Recent Posts by Hannah Tyson

Syntax: a path to better analysis, better writing

Very often, in commentaries and other analysis, students bring up the term, 'syntax' but seldom have much to say about it.  If you pay a little attention to figuring out what it is and how writers use it, you could really raise your game in both analysis, and yes, your own writing. First, let's get straight the simplest definition of what we mean when we talk about syntax.  It's simply the way words are arranged in a sentence.   'Arrangement' suggests writers ...

Combining the creative with the critical

Often, IB teachers of the Group A Language and Lit courses regret that there is not much opportunity to do more creative work with their classes. But short exercises can be incorporated into our classes and many of us do that.  Here is one exercise which has not only produced some very lively original pieces with my students, but also raised their consciousness and refined their sense of how prose is constructed and how different effects are created. Obviously there ...

Pump up your verbs, please

In all of your essays, whether they are demanded for your Written Assignments, your commentaries, or your Paper 2 essay, you can win the heart of your examiners by moving beyond the conventional verbs you use to talk about literature.  Show, demonstrate, characterize, suggest, reveal, portray: all of these are good, valid and useful, and sometimes just the right one for your purposes. However, maybe you'd like to extend your options. How about 'intimate' for 'suggest?' ' The poet intimates that perhaps ...

‘The problems of the second act’

In a very interesting little book by David Mamet called '3 Uses of the Knife: On the nature and purpose of drama' there is a section called 'The problems of the second act.'  I can't reproduce the whole section here, but I'm going to select a few quotations in the hopes you might find the ideas useful when you are studying plays with your IB students.  What Mamet is proposing is that there is energy from the playwright that can ...

Summer Investigations(3) Works on the PLT: Cheese

For the last of these recommendations, a work composed in Dutch by a Flemish author, A.J de Ridder, writing under the pseudonym, Willem Elsschot.  To my knowledge, Cheese, has not appeared on any IB Language A: Literature syllabus, and I'd like to make the case that it might be very apt, particularly when people are looking for something to include that is not 'dark and depressing,' a request that often comes up in discussions and workshops. Originally published in 1933, this ...

‘Talk nerdy to me’: Delivering a winning IOP

The challenge of standing before your classmates and not just getting, but holding their attention,  is not a small one; in fact, that part of your audience is even more of a challenge than--yes--the attention of your teacher.  It's true that she or he is going to write down three marks, that this is your IB assessment, that it represents 15% of your overall grade.  But, let's look at it in larger terms. Here is a chance to try out your ...

‘War and Peace’: why not?

If you may have found that summer and all its anticipated pleasures are sometimes not quite meeting your expectations, why not do something daring?  People, not just your peers, but just about everyone who reads at all, probably looks at a novel of the length of Tolstoi's War and Peace as a challenge they just might not want to take on. But, you, on the other hand, might just like to join that club of people with real guts and strong wills ...

Summer Investigations (2) Works on the PLT: The Thief and the Dogs

As we try to balance shorter and longer works in our hopes that students will fully read and engage with the texts in the syllabus, I think we are all inclined to look for works that work;  for works that are reasonably riveting for all of our students and that expand our sense of the complex world we live in, that foster some growth in both understanding and reading skills. People often find that Crime and Punishment, a work of considerable ...

Summer investigations: Works on the PLT (1) ‘Silence’

By Wednesday, June 21, 2017 No tags 0

“Somber, delicate, and startlingly empathetic.” ― John Updike "One of the best historical novels by anyone, ever.” ― David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks "I think about Silence, and Endo’s work more generally, all the time." ― Phil Klay, author of Redeployment and Winner of the 2014 National Book Award. CHEESE. “Silence was in the back of my mind the whole time I was working . When I got stuck, I would close my eyes and ask for Endo’s ...

Moving your literature teachers to be more daring

It is pretty well known that when it comes to choosing the works you will study in your syllabus, teachers are in control, in most cases, of the process. Many considerations play into this: the school situation in terms of boards which have oversight of schools, budgets, personal preferences, and school aims and philosophy. Nevertheless, sometimes teachers can be invited and nudged to go in new directions and sometimes, just sometimes, you can have a role in that. So let’s say there ...