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  • Writer's picturelaurawippell

The second thing you need to know when designing a Language B Course

Those of you who read my blog post last month will know that when you’re designing an English B course, the first principle you should consider is VARIETY.

So once you have thought about spicing up your course, what should you consider next?

Principle number two for designing an English B course is INTEGRATION. According to the Language B guide, first of all, you should consider how to “integrate” all aspects such as themes, assessment, text types etc into your course while “encouraging autonomy”, because as we all know, at the end of the day we want to develop life-long learners who have the desire and skills to find out the answers for themselves. (IBO, 2019)

In terms of integrating all aspects of the course, it’s relatively simple. You can start by writing down all of the aspects you need to cover in the course and map out how you plan to cover them in terms of time frames. The second part, in terms of encouraging autonomy, is a little bit more complex, because, as teachers, we need to help our “students develop strategies for dealing with unfamiliar situations and unfamiliar language.” (IBO, 2019) The guide sets out two ways we can go about doing this:

Our physical and emotional environments

We need to set up a classroom that encourages our students to “communicate in a variety of contexts and for a variety of purposes that are appropriate to the level of the course.”

To do this, we need to consider our seating plan - are the desks set out in groups or rows? Can they be moved around easily for different activities in order to promote an adequate environment for individual, pairwork and group activities?

What support material do you have displayed on the walls and around the classroom? For listening activities, where are the the speakers positioned? Can all students in your classroom hear the audio properly?

Don’t forget the emotional environment in terms of getting to know your students first and promoting a place where they feel safe and supported while communicating in another language which is ultimately rather uncomfortable. I’m saying that from personal experience as an Australian living in Chile - how would you feel talking or sharing your writing in front of a group of people in another language?

Authentic materials

Would “everyday users” of the language be using the text types/audio etc that you use in your classroom? Are your materials original, modified or created? Don’t worry, you’ll find definitions and recommended activities for everything surrounding authentic materials in this blog post.

Once we have considered our environment and resources or materials, when it comes to the principle of INTEGRATION, there are some other final aspects we need to provide for our students when designing an English B Course.

Aspect #1 - Move easily from one language skill to another

This is obvious - please don’t dedicate one entire lesson just to ‘reading’. We need to get our students to write or orally share their opinions on what they’ve read. Could they also listen to an audio text and compare and contrast it to what they’ve read? I’m sure you are all doing this but it’s something I’ve found difficult in a few schools where they break the English timetable into normal classes and then 2 hours per week of ‘reading classes’. As an avid reader I think this is FANTASTIC, but we need to also develop other skills in this time too, even if it’s just a warmup and plenary activity.

Aspect #2 - Interact in the target language through active participation in oral exchanges, by both listening and speaking, or responding to a text, either in writing or orally

Again, pretty obvious. I’ve said it many times before, but I think we all have a tendency to subconsciously favour one of the skills and spend more time developing it, even though we’ll deny it! E.g. writing over speaking. It’s always an interesting exercise to think about how much class time you spent developing each skill. Have a look at this blog post for resource inspiration for developing skills.

Aspect #3 - Consider and explore links with other disciplinary areas in the DP and with the TOK course

In the lead-up to exams it is easy to overlook interdisciplinary connections, as we think it will take up a lot of class time, but here’s a secret - all you need is five minutes! It might be a quick reference to a scientific or mathematical theory, or if you’re hopeless at both of those subjects like myself, there is ALWAYS TOK. One of my fall-back questions is for students to reflect at the end of the class what Area of Knowledge they would link the class to, or, once they are a few months into the course, have them create a knowledge question based on what we explored during class. Here’s an example of a popular resource of mine where students reflect on a specific TOK question as part of their preparation for the Individual Oral.

Aspect #4 - Reinforce their communication skills by using the other categories of approaches to learning skills: thinking, research, social and self-management skills

Again, sounds obvious. I think the best way to reflect on this is to review your unit planners and check which skills you are developing in each unit. Mine had a tendency to lean towards social and thinking, with a bit of research, so I had to think about introducing more activities that developed self-management skills.

Do you have a tendency to subconsciously favour a skill too? I think this could be an interesting idea for a future blog post - let me know if you agree!

In the meantime, the IBO updated their DP ATL resources this year, check out the information here.

Aspect #5 - Students should be involved in the selection of materials to be studied

Sounds tough, but it's actually not too difficult at all. Check out point 2 in this blog post with a way of getting students involved right at the beginning of the course.

There you have it - in my opinion integration is really about considering all of the different aspects of the guide and thinking about how we can ‘integrate’ or explicitly include them when we are designing an English B course/syllabus/overview.

I’ll end here with an important reminder, directly from the guide: “no single part of the syllabus—language, themes, texts, conceptual understandings—is an end in itself, but that all parts should complement each other and must be integrated in the course design.” (IBO, 2019, p.26)

It’s all about balance! What did you think?

I hope to see you again next month for my final blog post of 2023, which will cover the third and final principle of designing a Language B Course. Can you guess what it is?


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

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