In this second post, Martin Hartnett continues his theme of subject notes appropriate for students for whom English is not a first language. He provides an exemplar of notes created to support the first topic on the Business and Management syllabus.

It’s easy to forget that many IB students face a ‘literacy gap’: they are required to work with resources such as textbooks, and online media that assume a level of English literacy that they don’t have.

We need to reflect this in the learning materials that we provide for our students. This post provides 2 strategies that you may find useful in helping to achieve this.

  1. Producing notes that are language appropriate for your students
  2. Identifying online learning materials that are language appropriate for your students

1)  Producing notes that are language appropriate for your students

This can be a lot of effort, but it is worth it – you develop and help maintain student motivation by providing materials that they can understand!  If you are new to the IB, it’s also a great way to make yourself familiar with course content.

To give you an idea of how to do this, I have included a set of notes I created based on one section of Paul Hoang’s excellent textbook (Business and Management, ISBN: 9781876659639). Just to be clear, my notes are based on my understanding of the literacy levels of my students – they are aimed at my students who need a ‘step’ to help them into the textbook, and the ‘best’ notes for your students will depend on your understanding of their level of English, and your own approach to teaching, but my advice would be to always:

  • provide a glossary of terms used in the chapter (I produce my terms using the ideas I described in an earlier post), and
  • use ‘simpler/clearer’ English where possible while continuing to get the key ideas across

2)  Identify online learning materials and tools that are language appropriate for you students

a) Your choice will again depend on your awareness of your student’s level of English, but one site I would recommend is The Times 100 if you haven’t visited it for a while.

I think it is very suitable for various levels of English: for example it provides Case Studies in Full, Brief and Summary Formats, so you have a learning resource for a range of literacy levels, meaning that all students can cover the same case. The Full version Case Studies also comes in MP3 format meaning that students, for once, have a legitimate reason for using an iPod in class!

b)  I have used Google Translate with students with a very low level of English, who are unable to understand even intermediate level materials. It is definitely not perfect (try translating an overseas page into English to see this!), it IS useful for students to get the gist of a topic that they could otherwise fail to grasp.

c) When selecting articles for data response questions or to support teaching, use Google advanced features and choose ‘only basic results’ under ‘the ‘reading level’ option to filter results.

Click on the following link to see the notes on Nature of Business Activity:

1 1 Nature of Business Activity

We would welcome your thoughts, comments and ideas on this subject. If you wish to make a post on this blog please contact me through this link.


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