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  • Writer's picturelaurawippell

How to teach Personal Texts in your DP Language B class

How do you cover personal texts in the classroom?  If that question sends you into a panic search of ‘what are personal texts?’ - don’t worry, I’ll be discussing not only that, but how to cover them in this blog post.



Last year I wrote a blog post on authentic texts and broke down the differences between audio, visual, audio-visual and written texts.  Now it’s time to explore how the Language B guide breaks those down into three categories for assessment:  personal, professional and mass media texts.


Read on to learn more about personal 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 personal texts could look something like this:


Purpose: to communicate or reflect on ideas and events of everyday interest or individual needs


Audience: personal (oneself), family members, friends or groups with a common interest


Functions: varies.  Can be to describe, narrate, entertain, recommend, persuade     

 

Register: varies depending on audience, but tends to fall between intimate and semi-formal


Tone: varies.  Can be personal, frank, honest


According to the guide, there are five different text types when it comes to personal textsLet’s explore them below.


1 - Blogs


You all should be familiar with what a blog is, because you’re reading one at this very moment! Blogs are interesting text types because the Language B guide actually defines them as personal, professional AND mass media texts.  Does that mean you have to cover blogs three times when you are teaching text types? No!  


When it comes to blogs, the most important thing to note with your students is that the audience can differ.  For example, a blog as a personal text would have a smaller audience of common-interest followers, perhaps a niche-writers group; while a blog as a mass media text could be someone sharing their opinion on a current news event, which will have a larger, more undefined audience.  


Since this blog post is about personal texts, here are some ideas of way you could cover blogs as ‘personal’ text types:


  • Prescribed themes: 

One of the ways you can explore the prescribed theme of experiences in your classroom is through students sharing their holidays and travel experiences.  When one of my previous classes had a school trip to Easter Island, I took advantage of that and got them to write a travel blog upon return, since it was the only thing they wanted to talk about!  Of course you can get students to share their personal holidays with families or friends too through a blog post, I just took advantage that my students had all been on a trip together, so everyone would be writing about the same thing and there’d be no hard feelings of comparing their holiday destinations against their classmates. 


  • Literature:

What literary text or novel are you reading with your English B class?  Rather than checking for understanding by using typical comprehension questions at the end of each chapter, why not get students to slip into the shoes of one of the characters and write a blog post on one of the character’s hobbies or personal experiences?  You’ll be able to identify which students are really reading the novel, and which ones are just skimming it.



2 - Diary entries


Most students begin English B with a clear idea of what a diary entry is, as in Middle School they might have read The Diary of Anne Frank, or the very popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  


Diaries can really only ever be personal texts, as the audience is almost always restricted to the writer.  While it may be tempting to brush over diary entries due to time constraints, I think they are such a wonderful text type as we see use of intimate register as well as honest and frank tones.  They have been really useful for me in the past to get students to use an intimate register, which isn’t appropriate for most of the other text types. 


The other great thing about diary entries is that there are plenty of activities we can use them for.  Here are some examples:


  • Preparation for the Individual Oral: 

Using extracts from published diaries are useful in preparing students for the Individual Oral.  Since extracts are usually around 300 words, that will often mean more than one diary entry, so students always have a variety of events and ideas to analyse in the extract.  


  • Literature:

Just like blog posts, diary entries make a great form of assessment when reading novels in English B.  I usually leave them as a form of summative assessment at the end, where I ask students to choose a significant event that occurred during the novel, and get them to reflect on that event in the form of a diary entry from the perspective of one of the characters.  


For some Paper 1 practice tests that include diary entries as an option, check out this resource based on the novel Z for Zachariah, and this resource, based on the Ned Kelly film - for all of the Heath Ledger fans out there!


3 Emails and 4 Personal Letters


I’m combining these two as I usually taught them together. It’s important to remember that emails can also be professional texts, or used in more formal situations.  But when it comes to personal texts, I think it is fine to combine these two, because they usually have the similar purpose of communicating in a more intimate/semi-formal way to someone close to the writer.


So how can we incorporate them in an engaging way?  Here are two ideas:


  • Start off the English B course with a reflection.  Since emails and personal letters are fairly straightforward text types to teach, once you’ve finished your introduction into the English B course (check out tips for that here), why not start the program off by covering emails and personal letters as a text type?  Students can then write a personal email or letter to themselves with what they’d like to achieve while completing the Diploma Program and finishing high school.  You can keep their letters and return them to your students at the end of their time with you, or you can use this website, and have them schedule emails to their future selves.  I have used that website to write personal letters to myself, and seeing it pop up in my inbox months, or even years later is just the loveliest thing!

  • Continuing on the theme of reflection, goals and gratitude, another lovely activity for students to complete is to get them to write a personal email or letter to a classmate about what they admire in them.  This is a lovely activity to do at the end of a year, and it’s a great way of completing a SEL Activity while still preparing students for Paper 1, by writing one of the required text types. 


5 Social media posts/chat rooms


I completely understand if you do not have time to fully explore this text type.  It is one that we assume students will be fairly familiar with.  Here’s a quick breakdown of them for you:


Purpose: to express opinions and or respond to other points of view.   


Audience: usually a public, online audience (fairly general)


Functions: generally to respond, express opinion etc.

     

Register: generally semi-formal to formal


Tone: varies.  Generally personal, direct, sometimes animated.


In terms of activities, try this full Paper 1 practice resource about deepfakes, where the text type for Task 1 is a social media post.  


Another activity you could do would be to show students a video or photo prompt, and get them to write a response.  Remember that although social media or chat room posts are generally short, Paper 1 will stipulate the word count, so students must write the amount of words outlined on the paper, even if posts might not be that long in real life.  


I hope you found the breakdown and recommendation activities useful!  Keep your eyes peeled for the blog post next month where I will cover professional texts


How else do you cover personal texts in your English B classroom? I’d love to read your comments below!


Sources:

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

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