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 ...

‘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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Misfortunate misdirections: Literature in Translation

IB Examiners of components that involve works in translation become familiar with the most frequently included works.  And those works, among a few others, are Ibsen's A Doll's House, Camus' The Outsider, Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  What follows are some of the most common ways in which students head in less than productive directions as they choose to develop topics or responses involving these works. A Doll's House:  One of the most ...