Studying language, language for study
By 'language system', I mean the fundamental, essential knowledge of how the English language works - grammar, vocabulary, register, phrasing, pronunciation, and so on. This primary knowledge of what the language is can be distinguished, for analysis and planning, from the neccessary practice in applying such knowledge in order to understand how the language can be used. In reality, of course, the what and the how are blended.
Students taking English B will usually be at a tricky stage in the development of their grasp of the language system. They will have some grasp of the basics - but will lack the range and sophistication necessary to have a real command of understanding and expression.
This makes the teacher's job complex. Which aspects of the language does one select to teach, given the inevitable restrictions of time?
Across the full range ...
This area of the site proposes three main areas to be explored :-
Students following an English B course are not beginners in English - they should have at least some grounding in the basic structures of the language. However, that grounding is likely to be flawed and patchy at the weaker end of the ability range, so there is very likely to be remedial teaching to be done. Indeed, even students who handle the language fluently and with confidence may have strange errors in basics - bad habits acquired and never corrected. Beyond this remedial element, there must be a significant area in which students need language expansion, and much of this area of the site is devoted to indicating productive areas to explore.
Teachers of English B are very often in a situation unique among teachers of other Languages B (the IB offers 26 Languages B, currently). Since English is the language of instruction in 88% of IB Diploma schools, most students of English B have far more exposure to the target language than, say, a student of Russian B in a school in Colombia where Spanish is the language of instruction and so that student's exposure to Russian may be only the three hours per week in class. Continuous exposure to English through studying in that language is good in terms of the English B class, but it also means that students may need additional help in learning aspects of the language necessary for study.
What the students really need is Transferable Academic Language (TAL) - resources of complex vocabulary and grammar, and the skills to use them appropriately to handle sophisticated concepts and arguments. To illustrate, degrees of certainty may be expressed through the use of modals ("may be true"), of modifiers ("true to some extent") and of framing devices ("it appears to be significant that...").
English B courses are necessarily different from other English Language courses in that the Diploma programme specifically requires that students should be taught in some depth about the nature of language itself. This follows from the role of Theory of Knowledge (TOK) in the Diploma structure. The page Language & thought introduces specifically the topic of how language affects the practical process of thinking.
Tests, drills & exercises
Two important services are provided ...
... a software system which enables you, quickly and easily, to compose grammar exercises and drills, targeted on specific language elements. A bank of over 1000 items is available to draw on, arranged by categories which are linked to pages in the main site.
... The diagnostic test is a very significant tool for the English B teacher, so as to be able to diagnose accurately each student's strengths and weaknesses, and thus target teaching to supply those needs.
Further language resources
Note that you can also refer to two other areas of the site which provide focus on the language system
- Task Types which looks at the range of tasks that can be set for students to do - here the primary aim is the teaching of skilful thinking, and the teaching of language, as such, is secondary.
- This distinction between grammar-focused and thinking-focused illustrates the distinction made between Target-based (grammar) and Target based (skills) in the section Design principles .