More (Yes) on Writing Commentaries

One of the best guides to commentary I have ever seen was produced by Theo Dombroski, then of the UWC Pearson College. I am going to provide you with three of his good hints about commentary with the hope they will give you some help when you face this exercise. These points may be ones you have overlooked or not seen from this particular angle. ‘There is no such thing as a formula for a good commentary.’ This is such good advice ...

How to revise for your Maths exam…

Last month I made some suggestions for a revision plan. Now, having decided you're going to spend a 3 hour session revising Maths, how should you set about it? Since the only thing you will be asked to do in the exam is answer Maths questions, then surely the best way to revise is ... do lots of past paper questions! And you need to have the answers, or the mark scheme, to hand. But it's what you learn from answering ...

Better and Better Essays #3

From a practicing journalist, one who has been through the IB Literature course (with an IB outcome of 7), three final hints to improve your essays. If you put into practice not only these, but the suggestions in the two previous ‘Better and Better Essays,’ you are likely to really raise your game as you face the whirlwind of essays demanded of you at the end of the IB May or November sessions. Hint #1: How to edit more ...

Better and Better Essays(#2)

'Sculpting' your paragraphs so that a reader really wants to hear what you have to say. Yes, it's the examiner's job to read whatever you write, but why not make that an inviting task?  It's probably true that when you see great blocks of print (long paragraphs) you are less enticed to read on; learning to write effective paragraphs can invite the reader in. There really is a visual dimension to a piece of writing. What do good journalists (who want to ...

Better and Better Essays (#1)

There are two situations in your Language and Literature courses where you are asked to deliver your ideas in essays: one kind of essay will let you plan, revise and present your work.  The other essay will be written under timed examination conditions. And, during your two years, you will, of course, be writing both kinds of essays.  Actually, writing a good essay is something all of us who care about writing work to master throughout our lives.  So now's ...

Which Is It?

If you have been or are going to be studying the work, L'Etranger by Albert Camus, one question that is very likely to come up as you discuss this novel is 'what is the "correct" translation into English of this title?' You might be interested to take a look at the following article from The Guardian. The issue of translation is a many-faceted one and the background to what your edition will be titled is addressed by Alice Kaplan. And if ...

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 ...

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, ...

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 ...

Prepare Your Body and Your Mind for the Exams

This will probably be my last blog before you dive into the exams in May. I hope your revision has gone well: there's still time to go over more past papers to become as familiar as possible with the way the examiners ask questions. And don't forget that, in Maths exams, there's only one mark for the correct answer – all the other marks are for working and intermediate answers. So train yourself to write as much as you can ...