Recent Posts by Hannah Tyson

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 ...

Sound should make sense: better poetry commentaries

Sound should make sense: just as the poet uses sound to enrich the meaning as well as the emotional and pleasurable aspects of poems, so should you try to write sensibly about the linking of sound to meaning in your commentaries.  What does the poet gain by manipulating the sound possibilities of language? One of the challenges candidates face when so writing about poetry is how they can usefully address the sound effects that are both present in and intended by ...

Last minute hints: Commentary

Right about this time for the May session, I always make such a list for the particular group of students with whom I've spent the year. The following is a sample, based on both examining Paper 1 and my own students' performance. What I note are recurrent misconceptions and poor practices.  I've included a sample of just one below, and I find that the approaching examination date seems to clear their heads a bit, and they are ready for good ...

Abstract? General? Vague?–or just not understood?

Here’s something we often find as students try to express their ideas about the literary works they’ve read, and it’s captured in statements like these: ‘The causes of the hero’s death are abstract.’ ‘The town is presented in abstract terms in the poem, rather than with particular features that give the reader a clear sense of the setting. ‘The final outcome for the married couple in the ending of the play seemed to me abstract.’ ‘The moon acts in frightening, abstract ways in Lorca’s plays.’ It’s ...

Beyond Persepolis (2): ‘The Arab of the Future’

Although this work is not on the PLT, you might just want to consider pairing it with Persepolis in Part 1, and including it in Part 4, since the two works could create a more rounded view of growing up in the Middle East.  The leading character is a charming fellow with an unforgettable profile.  The work is originally in French, by Riad Sattouf, and like Persepolis, is published in two volumes with perhaps more to come. There is a fine ...

Another approach to Literature and Film

For Part 4, many of us think of linking longer works such as novels to feature films.  However, another imaginative and productive approach might be this one, suggested by a workshop participant: poetry and short videos. YouTube, in particular, provides many options for creating this kind of linkage.  For example, you might want to create an anthology of poems about animals as one of your works. Blake's 'The Tyger' always seems a success with students with its mysterious tone and hypnotic ...

Sometimes it’s fine to be ‘fresh’

Though being 'fresh' as in "Don't be fresh with me, young man, 'said his mother curtly'  is perhaps a little archaic in usage, working to get your writing to be 'fresh' is a goal worth aspiring to and will offend no one.  Our previous 3 sets of tips on writing have addressed some important and basic ways to improve the ways you present your writing, but this 4th one moves to a different but equally important level.  And it has ...

Narratives of a different kind

One of the suggested options in Part 4 is digital texts, something not many have taken up.  I'm providing a link here to 'Tailspin,' a narrative I picked up from a course described on the MLA commons.  I think you might find it interesting and usable for 2 reasons: it deals with some intergenerational issues, particularly empathy, and it raises some very interesting provocations about the nature of narrative technique, particularly the linear versus the broken, and here the combination ...

Writing tips #3: Get to the point!

Some of us (teachers and students alike) are handicapped in delivering what we want to say in the most direct way (17 words) --or to put it another way-- we all have trouble being direct (6 words). Sometimes this weakness arises from a love of words, sometimes from being inattentive, sometimes because we don't really clearly know what we mean to say. Here are some common evasions of directness, clarity and persuasiveness that often appear in IB writing. A good exercise would ...