Recent Posts by Hannah Tyson

Essays about Character: Analysis, Not Re-description

In your earlier years, writing about characters by re-describing them in your own words was quite acceptable, but as an IB diploma student that won't work.  First, you need to change your thinking from 'character' to 'characterization.' This last is the kind of critical thinking you need to engage in: 'how does the writer create the character' rather than 'who is this character.'  Writing about characterization is something you can usefully do in essays and oral presentations and get good ...

Digital Theatre

Following up on last month's post about the suggested option, 'Literature and Film,' which focuses on adaptations from text to film, here's another suggestion for those teaching plays in far-flung places where live theatre is not a matter of easy access. Again, this allows individual students to view the materials on their own time, and allows you to make the best use of class meeting time. A workshop participant introduced us to 'Digital Theatre Plus,' a site not only for viewing ...

Literature and Film

Currently, 'Literature and Film' is one of the most popular 'suggested options' under Part 4: Options (a bit confusing, to say the least, though it all shakes out as 'Free Choice', really). There are a lot of great ideas coming from creative classrooms and here are a few from workshop participants which you might not have considered. Madame Bovary is not an easy text for many of today's students, but using film can function as a complement to reading the novel.   ...

Humor and Irony, Elusive Terms

In my own classroom, we often struggle with clarifying what constitutes humor in writing, how it is to be handled critically and how to write successfully about it. One (of many) complementary problems is being sure what we mean by irony.   These terms have long been a problem in the history of criticism and separating what is comic in a classical sense, what is ironic, what is funny  gives all of us problems with precision. To help my students, I created ...

The Writer, or the Speaker, the Voice, the Persona?

Over the years, all of us have struggled with the vexed question of 'who is speaking' in a poem or in a first person narrative, or in an autobiographical essay.  And of course it troubles our students as they read literature, often especially with poetry.  You all have your own ways of negotiating this issue. One of the most effective anecdotes I have found is one I have had around for some years, since Robert Pack wrote it and the ...

Advice for Successful Individual Oral Commentaries

At some point, sooner or later, whether you are a HL or SL student, you'll see that IOC coming toward you.  You'll be thinking such things as 'how am I going to get through this?' or 'what can I do to prepare?'  Your teachers will have offered you a good many tips, some of which you took on board and others that have slipped away over time–or weren't actually heard.  Teachers have diverse opinions about how best to do this, ...

If You’re Teaching Writing about Africa. . .

. . .you might find this wry commentary by Binyavanga Wainaina interesting.  This piece was published in 2009 and maybe we–writers and readers–are well beyond this kind of thinking.  And maybe not. I have found the essay useful in class to remind all of us how easy it is to fall into facile stereotypical thinking about this culture, or for that matter, any culture. And for some of us it's summer and time for some material that is not read ...

A Wider World (Part 1)

Assuming that you're on this site because you're interested in the kind of reading and writing that your literature and language courses may or may not involve, these three (or maybe more) blog entries will be looking outside and inside of conventional 'English class' materials to provide new directions and unpack some older ones. Widening our sense of graphic novels  Take a look at these four graphic narratives. A Game for Swallows Born in the midst of the Lebanese war when the city ...

Good Ideas for Interactive Orals (Part 2)

Here's another approach shared by Wendy Boisonnault and Arlene Lee from Sir Winston Churchill in Calgary. If you haven't encountered Andree Chedid's From Sleep Unbound, you might want to consider it for your syllabus.  Here's a brief summary from  Ohio University Press: From Sleep Unbound portrays the life of Samya, an Egyptian woman who is taken at age 15 from her Catholic boarding school and forced into a loveless and humiliating marriage. Eventually sundered from every human attachment, Samya lapses into despair ...

Good Ideas for Interactive Orals in the Literature Course (Part 1)

Thanks to the energy and inventiveness of two teachers at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada,  I'm happy to share this post and later, a second, with those of you who might be looking for some productive strategies to address the important matters of context and culture. As you will know, the success of the Reflective Statement (and its 3 marks) depends on students providing for their peers a substantial immersion in contextual and cultural matters related ...