Top Five Reasons to bring student choice to your DP Language A course ... and how to do it!

Language A - Book CoverBy Katheen Clare Waller author of Language A for the IB Diploma: Concept-based learning: Teaching for Success

Currently, your Year 11 students are probably asking you about the new Language A course:

Will it be fun?
Do we still have to read the boring stuff?
Which course should I take if I don't really enjoy or have time for reading?

And perhaps: do we get to choose anything we study?



In my new book coming out in July – Language A for the IB Diploma: Concept-based learning: Teaching for Success – I help you to unpack the new DP Language A guide in a way that fully embraces the IB’s new explicit articulation of conceptual learning.  One addition to the guide this time around is a suggestion to include student choice in your curriculum.  Student agency and co-design of curricula are hot buzzwords in educational pedagogy these days, but they are there for a reason.  They are a seamless part of a concept-based learning classroom.

There are many ways to use student choice and reasons for it, but you may be thinking you’ll get a handle on the new course before bringing in that choice.  I’m here to tell you it’s possible now and my book can help you to make it an easy, structured and meaningful part of your syllabus for your first cohort of students. 

Let’s look at five reasons to do so with reference to how this book can help you:

1. Save the Literature course!

Many schools are struggling to keep the Literature course afloat, perhaps due to rumors that it is more difficult or due to the perception that the course is about old stuff and not relevant to students today.  

Of course, we teachers know this is not the case!  By selecting even just a couple of the core literary works with your students at the start of the year, you can help them find the relevancy to their lives and their studies before they even begin reading.  Together, you can combine classics, contemporary work, minor voices and many genres to create a vibrant syllabus.  Most importantly, these choices will work within concepts so students understand their relevancy and connection beyond the English classroom.  

  → See Chapter 1 on advising course selection and Chapter 2 on creating your syllabus.  

2. Include a hot new title 

Have you ever had the experience of reading a great new title, or even had one recommended to you by a student, with the thought that it’s a shame you can’t include it in a rigorous or already-set syllabus?  An example is Moshin Hamid’s Exit West (Riverhead Books 2017), a novel that can help you investigate ideas about refugees or multiculturalism.

I help you to see how any text with literary value (this is your opinion!) can be included to help students understand a concept.  It might become a core text or one for differentiation and extension.  

→ See chapters 2 and 3 on planning your syllabus and units (using the updated PRL), with reference to a balance of new and old as well as the way to include extension texts.  

3. Incorporate current events

Sometimes we see the connection to current events in our courses, but we leave the study of them to our Individuals & Societies or TOK colleagues.  But why not bring them into your course? Students will often come into class talking about something happening in the world or make connections while you are investigating a text.  You can create a classroom that looks at this topic in a meaningful way through the lens of language and literature. 

For example, students may be debating the discourse they’ve seen on Instagram about the #MeToo movement.  Current events are a great way to teach traditional journalism and social media in your classroom, and you can make it more meaningful by allowing choice either in some of the particularly related texts or in the overall topic and conceptual focus.  

→ Chapter 3 gives you ways to include currents events in your units and conceptual lessons to make them come alive.  Chapter 4 helps students make sense of these ideas from the perspective of critical lenses

4. Hear different voices, and even languages

Your students might also be asking to hear voices like their own or of those that intrigue them.  Minor voice, authors writing in different languages, texts from the perspective of a subculture…these are all areas I address in the book.  

→ Chapter 2 looks at including minor voices in your syllabus and the reasons behind this; chapters 5 and 6 investigate ways you can bring the mother tongues of your students into classroom activities.  

5. Motivate your students! 

Finally, the most important and researched reason for including student choice is to motivate your students!  If you create at least some of your syllabus together, students will be more interested in reading and the texts – even the old ones – should have more relevancy to them.  The ones you don’t select together might still be of interest to others, encouraging them to read beyond the syllabus.  By listening to students and including some flexibility, all of you will be motivated beyond the classroom, which is also the focus of the last chapter of the book.  

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  By showing students we respect their choices and opinions, we already are giving them value that encourages them to take agency in their learning.  Have fun together! 

To find out more about our print and digital resources for the new IB Diploma Language A course visit 

Read our next blogOur Climate as a Concept - Language A & Concept-based learning & Current debates