We’ve been quite involved with languages in the Upper School this term (including English A level and IBDP, German IBDP and Spanish A level). This topic particularly focuses on the IB DP Higher Level essay for Language and Literature students, but the resources are likely to be applicable, possibly with some adaptations across other syllabuses too.
A useful feature from my perspective of the IB DP courses for native speakers (known as Group 1 languages in IB vocabulary) is that there are only two generic specifications that cover all languages – you either choose Literature or Language and Literature. Once this choice is made, the requirements are exactly the same regardless of the target language. In this particular case I was working with a German teacher, but the resources I produced would apply to any IB DP Language and Literature course (possibly with some translation – we were under a bit of time pressure and I don’t speak much German so all the resources are in English!).
My first job when the teacher approached me for help supporting her students with their topic and question choices, and then with investigating their questions and planning their essays, was to scour the specification and the MyIB portal for all the information I could find on the essay. I generally find that, while the teachers are the subject experts and it is incredibly important to pick their brains first, when designing resources for coursework it is essential to plan directly from the specification. Otherwise it becomes a game of Chinese whispers and it would be easy to end up with something based on what I think the teacher said based on what they think the specification says…
The next post will discuss the resources I produced.
These are the resources (which are available from the Resources section of the website). Any comments or suggestions for improvement would, as always, be very welcome:
Connect & Wonder: Students have a huge degree of freedom to choose their topic and literary work for this essay and definitely need help scaffolding that choice. We started with a mindmapping Connect resource to help them to remember what they had already studied, and that bridged into a Wonder resource to help them to choose their question.
Investigate: I recommended that students use the Annotated Bibliography that I designed in May for the English Department (and potentially the Investigative Journal) to keep track of the resources they found during the Investigate stage. Interestingly, this may not at first seem the kind of coursework a Library would traditionally be involved with, since there is not a great emphasis placed on secondary sources. Students can do well referring largely to their main text. However, because we have built a reputation within the school as inquiry experts, teachers understand that we can help with the whole process of inquiry, not just the Investigate stage.
Construct: Once the students had spent time working with their question and their text, and reading other sources and commentaries, they needed to start pulling their arguments together. The first stage of this was simply to put together a set of points they thought it would be important to make, and decide what evidence they had for those points.
Express: Now they needed to pull those points together into a coherent essay. I have been meaning to make a generic essay planning resource for a while, and this was a good opportunity. One complaint our English Department have about the PEEL format, which is actually very useful for many subjects and exam boards, is that it is formulaic and stifles creativity in essay writing, so I wanted something much looser for this. Given the current ‘blended learning’ environment, where some of the class are physically present and the rest are online, I also wanted to produce a resource that would work equally well in print or on screen. I decided to produce something that would allow students to take the points they had developed during the Construct stage and arrange them in a logical order, making links between adjacent points and explaining why they had chosen to make the points in that order. There would be no set limit on the number of points – and no sense that each point could only be a single paragraph. Hopefully this will help students to structure their essays logically, without stifling their creativity.
I haven’t created a specific Reflect resource for this coursework – although reflection is something that is encouraged and supported by our teachers more broadly, so it may be that one is not needed here. My longer term goal, however, is to create a meaningful Reflect resource that can be used in the Upper School.
Thanks for these Jenny, and I can see how many of them might also be of use for the MFL A-level Individual Research Projects which I know you have also looked into for Spanish. It would be good to see how we can combine the ideas you have developed here with the resources I have used with French and Italian (A2 Italian Resources available for download here) in the past to try to improve our support for those students too. This could be especially important in the current climate where the IRP might count for an awful lot were exams to be cancelled again.
It would be great if we could get the MFL teachers we have worked with to post their thoughts about the processes and working with the resources here too.