MPSHome Alumni Calendar Contact
IB Grading Requirements

IB – HL – 1 Language A: Literature

Southwest High School

Teacher: James Dundon



Note to parents: Southwest is hosting a back to school night for parents on Tuesday, September 11th from 6:30 – 8:00.  Please review this course explanation beforehand, and I will address all questions and concerns that evening.  Feel free to email me with any questions and concerns if you can’t attend.  Thank you.


Language A: literature is a literature course that may be studied in as many as eighty languages. Fifty of these have a prescribed list of authors (PLA). Languages with a PLA are listed in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme and each PLA is published on the online curriculum centre (OCC) at


The course is built on the assumption that literature is concerned with our conceptions, interpretations and experiences of the world. The study of literature can therefore be seen as an exploration of the way it represents the complex pursuits, anxieties, joys and fears to which human beings are exposed in the daily business of living. It enables an exploration of one of the more enduring fields of human creativity, and provides opportunities for encouraging independent, original, critical and clear thinking. It also promotes respect for the imagination and a perceptive approach to the understanding and interpretation of literary works.


Through the study of a wide range of literature, the language A: literature course encourages students to appreciate the artistry of literature and to develop an ability to reflect critically on their reading. Works are studied in their literary and cultural contexts, through close study of individual texts and passages, and by considering a range of critical approaches. In view of the international nature of the IB and its commitment to intercultural understanding, the language A: literature course does not limit the study of works to the products of one culture or the cultures covered by any one language. The study of works in translation is especially important in introducing students, through literature, to other cultural perspectives. The response to the study of literature is through oral and written communication, thus enabling students to develop and refine their command of language.


Language A: literature is a flexible course that allows teachers to choose works from prescribed lists of authors and to construct a course that suits the particular needs and interests of their students. It is divided into four parts, each with a particular focus.


Part 1: Works in translation (second semester junior year)

Part 2: Detailed study

Part 3: Literary genres

Part 4: Options (in which works are freely chosen) (first semester junior year

The aims of HL language A: literature are to:

1.    introduce students to a range of texts from different periods, styles and genres

2.    develop in students the ability to engage in close, detailed analysis of individual texts and make relevant connections

3.     develop the students’ powers of expression, both in oral and written communication

4.    encourage students to recognize the importance of the contexts in which texts are written and received

5.    encourage, through the study of texts, an appreciation of the different perspectives of people from other cultures, and how these perspectives construct meaning

6.    encourage students to appreciate the formal, stylistic and aesthetic qualities of texts

7.    promote in students an enjoyment of, and lifelong interest in, language and literature.

8.    develop in students an understanding of the techniques involved in literary criticism

9.    develop the students’ ability to form independent literary judgments and to support those ideas.


There are three assessment objectives for the language A: literature course:


1. Knowledge and understanding

–– Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of individual literary works as representatives of their genre and period, and the relationships between them

–– Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which cultural values are expressed in literature

–– Demonstrate awareness of the significance of the context in which a work is written and received

–– Substantiate and justify ideas with relevant examples


2. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation

–– Demonstrate an ability to analyse language, structure, technique and style, and   evaluate their effects on the reader

–– Demonstrate an ability to engage in independent literary criticism on both familiar and unfamiliar literary texts

–– Show an ability to examine and discuss in depth the effects of literary techniques and the connections between style and meaning


3. Selection and use of appropriate presentation and language skills

–– Demonstrate an ability to express ideas clearly and fluently in both written and oral

communication, with an effective choice of register and style

–– Demonstrate a command of terminology and concepts appropriate to the study of literature

–– Demonstrate an ability to express well-organized oral and written arguments

–– Demonstrate an ability to write a sustained and detailed literary commentary



Part 4: Options.  Individual Oral Presentations.  First Semester junior year

It is in this part of the course, more than anywhere else, that students can choose an assessment activity that is suited to their own interests and abilities.  The students will develop their presentation from one of the following three works:

1.      Short fiction by female writers

2.      The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3.      The poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks


1.      Students must be able to show their knowledge and understanding of the work(s) used for the presentation.

2.      Students must choose a manner of presentation that matches the chosen style of delivery and use strategies to make the presentation interesting for the audience.

3.      The choice of language must be suited to the type of activity and style of delivery. It could be an informal register if the student is attempting to convey the voice of a character in a role play, or it could be a formal register if they choose to present an analysis.

4.      Discussion must follow the presentation, so it is best conducted as a class activity or an activity done in front of an audience.



The aim is to give an incentive for students to develop their oral presentation skills in an area that interests them. Presentations may take the form of:

  • delivering a straight analytical or critical talk
  • trying out acting abilities in role play
  • working with another student
  • developing debating skills.

This task rehearses a life skill that will assist students to develop confidence in future situations. Part of the authenticity of the task is that students need to think hard about the audience they are addressing and how they can best interest those people. They will also be required to field questions on their topic.

In no case may the student read from a prepared talk. This is clearly stated in the “Internal assessment” section of the subject guide (see “Guidance and authenticity”).

The teacher’s role is to:

  • assist students to choose a style of presentation that is suited to the student and the topic
  • liaise with the student to make sure that the presentation will address the three assessment criteria
  • ensure that each student’s presentation lasts for 10–15 minutes
  • lead a follow-up discussion.

Points to keep in mind:

  • Where students work together to deliver a presentation the teacher must apply the assessment criteria separately to each student. In such a situation, teachers are strongly advised to record the presentation visually to assist with assessment.
  • If students choose to use role play they need to include a rationale that explains what they are trying to achieve with the performance.
  • If students use visual aids such as a PowerPoint® presentation, they need to be taught how to use such devices effectively. For example, students should not read from a large number of slides. This would, in effect, be similar to reading from a prepared talk and unlikely to engage the audience.
  • Students should select their own topic and plan their presentation alone, albeit with the teacher’s guidance.
  • Presentation topics should not be repeated between students.
  • Students have only one attempt, which should be treated as an examination.
  • The time limit for the task is 10–15 minutes, including questions, and ideally some brief discussion as a class. Do not let students go on for longer than the time limit allows.
  • Make sure students are made familiar with the assessment criteria throughout the process of planning and conducting their presentation.





Part 1: Works in Translation (second semester junior year)

Choosing works in translation for part 1

The works must be three titles chosen from the prescribed literature in translation (PLT) list:

  1. Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
  2. Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  3. Mahfouz, Miramar

The world Literature selections will be available at Magers and Quinn at a discounted price

The written assignment process

Stage 1: The interactive oral


1.      At least one interactive oral must be conducted for each work studied.

2.      Each student should have some specific role in one of the orals (across all the works studied).

3.      The prompts that students work with must require them to probe into the cultural and contextual underpinnings of the work and to consider how these considerations affect their understanding of the work.

4.      The orals ideally should be an integral part of teaching the work, not an artificial “add-on”.

The following suggestions show the range of possible types of interactive orals. In all cases it is advisable to ensure the prompts (or stimulus for discussion) have a tight focus that relates directly to a specific part of the work.

  • During the course of one lesson, several students could introduce a problem they have in understanding the culture or the context, with the class and the teacher discussing each issue raised.
  • Students could introduce the discussion, adopting the teacher’s role for lessons on the work, and lead the class discussion.
  • Students, either individually or working in groups, could choose a clip of a film or other visual medium and lead a discussion on how it may deepen understanding of culture or context.

Stage 2: The reflective statement


1.      It must be written as soon as possible following the interactive oral. As shown in the Language A teacher support film, it is advisable for students to take notes during the interactive oral discussion to assist them in writing the reflective statement.

2.      Each student must write one reflective statement on each work studied. Where there is more than one interactive oral on a work, which is likely, writing on each interactive oral is advised, but optional.

3.      Students must know that the reflective statement on the work on which the essay is written will be assessed, along with the essay.



There is one guiding question for the reflective statement, which is:

  • How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

“Context” refers to all possible contexts. It is intended to embrace the cultural underpinnings of the works by looking at specifics such as:

  • the time and place in which the work was written
  • information about the author (particularly as it relates to the way in which the author’s ideas as presented in the work do, or do not, accord with situations in the contemporary society)
  • philosophical, political and social contexts
  • ideas that the students themselves bring to the work.

“Developed” is the other key word in the question. It is a personal statement that is most likely to be written in the first person, and should be an honest account of the evolution of understanding. If the student feels that they have not really learned anything, then they should reflect on what they still do not understand.

The aim is to ensure the focus of discussion is sufficiently challenging so that students will be stimulated to think more deeply about some aspect of the work.

The criterion by which students are assessed uses the same words as the question on which the reflective statement is based. If they answer this honestly and fully, then they should be able to achieve the three points.

Stage 3: Developing the topic—supervised writing


1.      At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher should provide three or four prompts for the work studied. The students must not have seen these prompts prior to the lesson.

2.      Supervised writing is intended to stimulate independent thinking and choice of topic. It must be in continuous prose. However, the format is not prescribed—it could be journal writing, or it may be more like a draft.

3.      At this stage, it is no longer important to consider the cultural or contextual elements of the work.

4.      The students complete three pieces of supervised writing and their essay topic must be generated by one of them. The link between the final choice of title and the supervised writing does not have to be direct, but there must be a recognizable germ of an idea that can be tracked.

5.      When students are deciding on which work to write (and hence which piece of supervised writing to use as a starting point), it is not the quality of the supervised writing that counts, but the link with the essay.

6.      Teachers must play a key role in helping the student to develop from the supervised writing a tightly focused title for the essay. The examples below demonstrate how prompts for the supervised writing can lead to a precise title for the essay.

Examples of supervised writing prompts and essay titles:

1.      Prompt: In what ways are the voices of history and tradition present in the work?

Work: God’s Bits of Wood by Sembène Ousmane

Essay title: Age and wisdom: The significance of Ramatoulaye in God’s Bits of Wood

2.      Prompt: To what extent is the natural landscape important for the impact of the work?

Work: The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh

Essay title: How the landscape affects the outcome for Kien in The Sorrow of War

3.      Prompt: How does the writer convey a sense of time passing in the work?

Work: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Essay title: The significance of time for Shukhov in One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

4.      Prompt: How are different voices used to express thoughts and feelings? What effect do these have on your responses to the poems?

Work: Selected poems of Derek Walcott

Essay title: Allegiance and identity in the poems of Derek Walcott

5.      Prompt: In what ways is memory important in the work?

Work: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Essay title: The significance of memory for Jane in Jane Eyre

Stage 4: Production of the essay

The teacher’s role


1.      The teacher should assist the student to develop a suitably challenging topic that will allow him or her to show insight into the work chosen for the assignment.

2.      Teachers are encouraged to comment on the first draft, either orally or through notes on a separate sheet of paper. However, they may not annotate the essay nor assist with subsequent drafts.


1.      The essay should be a formal piece of writing with a title and a developed argument. The main references are likely to be to the literary work chosen for the essay. It is essential that a recognized reference system is used consistently throughout and that the bibliography includes the full provenance of the work used, including the edition. Secondary sources may be used, although they are not essential, and they must also be referenced using the same system and included in the bibliography.  Southwest High School uses MLA.


2.      Students are assessed on their ability to organize and develop their ideas, and to integrate examples from the works used. Before they begin to write their essays, it is important that they have had plenty of practice in using quotations from literary works to support and further their arguments.