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English B Course Book - reviewed

Review by David Ripley, English B Consultant

English B Course Book - reviewed

Review by David Ripley, English B Consultant

English B Course Companion

This is a brilliant book. It will become absolutely standard for English B teachers everywhere...

This is a brilliant book. It supplies a need that English B teachers have had ... well, forever!

At workshops over the last twenty years, I have listened to teachers swapping suggestions about course books, suggesting borrowing this or that useful section from this or that EFL-type course book, and at last here is a book that provides everything you need under one cover.

'Everything' includes stimulus materials for all of the Topics, both Core and Options plus comprehension exercises and extension activities leading out from each text plus direct practical advice on all the required elements of the English B assessment process plus linkages to very IB specific elements such as TOK and CAS. There are even sample exam papers so that students can be familiarised with what they will face at the end of the course. Not bad for a total of 424 pages! The layout of the book is attractive (elegant use of colour, for instance) and lucid (as a quick glance at the contents page will show). In short, it must be near the top of the range of books to be used in classrooms.

It is not just that the chosen texts are interesting in themselves, but also that the questions asked about the texts are inherently lively and stimulating. It is worth noting, though, that the general level of difficulty seems to be pitched at the middling-to-advanced level - weaker students may struggle with some of the texts and tasks. However, it must be better to be too challenging than too trivial.

Overall, the English B Course Book is comprehensive, well-informed and inspirational.

The fundamental structure is based on a comprehensive coverage of the Topics. Of course, not every conceivable aspect of those very wide subject areas can be covered, but the aspects selected must be among the most useful for teaching purposes. For instance, under 'Communication & media' in Chapter 6, I like the clever way that Media & violence segues into Censorship and then into Media versus violence.

The comprehensive quality of the book also applies to its well-informed explanations about how to apply the Language B Guide. These range from using the question types typical of Paper 1 to elicit ideas from the stimulus texts ... through discussion of how to handle the various text types ... to the broad-context IB elements such as the Intercultural Dimension (many of the texts draw attention to this latter). While all of this information is directly useful to the students, every teacher can benefit from the clear explanations.

Finally, I find the Course Book inspirational not just because it suggests very practical and effective techniques for exploiting each of the basic texts, but also because such techniques can easily be transferred to other materials for other purposes - any thoughtful teacher can treat this book as a mini training course in good teaching practice.

And no, it's not perfect! Very minor details grated on me occasionally. The Introduction, while overtly addressed to 'you-the-student', is really an introduction for the teacher. And the suggestion to keep the Learner Profile in mind when studying literary texts (p.99) - is it really helpful to consider Macbeth as an IB student ? More significantly than those minor quibbles, should the answers to the (very useful) sample exam papers have been included in the book? But then again ... maybe a significant purpose of this Course Book is for students to read it, reflect, and learn on their own? If so, if that really works, losing the 'exam secrecy' element is a small price to pay.

This Course Book will become absolutely standard for English B teachers everywhere, whether it is used as the basis for an entire course, or simply as add-on material for a course that a teacher has created personally. Now, could you run a course using only the material in the Course Book? A friend I asked was perfectly clear: "Oh, yes, certainly!" - but I believe that it should be be seen as a really solid foundation for a course, which a skilful teacher would build on with additional material.


David Ripley is an English B Consultant at InThinking. With a comprehensive knowledge of the IBO programme, he has led more than 50 IB English B workshops. Read his complete review of the English B Course Book here.

More about this resource

English B

English B Course Book

The only DP English B resource written directly with the IB, this resource is now used in hundreds of IB schools worldwide. You can trust it to support confident development of the four language skills while progressing assessment potential.

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