IB Diploma Programme Language A: Literature Part 1 Reflection

If you are not familiar with IB here is an overview. In the eleventh grade at my school, we teach parts 1 and 4 of the HL course. Last year was my first year teaching DP and it was the first year for all Language A teachers teaching the new course Language A: Literature. I am performing reflection–gladly so. It is an opportune time to reflect on the past year while it rings fresh and before I necessarily wander from thoughts of school to summertime and other pursuits…

First, I will share my syllabus for last year, unpack my observations, and then propose my syllabus for next year. Please feel free to share yours or give feedback in the comments.

2011-2012 Syallabus:

Part One: Literature in Translation (Fall)

–selected poems of Wislawa Szymborska
–Rickshaw Boy
–The Nonexistent Knight

The important thing is that this syllabus worked. As a first year Diploma teacher, my chief anxiety was that somehow I would impede a student’s ability to achieve proficiency on the assessment tasks. I did not detect any flaws with the works chosen or the implementation of the curriculum I designed.

Wislawa (as my students and I affectionately refer to her) is fantastic for part one–highly recommend. Her poetry is cerebral, visceral, and pulses with the undercurrents of Post Structuralism and Feminism. She explores allusion to history, the Bible, and Greek Mythology. Hr poems are intriguing language puzzles. Students like this. (Look in the future for a post on the importance of critical thinking and riddles.)

Lao She’s Rickshaw Boy was recommended at my IB training, and, although I personally enjoyed it as a read did not experience a similar reaction from my students. Not enough textual fodder for nuanced theorizing about the text.

The Nonexistent Knight was also a hit. I found the book puerile and pointless but–and here is where I found I cracked the code–it did produce interesting Supervised Writings.

Rough estimate of percentage breakdown for each work’s popularity (becoming the chosen work for the Written Assignment):

Wislawa: 50%
Rickshaw Boy: 10%
Nonexistent Knight: 40%

The end game is getting the students to a Supervised Writing that confidently germinates the Written Assignment. Wislawa’s poetry performed in spades. In fact, I envision myself teaching her poetry for years to come. I have enough poems in her anthology to make it new for myself for the next four or five years easily. I am axing Rickshaw Boy.

My proposed syllabus for Part One next year:

–Chronicle of a Death Foretold
–selected poems of Wislawa Szymborska
–A Doll’s House


–Chronicle of a Death Foretold: the narrative’s complexity coupled with the competing themes and theories will enable students to experience success analyzing this novel in the ways IB is prescribing.
–Wislawa: she’s a hit. I know it. The students don’t know her. It distinguishes the IB curriculum not in an elitist way but in a manner that is important to the IB mission.
–A Doll’s House: strange, but I express reservations about including this choice. It is an excellent play–fantastic–but I am worried about the baser nature of the overworked 21st century student.

Here are my rules for the ideal IB text, applicable to any part of the DP course:

1. Brisk
2.thick with layers of meaning
3. Obscure (not Spark Note-able or I will borrow my friend’s assessments from the other IB schools in the region.

Here is a list of selections that I think hit 2 or 3 of my criteria

How do my choices hold up?

–Chronicle: breaks rule 3
–Wislawa: winning!
–A Doll’s House: breaks rule 3 and is lighter than the others in terms of rule 2

I feel like there is a lot that can be done with Ibsen’s play. Please leave feedback if you have experience teaching any of these texts or want to share others.

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