Building a programme
... choosing Ends & Means
There is no given programme for teaching English B - no 'correct' sequence, no 'official' template.
This is deliberate, and for very good reasons:-
- The Subject Guide has to cover, and be applicable to, the 26 different languages then offered - each with different structures, different linguistic priorities, and taught in different traditions
- The Subject Guide emphasises that teaching should be adapted to the needs of the student wherever possible, so there could be no 'one-fits-all' pattern
- There was a conscious desire to allow teachers to be as free as possible to teach in their own way, adapting their style to the context of students, school and society
So the Language B teacher has great freedom. But, of course, that leaves you with the problem of deciding what to do - of what to teach, when, and why.
Foundations for decision
The basis of organising an English B programme has of course to be the relevant Language B Subject Guide. In addition, it is wise to refer to various IB Framework Documents, which provide additional general guidance. In order to apply the Guide's requirements, I offer analysis and discussion of the process of course design - Design Principles, which surveys and analyses the range of ways in which courses can be designed; and Practical Planning, which looks at sources and resources, and specifically at the design of the first term of an English B course, on the principle that if you get the beginning right, the rest follows naturally.
Subject Guides define the general nature of the subject, as seen by the IB; specify (in more or less detail) what should be taught; and describe the Assessment process, including the Assessment Marking Criteria.
The new Language B Subject Guide was officially released in Febuary 2011. Teaching the new programme started from September 2011 (northern hemisphere) and from March 2012 (southern hemisphere); first examinations were in May 2013, and November 2013, respectively.
The English B teacher should also have a look at a number of other documents which provide background information, and a framework of general principles.
After every exam session, senior examiners write a fairly detailed report on all assessment components. These are written partly for internal IB information, but also so that teachers can be informed about how students have performed, and what the examiners think of that performance. At their best, Subject Reports can give useful guidance about what you need to teach.
Idealistically, but also practically, the IB has defined in the 'Learner Profile' the qualities that should be encouraged in the model IB student. This document summarises these principles.
Learning in a language other than mother tongue in IB programmes
This ponderous title points to an important educational issue - that IB students may well have problems handling challenging courses in a language with which they are not familiar. This is of particular significance to the English B teacher because, since English is the Language of Instruction in 88% of Diploma schools, the English department is going to be in the front line of meeting this issue. [See Language of Instruction ]
Guidelines for developing a school language policy
Although not quite so crucial as the 'Learning in a Language ...' document above, the English B teacher is still likely to have an important role in deciding, and implementing, a language policy across the school. So, it's a good idea to be well-informed!
All English B courses will have an 'IB Core', which will include the (relatively few) elements which are specifically required by the Language B Subject Guide, and then the mass of other knowledge, materials and activities used to teach the general competence in the language which will be assessed at the end of the course. This 'other' material will be drawn from our general professional knowledge and practice in the teaching of language. I suggest that such professional practice will be a blend of a number of generally accepted 'design principles' - patterns of good practice defined and justified by fundamental ideas about 'good teaching. For instance :
text-book based ... get an appropriate text book, and work through it
student-centred ... you select stimulus texts and subject matter according to what you think will interest your students
target-based (grammar) ... you devise a plan of selected, necessary grammar points, then select materials & activities intended to teach and practise each grammar point in turn
I offer 14 of such design principles - and suggest that, in reality, each of us uses a blend of the principles.
Two questions :-
(a) What exactly is the blend that you actually use?
(b) Is that the blend that you really, ideally, want?
It is a truism that, in planning a course for English B, one can and should draw on the full range of materials and techniques available for the teaching of English Language. This section of the site aims to review some of these existing resources, and also to see how these can be introduced from the start of a two-year English B programme - which raises the First Term issue.
Just as there can be no standard template for the whole English B course, there can be no one way to start the course. However, one can identify, on the basis of common sense, elements that one is likely to include (in one proportion or another) in the first term for any group. I look at a range of such elements, and suggest possible models for groups composed of students with Basic, Middling or Advanced language abilities.