Constructing Meaning

Constructing Meaning

Our grade 11 students in the IB DP English B HL Class have been exploring concepts such as society, government, politics, beliefs, community, social class, equity, and democracy in our unit under the theme “Social Organization”.

After reading excerpts of the novels Interpreter of Maladies and Maximum City: Lost and Found, students began to transfer the big ideas they debated to their local context in order to explain how the concepts they were studying were reflected in China. Their task was to collaborate in order to produce an oral presentation in which they spoke about the concepts mentioned above. Since the 4 students in the class needed to ensure cohesion, they needed to plan not only the content of their presentation but also the visual support they would employ.

Therefore, upon deciding how many slides they would need, students collaborated in the design of the collection of slides that would form the body of their presentation. Also, they achieved consensus on what each of them would say as each slide was shown. The image below represents how students organized their presentation.


In their first presentation reflection (shown in the collages below), students found that their work was very factual and that the information they provided could be found by simply “googling” it. They realized they did not maximize the opportunities to address concepts explicitly or to provide relevant examples that could support their main ideas. As a result, they decided to work on a second iteration.

Students’ second iteration (shown in the collages below) not only addressed the concepts they had been studying in an explicit manner, but also welcomed personal perspectives, cultural anecdotes, and examples of “what it means to be Chinese”. When the reflection on their second presentation was over, students’ asked why they had not been given a model, as they are used to receiving when writing a paper, and my answer was that I needed them to construct the best possible, and most significant meaning they could by looking at their work and using the understandings they had achieved in order to determine how effective each presentation had been.

Hearing how they were able to find connections between the literary work excerpts they had read and the presentation they had improved, it was time to challenge them again and move to language-based concepts in an individual production. The picture below shows a moment at which students are working on their podcast script.


Each student will be producing a podcast about one of the concepts we have been studying. Each of their podcasts will have a different purpose, and a different audience, and I can’t wait to hear them.

The work we have been doing in this unit is an example of how concept-based learning provides learning experiences with the amplitude for a big variety of learning experiences to take place, with a forum for students to transfer knowledge they acquire in other subjects, and for them to use language purposefully, while also using the language to learn about the language.

MYP, Teaching & Learning, and Language Acquisition Coordinator| IB DP English B Teacher | Grade 10 Advisor.

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