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  • Writer's picturelaurawippell

How to explore Professional Texts with your English B class (part 1)

What on earth is a professional text? Do you take the time to explain the meaning of them to your students?  If you don’t, you could be missing out on ways to help your students differentiate between text types, which is an important skill for Paper 1.

Read on to learn more about professional texts and ideas on how to cover them with your English B students.

First of all, what are they?

According to the Language B guide (IBO, 2019), a quick summary of professional texts could look something like this:

Purpose: to transfer knowledge and logically present information 

Audience: recipient/s that have no personal relationship with the producer of the text, but are interested in receiving and understanding the message 

Functions: varies.  Can be to inform, instruct, explain, analyse, convince, interpret and evaluate.


Register: formal

Tone: varies.  Clear, professional, factual

According to the guide, there are nine different types of professional texts.  In this blog post I’ll be exploring blogs, emails, formal letters and proposals.

1 - Blogs

According to the English B guide, blogs are considered to be personal, professional AND mass media texts.  So don’t waste your precious time by covering them three times over - once is more than enough!  Check out my previous blog post on personal texts, where I covered ways of teaching blogs that can be easily incorporated into your classroom.

2 Emails and 3 Formal Letters

Emails are another professional text which the IB also considers as personal, whereas formal letters are only characterised as professional texts.  Once again, you can check out creative ways to teach emails as personal texts here.  If you want to teach both as professional texts, I recommend teaching emails and formal letters together as their purposes as professional texts often overlap - to state a position in a businesslike manner. 

Here's an idea on how to teach both of them as professional texts:

  • Find out what your class cares about: what issues hit home with your students? You can get half of your students to write a professional email to the school board, a politician, newspaper or foundation where they share their ideas and opinions on a local issue. The other half of the class can do the same, but through a formal letter. Remember, professional texts are usually written to audiences where the writer has no personal relationship, so think beyond writing a text to another teacher or school councillor - go big!  You could also consider making this an interdisciplinary activity and combine it with any CAS projects your students might be working on. Could they write a formal email or letter to someone to ask for help funding one of their projects?  

4 Proposals

When I first started teaching English B I was a little scared of proposals as they sound quite difficult, but in reality they are relatively straightforward and can be rather empowering!

The most important thing to consider is that you are PROPOSING something (i.e. the plan needs to be clear), and follow a clear structure.  While this is by no means exhaustive, an example of a structure of proposal could include the following:

  • Main title of proposed plan/project

  • Introduction: summary of proposal and its purpose

  • Body: short sections with subheadings to outline aspects such as advantages, materials, possible setbacks etc

  • Conclusion and recommendation - both with subheadings

Here are two ideas on how to explore proposals with your English B students:

  1. Keep it local and draft a similar activity to what I recommended for the email and formal letter.  I.e. What is a LOCAL or school problem that exists?  Lack of funding?  A desire to create a more sustainable school? Stressed-out students? Give your students a problem that directly affects them and get them to write a proposal for a possible plan to fix it.  If it’s a school problem, don’t just mark your students’ writing and give it back to them - pass it onto your Head of School - they should be eager to receive student input on school issues. Who knows? Perhaps another CAS project could come out of this.

  2. Refer back to a problem that was presented in one of the literary texts your students read throughout the English B Course, and get them to come up with a proposal.  For example, in the graphic novel MAUS, you might ask your students for ways to help improve Vladek’s mental health, which you could also do if you read Catcher In the Rye. This activity not only allows students to become familiar with writing proposals, but is a great tool for evaluating understanding and engagement with the novel you read.   

There you have it!  An overview of professional texts and ways to explore four professional text types. In next month’s blog post I’ll go over the five remaining professional texts: essays, questionnaires, surveys, reports and a set of instructions. Looking forward to seeing you then! 

How do you cover blogs, emails, formal letters and proposals in your English B classroom? Share your ideas below!


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

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