year.
  • Note that in order to run all forms of assessment in the first year, students practice writing a Paper 2 on the short stories that comprise a Part 4 work. 
  • There is a written task 1 and 2 that correspond to each of the Parts of the syllabus. See the pages on written tasks to learn more.
  • There are 3 further oral activities. The best one counts.
  • Notice that while all Part 4 works are read in the first year, the final assessment of these (the individual oral commentary) is actually in the second year. Students must revisit them, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

Year 1 - Term 1 - Part 1
Language and social relations - 'mystery text', ACLU ads, I Have a Dream, Letter from Artemus Ward, Racism and Disney films, etc.
Language and the individual - Poetry on bilingualism, various song lyrics
Gender - I Want a Wife, Liz Donnely cartoons, Specimen Paper 1, etc.


Written task 1
Written task 2 (HL only)
Further oral activity
Mock Paper 1

Year 1 - Term 2 - Part 4
Short stories by Nadine Gordimer Stories (PLA)
Training on essay writing Paper 2


Written task 1
Written task 2 (HL only)
Mock Paper 2 (on a Part 4 text)

Year 1 Term 3 - Part 4
Various poems by various poets 
The Fat Black Woman's Poems by Grace Nichols (PLA)
The Tempest by William Shakespeare (HL only) (PLA)


Written task 1
Test on poetic devices (HL only)
Mock individual oral commentary

Year 1 - Term 4 - Part 2
Persuasive language - famous speeches and focus on propaganda techniques and rhetorical devices
Persuasive language - various ads, exploring beauty
The role of editing - reality TV, ANTM


Written task 1
Written task 2 (HL only)
Further oral activity 

Year 2 - Term 1 - Part 3
Black Boy by Richard Wright (schools free choice)
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand (HL only) (PLA)
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (PLT - French)


Written task 1
Written task 2
Mock Paper 2
Year 2 - Term 2 - Parts 1/2
Holistic unit on women and war with propaganda posters, WWI poetry (by and about women), radio reports on Iraq
Journalism - Outfoxed and Control Room
Negative ads: Swiftboat campaign, Vote Different, etc.

Written task 1
Written task 2
Further oral activity (final one)
Written task final portfolio due (IB deadline)
Year 2 - Term 3 - Review and exams
Revisit all Part 4 works
Revisit all Part 3 works

Individual oral commentary (IB deadline for internal assessment)
IB exams: Paper 1 and Paper 2
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Comments 9

Noah Mass 16 June 2016 - 01:58

Do you not recommend keeping your Parts separate--that is, doing Part 1 in the fall semester of year 1, part IV in the spring semester of year two? What is the advantage of chopping things up so that you have half of the first semester on language and half on literature? I fear that asking students to transition from language to literature in the same semester would be confusing for them.

David McIntyre 16 June 2016 - 05:25

I think - this is a personal view, Noah - that the mixing of parts is a necessary (or beneficial, at least) ingredient in promoting critical thinking skills.

Let me offer you an example: Suppose you want - and maybe, in the spirit of enquiry, it is your students who develop the question - to address the essence of literature. You may ask 'what is literature?' or, slightly differently, 'what makes a text literary?' And suppose you present the formalist argument that literature is defamiliarizing; literary language is language that draws attention to itself. If you accept this idea axiomatically you may find evidence for the claim in a novel or, more obviously perhaps, in a poem. But what if you find 'defamiliarizing' language in a news story, in a letter, or in a tweet? Can you still argue that literature is something special; a special case of language art? In other words, making the comparison across text types allows students to probe, here, a hypothesis.

I'm not sure this is a great example, but my point is that this kind of exercise could enable students to challenge the special status of language art and in so doing develop a more nuanced awareness of the ways in which both so-called 'literary' and so-called 'non-literary' texts are constructed. There is, in other words, an opportunity to further students' understanding of language and its contribution to meaning.

So, I think mixing things up is the way to go. But, don't take me too literally: Certain parts of the course clearly map onto particular assessment components. Thus, as students approach their IOC, say, an exclusive focus on Part 4 texts makes sense.

I hope this helps.

David

Noah Mass 16 June 2016 - 16:16

Hi David:

Yes, it does help. I suppose I was approaching things from my background of teaching on the college level, where my "rhetoric" classes are ones in which we look at a cultural mode or theme and in which a particular text is evidence for that cultural conversation, and literature is a field in which the text is at the center of our study and is part of a distinctive literary tradition. These distinctions are obviously not cut and dried ones, but they often guide the ways in which I have historically asked students to consider, and write about, various kinds of texts (and, institutionally, departments of rhetoric and of literature often try to maintain these distinctions when doing so is not always in students' best interests). I agree that challenging students to consider the distinction between the literary and the non-literary--as well as between rhetorical analysis and literary analysis--can be a useful one to bring in within the same semester. Thanks again.

--Noah

Noah Mass 6 September 2016 - 11:38

Hi David:

I noticed on a sample syllabus that you have posted here a FOA assigned fairly early in junior year--in mid-September, in fact--on magazine covers. I realize that we can assign more than 2 FOAs in the course of junior and senior years, but is this one a "real" one or a practice one? It seems like a little early in the process to assign an FOA, but perhaps not.

David McIntyre 6 September 2016 - 11:59

Hi Noah,

They are both quite real, remembering that only the best score will be submitted. If the students have been prepared for the activity, I see no real problem. Some may say that students 'mature over time' and are therefore likely to do better in any assessment component later in their course. Possibly so. However, every teacher, in my view, has a responsibility to ensuring that over the period of the IBDP there is a 'reasonable' spread of assessment tasks. And, to that end, knowing what is coming later for students, I choose to do all FOAs in year 1. But, this is my approach, not the approach.

I hope this clarifies,

David

Noah Mass 7 September 2016 - 03:52

Thanks! That really did clarify things for me.

Alice Elwell 7 November 2016 - 23:02

Hi Tim and David,

I am in the process of planning my course for next year and I am wondering if you can tell me when the internal assessment is due? I can't find anything in the course outline and searching the OCC has been a fruitless exercise. We will be doing our exams in November. Thank you for your help!

David McIntyre 8 November 2016 - 08:28

Hi Alice,

I don't have precise dates at my fingertips, but your IB Coordinator should (must, actually) provide you with this information. As a faculty, you should be working to establish an internal school calendar that gives (to students and their families, and to teachers) all the dates set by the school for submission of assessment. It's important that this is a collaborative exercise which works to spread the 'burden' of assessment.

If you struggle to get information about deadlines, please come back to us. However, I am a little reluctant to be too prescriptive in what I tell you as this is, at least to some extent, an internal school issue.

I hope this helps, but, as I say, come back to us if you require further support.

David

Alice Elwell 8 November 2016 - 22:37

Hi David,
Thank you for your help. Our school is new to the IB, with our first students commencing the DP next year. We are very new to everything so we want to make sure we get it right! I have planned our course so that assessment is spread out over the two years, but I wanted to make sure that I have the submission dates for the FOA, IOC and Written Tasks so I know when they need to be uploaded. I have spoken to our IB Coordinator and she is looking into it for me. I will ask again if need be.

Cheers
Alice


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