Selecting texts

For this course you will want to become a connoisseur of texts, meaning that you will want to collect, compile and study a range of text types in hopes of appreciating their qualities. Assembling a reader is good practice. This should involve both the teacher and students. But how do we know which texts to include in our reader? Here are some points to consider for all parts of the syllabus:

  • Ensure there is a broad range of text types. For a definition and a deconstruction of different types of texts see the resources pages on text types
  • You do not have to do everything with every text. You can find a pair of texts that are rich in tone and another pair that are rich in alliteration in order to study these concepts separately. 
  • You may want to organize your texts along the lines of particular themes. This strategy is characteristic of the holistic approach to the course. 

The nature of each part determines to some extent which types of texts you select for your course. Here are some points that you will want to consider when selecting texts for each part. You may also want to consult our FAQ page on text selection.

Part 1 - Language and cultural context

For Part 1 you should consider a few basic but important questions when selecting different types of texts:

  • What's your areas of expertise? Some of this will come from past experience, but also from your own knowledge of the suggested topics. How do your personal interests relate to topics such as bilingualism, translation or political correctness? Although we may not consider ourselves experts in these fields, a working knowledge is a good start. We are not expected to become subject area professors, but to establish an informed analysis of texts. Jump in! Start with three suggested topics and organize your reader along these lines. 
  • What resources are available to you? Depending on your location, you may have limited or unlimited access to different types of texts. Find out what magazines and newspapers are regularly available in your school library. Check with your librarian about whether your school subscribes to a research database. Ask friends and family at home to do some focused snipping of pertinent newspaper and magazine articles for you? Finally, you will find that this Subject Site offers a wealth of primary and secondary sources.
  • How you will divide the topics into the recommended teaching hours? The Language A: Language and Literature guide suggests 40 teaching hours for this unit at SL, and 60 teaching hours for HL. If you focus on three topics, with HL students, that makes 20 teaching hours each. How often do you meet with your students, and for teaching periods of what length? Within each of these topics, you can explore several subtopics that are organized around a particular theme.  

Sample Part 1 texts

Topic Text type Time allocated
Language and the individual 
You may want to explore poetry on bilingualism and an extract from Pygmalion. While the topics of Part 1 invite you to explore non-literary texts, this is an example of how literary texts may also be relevant
  • Biography
  • Excerpt from play script
  • Encyclopedia entry
  • Poetry
  • Textbook
  • Travel Writing
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)
Language and power
Examples of language and images being used to persuade an audience to support a political stance come to mind, images of a 'clean' war or refugees. Emotional appeals in protest songs or speeches, or a more scholarly and detached view in an essay.
  • Essay
  • Film/Television
  • Speech
  • Song Lyric
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours) 
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)
Language and taboo
Much humor comes from taboo. Cartoons and film can be appealing for the lines they cross. You can also explore several public service announcements that spread awareness about HIV and AIDS
  • Cartoon
  • Film/television
  • Parody
  • Public service announcements
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)

Part 2 - Language and mass communication

For Part 2 much of the general advice for Part 1 applies. Ask yourself the following questions when compiling texts:

  • How visual and media literate am I? Even though you may not have a formal background in media studies, you may find that you are very good at explaining the effects of non-linguistic features on an audience. We should look for texts that are visually rich, which ask us to explore the effects of lighting, camera angle, staging and layout, just to mention a few aspects. 
  • Remember: This part of course is not about the media. Rather than discussing Rupert Murdoch's purchase of MySpace, we should focus on how MySpace is a different type of text than Facebook and targets a different audience, using similar and different devices.

  • How much do I know about new media? Twitter, podcasts, blogs and many other types of texts are changing the ways in which we communicate with each other. How will you incorporate these into your teaching? As tools to support classwork, or as text types to analyze? 
  • How will you divide your topics over the recommended teaching time? The guide suggests 40 hours for Standard Level students and 60 hours for Higher Level students. If you wish to cover four of the suggested topics you may wish to take the following approach:

Sample Part 2 texts

Topics Text types Time allocated
Language and the state
You can look at brochures from the US Department of Homeland Security that raise awareness about terrorist threats. You can look at anti-drug campaigns, such as these from this lesson titled 'Just say no!' Wikileaks texts also come to mind.
  • Brochures
  • Public service announcements
  • Official documentation and records
  • Governmental websites
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Language and speeches
The speeches themselves will form much of this section, but interviews about the success of the speeches, and charts or diagrams illustrating the effect of political speeches on audience support could easily be introduced. 
  • Chart
  • Interviews
  • Speeches
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Persuasive language
All of the text types listed provide examples of different types of persuasion. This is a rich and interesting topic.
  • Advertisements
  • Appeal
  • Blog
  • Brochure/Leaflet
  • Manifesto
  • Radio broadcast
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Textual bias and media institutions
Exposing students to bias in texts that are explicitly constructed to contain bias, such as opinion columns, versus texts that hide their bias.
  • Magazine article
  • News Report
  • Opinion Column
  • Photograph
 2 extension lessons per week in these 15 weeks (30 hours)

Part 3 - Literature: text and context

For Part 3 you will have certain IB requirements to keep in mind when selecting different texts. These are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do these texts meet the requirements? At Standard Level, students read two texts: one text from the PLT (Prescribed Literature in Translation List) and one text from the PLA (Prescribed Language A List) or elsewhere. At Standard Level, the school's free choice (SFC) must have been written in English. At Higher Level, students read three texts: one text from the PLT, one text from the PLA and one text chosen from either the PLA, the PLT or elsewhere. This school's free choice may be a work in translation.

    Remember: Parts 3 and 4 texts must be selected from at least two different genres (type of text), times (the century in which it was written) and places (where it was written).  

  • How do these texts prepare students for the exam? Keep in mind that Part 3 is assessed through the Paper 2 exam. The texts you choose need to lend themselves to rich and stimulating conversations about how context - social, historical and cultural - influence both the production and reception of literature. 
  • What do I already know? When embarking on a new course, and considering the amount of searching you will be doing for Parts 1 and 2, it is sound advice to choose literary texts that you have taught before, if possible. You can branch out and introduce novelty once you have the course under your belt!

Sample Part 3 texts

Text Requirements Time allocated
Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman School's free choice,
South America, 20thcentury
  5 lessons per week for 5 weeks (25 hours)
The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt PLT (German),
Europe, 20th century
  5 lessons per week for 5 weeks (25 hours)
Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard PLA,
Africa, 20thcentury
 5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)

Part 4 - Literature: a critical study

There are two questions to keep in mine when selecting Part 4 texts:

  • How do these texts prepare my students for the exam? These texts need to be rich in stylistic opportunities, as the focus is precisely here: close analysis. Again, in the first year of teaching try to stay comfortable with some tried and true texts if possible.
  • What are the requirements for Part 4? For Standard Level students, choose two texts from the PLA. For Higher Level students, choose three texts from the PLA.

Sample Part 4 texts

Macbeth by William Shakespeare PLA, Europe, 17th century   5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Selected poems by Emily Dickinson PLA, America, 19th century    5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen PLA, Europe, 19th century  5 lessons per weeks for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Part 3 
Master Harold and the boys
Death and the Maiden
The Visit
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