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  • Writer's picturelaurawippell

3 ways to explore news events with your English B students

Happy New Year, lovely educators!  I can’t believe we are here already, but 2024 is upon us, whether we are ready for it or not.  May it be a happy, healthy and hopeful year for us all. I must admit, it often feels difficult to feel hopeful after all of the horrific news events in 2023, and I for one am tempted to give myself a blanket ban on reading the news this year.  But this is exactly what we must not do when it comes to our students. 

Our job as IB teachers is to help our students grow to become knowledgeable and internationally-minded young adults, who care about the world they are living in.  So we need to be talking about the news and current events with them.  How exactly can we do that though, when past papers seem to be focused on more ‘evergreen’ issues, like global warming, and we want to focus on a topical event that is causing debates RIGHT NOW?

Here are three ways you can explore current events in your English B classroom without a huge amount of planning.

#1 - Get your students to do the legwork

While minimal planning time is great, I know what you’d really prefer: an activity that requires NO planning time, since time is our most precious resource.  So why not try a flipped classroom?  They are nothing new, but they are engaging and will get your students thinking. 

Here’s an idea for one: give students a current news event and ask them to bring a news article to the next class that resonated with them about the event.  If you want to differentiate, perhaps give them several news events to choose from. 

In the next class each student can present a summary of the article and explain why it resonated with them.  You can then ask students to identify common themes among the articles that were chosen.  Some guiding questions for this could be:

  • Did you lean more towards formal or informal registers for news articles? 

  • Did you prefer human-interest stories, or more hard-hitting news with statistics? 

  • What was the overall tone and mood of the articles that were chosen? 

  • What were the most common English B prescribed themes within the chosen articles?

With that you have a whole lesson planned which will broaden your students’ knowledge on the topic while helping them reflect on important aspects of the English B syllabus.  

#2 - Help your students prepare for the Individual Oral

Let’s hit two birds with one stone here by using activity workstations, which can be beneficial in getting high school students to work their bodies and brains.

All you need is one text article about a current news event.  Then, follow these steps:

1: Once you have chosen your article, choose one or two extracts of approximately 300 words each - which is the length of text your students will have for the Individual Oral.  

2. Print out the extract four times, or twice if you have two extracts.

3. Arrange your desks in the classroom into four groups (four activity workstations), and place a copy of the extract at each workstation.

4. Print out the following instructions and place one at each workstation:

WORKSTATION 1: Summary of extract

Complete the following:

  1. summarise the extract

  2. express your opinions on the events, ideas and themes presented in the extract.

WORKSTATION 2: Purpose and message 

Analyse the extract using the following questions as a guide.  

  1. What is the purpose of this extract?  To inform? Entertain?  Instruct? Etc. Justify your answer using examples from the extract.

  2. What is the main message or takeaway of the extract?  Explain, using examples.  

WORKSTATION 3: Global themes 

The theme is an underlying message that can be found in the extract.  There could be more than one theme, but usually one is more obvious.  

  1. What are the main themes in your extract?  List them, and explain why.

  2. What other current global events/issues can you relate to your extract?  

  3. How is this extract linked to the English B themes? (Identities, Experiences, Human Ingenuity, Social organisation, Sharing the planet)

WORKSTATION 4: Tone and mood 

Tone is the author or writer’s attitude towards the subject matter. 

Mood is the atmosphere in the writing and the overall feeling it conveys.

  1. What is the tone and mood of your extract? Use the words below to describe both of them in your extract. 

Here are some adjectives which might be helpful to describe the tone and mood of your extract.  If you don’t know their meaning use a dictionary for its definition: tongue in cheek; hopeful; romantic; bleak; biting; ironic; cynical; complacent; accepting; earnest; energetic; depressing; demanding; innocent; contemptuous; sarcastic; instructional; submissive; compliant; up-beat; didactic; honest. 

  1. Explain your previous answer.  How did you identify the tone and mood?  What words/phrases in the extract helped you identify the tone and mood?

Source: Tone vs. Mood in Literature: What’s the Difference? - 2023. (2021, August 20). MasterClass.

5. Organise your class into four groups and give each group a big piece of paper to write on. 

6. Set an alarm for 10 - 15 minutes at each workstation, depending on the level of your students and if they are already familiar with analysing extracts for the Individual Oral.  

7. Every time the alarm goes off, each group should move to the next workstation. They record their answers from each workstation on the big piece of paper that they carry with them to each of the workstations.

8. Share, compare and contrast group answers once each group has completed the 4 workstations.  

That’s it!  You’ve successfully explored a current news event while ALSO preparing your English B students for the HL Individual Oral.  Well done!

If you want to see a real example of this activity, check out this resource, which can be linked to all five of the English B prescribed themes!

#3 - Different types of texts

None of you have time to prepare a complete Paper 1 practice test, so I’m not going to ask you to do that.  Instead, here’s an idea for a short introductory activity for a class.  

Show students a photo, video, or short piece of text on a current news event.  Ask them what aspect resonates with them the most, and then what text type they would choose if they had to respond.  Get the students to justify their choice using the following questions:

  • Would you respond with a personal, professional or mass media text?  Why?

  • What would the purpose and message of your text be?

  • Who would your audience be?

Here’s an example of a condensed version of the texts from the Language B guide that you could use as a template for this activity:

Personal Texts

Professional Texts

Mass Media Texts




Formal Letter


Set of Instructions




IBO (2019).  Language B guide: First assessment 2020. p 22.

That’s an activity that goes for 5 - 15 minutes, depending on how you want to share answers, and it allows students to analyse a current news event, while reflecting on important conceptual understandings for Paper 1 writing.

There you have three ways of bringing current news events into your classroom with minimal planning. With all of the activities, your students are exploring and analysing some of the most important aspects of the English B course, which helps consolidate their learning.  Reflecting on news events helps them to share their opinions on what is happening in the world, while making real-life connections.

Which one of your activities have you tried?  What other ways do you incorporate news events into your teaching?  I’d love to read your comments below!

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