Principles

If you were to look at the English A: Language and Literature course as a building, then you would want to know what kind of foundation it is built on. Here are some founding principles that we should keep in mind as we design curricula, study for exams or write lesson materials. 

Culture

This course presents us with an opportunity to learn more about the Anglophone world. This is to say that throughout the course, we should become enlightened on the cultures and histories of countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, Liberia, Australia and New Zealand (just to mention a few). Because the English language has become the lingua franca of the world, it is sometimes difficult to pin-down exactly what we mean by Anglophone culture. Culture is defined here as 1) the common set of values shared by the people of a society and 2) a reference to what this society considers 'fine art'. We have duty to look at texts from the Anglophone world as pieces of evidence or cultural clues.

Texts

We will want to collect and categorize a great variety of texts. We want to foster a culture in which we learn to appreciate textuality. It may help to think of yourself as a connoisseur of texts, always on the look out for interesting brochures, blogs, opinion columns, Tweets, e-mails, letters, news articles, poems, screenplays, novels, or diaries (just to name a few). Just as there is no set reader, there is no prescribed amount of texts. You may want to try to look at a different text every lesson as a general rule of thumb. You will notice that there seems to be a division in the course between texts of non-fiction and fiction over Parts 1 & 2 and Parts 3 & 4 respectively. But we would like to encourage cross pollination between the parts. For example literary works like Nineteen Eighty-four, Pygmalion and A Clockwork Orange lend themselves very well to the suggested topics for Parts 1 and 2. For the written task 1, students may want to demonstrate their understanding of a literary work through non-literary text types studied in Part 1. Although we say there is no set reader, there are two book lists from the IB to consider when putting together your curriculum: the Prescribed List of Authors (PLA) and the Prescribed Literature in Translation (PLT)

Skills

The Language A courses are intended for native or near-native speakers. For answers about student placement, see our FAQ page on placement. Although we assess students on their ability to speak and write the English language coherently, fluently and accurately, it is only one of several aspects of the course. The kinds of skills that are at the focus of this course include the ability to analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate. All of these terms tie into a global effort to foster critical literacy skills. They are also part of being communicative, which is another quality we are looking for. You can find out more about the assessment objective on the 'skills' page of this subject site. 

Critical thinking

A central element of the English A: Language and Literature course is 'critical thinking.' Developing critical literacy and critical thinking skills takes time and practice. It is important for teachers to set a good examle by questioning sources, engaging in close reading and making careful interpretations. 

Benjamin Bloom led a committee of colleagues to define different types of learning domains, and the skills involved in each. Of the three domains identified (cognitive, affective and psychomotor), the cognitive domain is given here in its hierarchy of skills. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1979) presents the following:

  • Evaluation (making judgements)
  • Synthesis (putting elements together eg plans, proposals for operations, models to explain data
  • Analysis (of elements, relationships between elements, principles
  • Application
  • Comprehension
  • Knowledge of concepts of processes of specifics *

To illustrate further some of the questions related to each of these actions, you may wish to consult this teacher's support page.

Critical analysis is not

  • A straight description of something
  • Making assumptions without checking them out
  • Making generalizations which are not supported by evidence
  • Accepting information without questioning it
  • Saying ‘the writer says this, that writer says that’ without also giving your views on what the differences are between what the two writers are saying.   (Drew and Bingham, 2001: 282) in a study skills book.*
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