Areas of Exploration

Students in Language and Literature will explore literary and non-literary texts through three areas of exploration. These explorations are meant to overlap and be integrated into units.

  • Readers, Writers, and Texts: how readers, writers, and texts interact

  • Time and Space: how texts interact with time and space (historical context)

  • Intertextuality: how texts connect to each other or compare to another

Guiding questions can help students understand these three areas of exploration.

Readers, Writers, & Texts

Excerpt from the IB DP Lang and Lit Subject Guide

This area introduces students to the nature of language and literature and its study. The investigation undertaken involves close attention to the details of texts in a variety of types and literary forms so that students learn about the choices made by creators and the ways in which meaning is communicated through words, image, and sound. At the same time, study will focus on the role receivers play in generating meaning as students move from personal response to understanding and interpretation influenced by the classroom community. Students will learn to understand the creativity of language, the relationship between language and thought and the aesthetic nature of literature. Students will see that texts are powerful means to express individual thoughts and feelings, and that their own perspectives as experienced users of language are integral to the effect and success of a communicative act.

Study in this area should be structured to allow students to become more confident in their ability to recognize key textual and rhetorical features and how they create or affect meaning. Non-literary texts and literary works can be chosen that lend themselves to close reading and give students a sense of stylistic, rhetorical and literary elements across a variety of text types and literary forms. The aim is not to enumerate or define various features and study will move beyond the identification of elements or the consideration of individual effects to see the complex constructed nature of texts. While conducting detailed study, learning activities can be structured to introduce students to the ways in which linguistic and literary professionals attend to communicative acts and their concerns. Student writing and response can involve moving between personal and academic response or between the creative and the expository.

Readers, writers and texts aims to introduce students to the skills and approaches required to closely examine texts as well as to introduce metacognitive awareness of the nature of the discipline by considering the following guiding conceptual questions:

1. Why and how do we study language and literature?

2. How are we affected by texts in various ways?

3. In what ways is meaning constructed, negotiated, expressed and interpreted?

4. How does language use vary amongst text types and amongst literary forms?

5. How does the structure or style of a text affect meaning?

6. How do texts offer insights and challenges?

Sentence starts for exploring this area of interaction:

Readers, Writers, and Texts (Area of Exploration)

  • I can’t believe that….

  • I love that ….

  • I like that the author ….(say something about the author’s craft/style)

  • I wish that ….

  • I was surprised by ….

  • If I were this character, I would….

  • I like/dislike this character because…

  • I think that a symbol in the story is that …

  • I think that …(name an event) could have been prevented if ….

  • I notice that the character is changing when …

  • I question the decision of the character when …

  • I question the portrayal of ….

  • I feel .... when reading the text because…

  • I think that the point of view impacts the reading of the story because…

  • I interpreted the main theme as ….

  • The structure of the text influences my interpretation of the text in that ….

How do authors or creators make a compelling narrative or lyric or message?

  • Something unanticipated or contrasting happens

    • Irony (plot twist)

    • Juxtaposition one scene with another that greatly contrasts one another

    • Use a non-linear plot, putting together the puzzle

  • Making the plot a universal and relatable plot

    • Readers may not be able to relate to the specific context of the conflict, but there are usually some themes that resonate on a universal level e.g. coming of age, loss, birth, transformation, perseverance, romance, etc.

  • Vivid, descriptive imagery

    • How does the creator/writer provide imagery to create mental or physical pictures of a scene?

  • Emotion

    • A memorable narrative is one that moves us emotionally in some way. How does the creator/writer evoke emotion in the reader or viewer?

Time and Space

This area of exploration focuses on the idea that language is a social capacity and as such is intertwined with community, culture and history. It explores the variety of cultural contexts in which texts are produced and read across time and space as well as the ways texts themselves reflect or refract the world at large. Students will examine how cultural conditions can affect language and how these conditions are a product of language. Students will also consider the ways culture and identity influence reception.

Students will investigate ways in which texts may represent, and be understood from, a variety of cultural and historical perspectives. Through this exploration students will recognize the role of relationships among text, self and other, and the ways in which the local and the global connect. These relationships are complex and dynamic. The background of an author and the make-up of an audience are not necessarily clear or easily described. Texts are situated in specific contexts and deal with or represent social, political and cultural concerns particular to a given time and place. For example, a text written to address the concerns of an author in contemporary society can be set in ancient times. Cultures that are geographically separated can share mores or ideas, while people living in proximity can embrace disparate traditions. Students will consider the intricacies of communication within such a complex societal framework and the implications that language and text take on when produced and read in shifting contexts.

Study and work selection in this area should allow students to explore texts and issues from a variety of places, cultures and/or times. The culture, biography of an author, historical events or narratives of critical reception will be considered and may be researched, but the focus of study will be on the ideas and issues raised by the texts themselves and a consideration of whether these are best understood in relation to an informed consideration of context. In this area of exploration, students examine the ways in which a text may illuminate some aspect of the political or social environment, or the ways in which a more nuanced understanding of events may affect their understanding or interpretation of a text. The study of contexts does not imply a static, one-to-one relationship between a text and the world, but sees the former as a powerful “non-human actor” across time and space.

Time and space aims to broaden student understanding of the open, plural, or cosmopolitan nature of texts ranging from advertisements to poems by considering the following guiding conceptual questions:

  1. How important is cultural or historical context to the production and reception of a text?

  2. How do we approach texts from different time periods and cultures to our own?

  3. To what extent do texts offer insights into another culture?

  4. How does the meaning and impact of a text change over time?

  5. How do texts reflect, represent, or form a part of cultural practices?

  6. How does language represent social distinctions and identities?

Sentence starts for exploring this area of interaction:

Time and Space prompts (Area of Exploration) Consider the setting/world/contexts/politics/geography.

  • I think the setting is important because….

  • The context of this future society greatly impacts the plot because….

  • I think the text offers insight into another culture or time period by ….

  • I think the meaning and impact of the text can change over time as our society changes in that …

  • The text reflects a cultural belief or practice by ….

  • The text represents social distinctions and/or identities in that ….

  • The economic and geographical aspects of the novel influence the reader’s understanding of ….

  • The role of the government in the characters’ lives contributes to the conflicts in the story by ….

  • The role of religion in the character’s lives contributes to the conflicts in the story by ….

  • The social structure of the family unit contributes to the conflicts in the story by ….

  • Government actions in the novel contribute to the conflicts in the story by….

  • The understanding of war in the novel influences the conflicts and/or themes in the work by….

  • The character’s or characters’ rights in the novel are restricted due to the role of restrictions by the government. For example,....

  • The philosophy or cultural beliefs of the society contribute to the conflicts in the story by ….


How does the author’s depiction of the setting influence the themes and conflicts? How is the setting significant in understanding the text?

geographical: climate, terrain

historical: politics, time period, events, wars, etc.

social: beliefs, custom, values, gender roles/expectations, class structure, etc.

atmosphere of the setting: mood developed by the author e.g. gloomy, ominous, foreboding, magical, etc.

Sentence Stems

  • The setting is significant in advancing the conflicts in the plot by ______.

  • The setting is symbolic to the story in that _______.

  • The historical context is significant to the plot's conflicts and themes in that _____.

  • The author develops a ________ mood in this scene in order to develop or foreshadow _______.


This area of exploration focuses on the concerns of intertextuality, or the connections between and among media, text and audience involving diverse traditions and ideas. It focuses on the comparative study of texts so that students may gain deeper appreciation of both unique characteristics of individual texts and complex systems of connection. Throughout the course, students will be able to see similarities and differences among diverse texts. This area allows for a further exploration of literary and linguistic concerns, examples, interpretations and readings by studying a grouping of texts set by the teacher or set in close conversation with a class or groups of students. Students will gain an awareness of how texts can provide critical lenses to reading other texts and of how they can support a text's interpretation by expanding on it or question it by providing a different point of view.

Intertextuality: connecting texts can be approached in a variety of ways, such as:

• through the study of a group of texts from the same text type or literary form (for example,

advertisements, drama or short stories respectively)

• a study of chronological development (for example, the tale, the elegy, political oration, the newspaper)

• a consideration of mode (for example, satire, action-adventure, parody)

• an exploration of a topic or concept (for example, fame, gender, power, social code, values, the hero)

• an investigation into a theoretical perspective or debate in language or literature (for example literary value, feminism, cognitive theory, critical discourse theory).

This area of exploration aims to give students a sense of the ways in which texts exist in a system of relationships with other communicative acts past and present. Students will further engage with literary and linguistic traditions and new directions by considering the following guiding conceptual questions:

1. How do texts adhere to and deviate from conventions associated with literary forms or text types?

2. How do conventions and systems of reference evolve over time?

3. In what ways can diverse texts share points of similarity?

4. How valid is the notion of a classic text?

5. How can texts offer multiple perspectives of a single issue, topic or theme?

6. In what ways can comparison and interpretation be transformative?

  1. How do authors transform existing texts to create new meaning or to provide different perspectives?

Sentence starts for exploring this area of interaction:

Intertextuality prompts (Area of Exploration)

  • This story reminds me of….

  • The situation reminds me of a similar situation in my own life….

  • This scene reminds me of another scene in a different book…

  • This event is similar to ….(name a current event or historical event)

  • I can compare this text to ….(another text you have read) in that ….

  • If I were to transform this text, I would write a pastiche and give it a different ending because….

  • If I were to transform this text, I would write a pastiche and develop the story from a different perspective because ….

  • This text adheres/or doesn’t adhere to the genre of ____ in that _______.

  • The text I read explores the concept of ____ which is similar to another text I have read or viewed. For example, ….

  • This text explores the role of intertextuality and the connections between and among media or other texts by ….

  • By comparing and contrasting this text to _____, I gain a deeper appreciation for ____.

  • By comparing and contrasting this text to _____, I expand or question my understanding of _____ by considering a different perspective or critical lens.