The IA grades have been entered, the samples are uploaded and we’re all in that last race to finish the curriculum.  Teachers in the US are more than a little concern: their top students, all of whom were interested and engaged have been admitted to their dream schools and have decided that they don’t have to do well on their IB exams and it is distressing as they see the realization of their predicted grades slipping away.  In the rest of the world where the IB results are needed for acceptance, students are becoming increasingly shrill and panicked as they chase the elusive number they need to get into their dream schools.  The demands on teachers is escalating.

I hope that you can feel the frenzy in the tone of the above paragraph.  DP schools become very tense places at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.  Added to that is the uncertainly of the new History assessments: did I mark my IAs correctly?  have I interpreted the mark bands correctly?  are my students going to fail due my negligence in one area I just noticed today?

So, here is a list of things you can do to maximize this last month before the history exams commence:

  1. Stop panicking.  The students have been preparing for this moment for at least two year, and perhaps longer, depending on your school.
  2. If you still need to cover content, keep going.  Even if the students seem checked out you will reach those who are not, and the material will a) help them with their exams, and b) engage them.
  3. Link content to specific exam questions.  With Paper 3 there were the fewest changes, so, to mix things up a bit, start each class with a prompt that is an old question.  Have them take a few minutes and draft an introduction.
  4. Link skills to specific parts of the test.  Even though the content is different, use old Paper 1s to demonstrate to the students that they have the skill set to answer Paper 1 questions even if they are a bit iffy on content.  I love using the really old tests on French involvement in Algeria (those exams came from the mid-90s).
  5. Write open, vague questions and give them to students, and have them narrow them.  This is critical for Paper 2 preparation and it only takes a few minutes.
  6. Show videos.  Students may not have the patience for listening to you but they will be engaged by Atomic Café, Eyes on the Prize, Raiders of the Lost Ark (just kidding – want to see if you are checked out, or if you laugh every time you see the SNL bit with Seinfeld as a history teacher) or Potemkin.
  7. Save at least two weeks for review.  DP students will be focused on the first exams and it is difficult to get them to prepare on their own, but in-class review will help them.
  8. Put students in charge of the review.  They will be well prepared for at least the part they lead the class through.
  9. Remember that a lot of this is out of your hands.  If you have been conscientious, effectively trained and given the students enough practice (i.e., tests) you have done your job.
  10. Go for a run, a drink, sit on the top of a mountain and meditate, swim with the dolphins or read a novel (remember those?) and celebrate that you have done your best by your students.