Part 1 – Language and Cultural Contexts

In this part of the course we will explore the way English is used in different cultural contexts. By examining a range of different text types, we will gain a more critical appreciation of the way texts are constructed and language used for specific effect. We will study three units with the aim of addressing the following three learning outcomes:

  1. Analyse how audience and purpose affect the structure and content of texts.
  2. Analyse the impact of language changes.
  3. Demonstrate an awareness of how language and meaning are shaped by culture and context.


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Session 0 – Introduction
We will begin our unit on language and identity by discussing the languages we speak, watching a humorous video, reading an op-ed, and writing a response. Phew!

Session 1 – “The Way I Am”
In this lesson, we will look at how two different rappers use language to construct or express an identity through song lyrics. We will focus on content and theme of the texts.

Session 2 – “Being Bilingual”
We continue our investigation of language and identity with three poems about bilingualism. We will focus on audience and purpose (and revise content and theme).

Session 3 – “The Evils of English?”
Many individuals have a complicated and tense relationships with the English language – particularly those with multiple languages (and thus cultural identities). Through fiction and non-fiction prose we will examine some famous authors’ relationships with the English language and learn more about socio-cultural-historical context.

Session 3.2 – “The Languages We Know”
Here we explore the perspectives of two bilingual writers through autobiographical essays.

Session 4 – “Sound and Sense”
Our individual identities can change as we grow older or move into different social or cultural contexts. In this lesson we will see how a shift in tone and mood can actually signal a change in identity. We will use Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist as a source text. We will start developing a tone/mood vocabulary list and begin our preparation for the Individual Oral Commentary (IOC).

Session 5 – “Style IS Substance”
People often say ‘style over substance’. However in writing, stylistic devices can often add substance by creating layers of meaning. This is not to mention the emotional effect on an audience! We will examine John Agard’s Half-Caste as a source text.

Session 6 – “Advertising and Gender Identity” – Structure and Layout
In this lesson, we will examine the final element of ‘The Big 5’ – structure and layout – using both video beer commercials and sports print advertising. We will also see how advertising can ‘privilege’ certain ideas of male or female identity.

Session 7 – “Pride and Patriotism”
In these lessons, we will put everything we have learned together and analyse two texts on national identity – an extract from British immigration minister Robin Cook’s parliamentary speech and an extract of Moshin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist. We will learn to compare and contrast two different texts using ‘The Big 5’ and write our first practice Paper 1 essay.


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Session 1 – “Evolution of English”
We will introduce the next unit by exploring a few extracts from old English texts (Beowulf) and watch an informative video from the BBC. We will also review our paper 1 practice essays with a student example as well as learn some helpful tips for improving our written expression.

Session 2 – “Ye Olde English”
We will examine a range of historical sources to investigate the degree to which English has changed over the years. In addition, we will learn about historical, regional and social influences on English language usage.

Session 3 – ‘Dialects and Code Switching”
In the last session we looked to the past to find changes in the English language over a long period of time. Today we will see how people speak English differently in the present time  – code-switching between dialects and social languages to suit context, audience and purpose.

Session 4 – ‘English Empire’
While over 6000 languages are spoken across the world today, many are dying out due to the spread of English as a global lingua franca. We will examine the concepts of language imperialism and language death by watching videos and reading articles. We will look at both sides of the issue in a class debate.

Session 5 – ‘L33T Speak’
English has changed considerably in the past 1000 years, but never has it done so quite as quickly as it is today. Technological innovation – the Internet in particular – is hastening language change. In this session we will examine concepts of technological jargon, argot, acronyms and neologisms.

+ Add lesson on ‘English and other languages’ (Multilingualism). Use Amy Tan’s autobiographical essay ‘Mother Tongue’ from NTC’s Anthology of Nonfiction.

Session 6 – Exploring Texts Types
We will now demonstrate understanding in an imaginative written task!  We will practice ‘decoding’ a range of text types and review the requirements for written task 1.

Session 7 – Imaginative Writing
In these lessons we will create our written tasks as well as study some more Seamus Heaney poems for part 4 of the course.


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 Session 1 – What is power?
In this first session we will begin to explore the key concept of power before looking at different types of power. We will take notes, watch a video debate and complete some dramatic activities to learn key concepts and vocabulary.

 Session 2 – Language and War
War is a practical, tangible use of power, but what has language got to do with it?  How is language used to exert or challenge power structures during times of war?  In these lessons we will examine a range of texts that attempt to either lesson, or enhance, the impact of conflict on the public through persuasive techniques and hiding agency.

Session 3 – Shooting an Elephant
In this session we will learn about how truth and certainty can be expressed using modal language. We will learn about both high and low modality and read an extract from George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant.

Session 4 – Language and Knowledge / Knowledge Communities
Here we revisit jargon and argot to understand the role such language plays in the formation and transmission of knowledge and understanding, as well as in creating ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’. We will also see how specialised fields (such as medicine, law and sports) have particular language attributes.

Session 5 – The Power of Code Switching
We will revisit the concept of code switching to investigate what function it plays and how it can empower (or disempower) individuals. We will read an extract from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, an NPR article, as well as two opinion pieces.

Session 6 – Language and Social Class
Language has long been considered an indicator of social class. Today we will investigate this relationship and look at three texts – ‘Yobbos‘ (a poem by Salgit Nagra); the first act of the 1973 TV production of ‘Pygmalion‘ (a play by George Bernard Shaw); and finally an excerpt from the movie ‘Snatch‘.

Session 7 – Racial Profiling
Racial profiling is a law enforcement tactic that has been receiving much scrutiny in the media recently. Today we will learn how language can inform, educate and instruct people concerned with this issue.

Session 8 – The Further Oral Activity
In this session we learn about a key concept for oral communication: form vs. content.  We will know the requirements of the FOA, look at examples, brainstorm some possibilities and finally start writing our proposals.

16 thoughts on “Part 1 – Language and Cultural Contexts

  1. Thank you so much for this incredible blog! This is my first year teaching IB and I confess to being a little lost. I started off on the topic of language and identity (taking ideas from the course guide) mostly because I wanted to get to know my students better. My googling led me to this page and it has been so amazingly helpful. It is so organised and clear and I will certainly be taking some ideas from it.

    I notice that you use a lot of resources that will help students with their revision in future, for example, quizlet. Which sites like this do you most recommend? And do you have any further guidance for helping the students to organise their studies.

    Thank you again!

    • Hi there! I think Quizlet is great to keep a record of key terms, as it includes lots of revision games. I also like to use Socrative (multiple choice quiz software) and Quizlet Live (a fun game function contained within Quizlet). Check them out!

  2. Thank you very much. Next year I will teach this course. So I need to understand all about the classes. Your incredible blog and work helped me a lot.
    All the best.

  3. Hiya Andrew.

    Like the others have mentioned, I too would like to thank you for sharing your thoughtfully compiled resources! I hope I can be of the same assistance to you one of these days!
    Please let me know if you’re ever in need of any resources and I’d love to help you out :>)

    I was wondering what course companion text you use. You reference it often and I was wondering if you thought it effective and worthwhile as a lynchpin of the course.

    Thanks again and take care,
    Jon Pitale

    • Hi Jon!

      The textbook is Brad Philpot’s English Language and Literature for the IB Diploma, published by Cambridge. It is getting a bit old now, and you can find most of the relevant information and resources from his website here. I also use the Oxford course companion, however, I find this one a bit too dense for the students and only use texts and information from it selectively.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Hi Andrew,
    I am working through my first unit planning and you have such great resources. Thank you for being a “sharing” educator. I do have a sub to Inthinking which has helped. I am wondering which text your are using for your course? Which publisher and edition? Kindly, Rae

  5. Andrew, you are a life-saver! This is my first year with Year 2, HL and you have given me a clearer picture of the course. I haven’t gone to training and you have made an organized way to understand the concepts. Which main text did you use to go with this? Could you use 1984?

  6. Hello,
    I am a teacher new to the DP and had to prepare a lesson.
    your resources had been of so much use.
    I would like to thank you for sharing, you are a true life saver!
    Thanks again.
    Iman M.

  7. I wish I’d find your site when we were still teaching the old programme! So well organized, easy to follow, and interesting. I would love to see what you’re doing for the new programme (as I begin my first year teaching it!) if you’re still sharing your resources.

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