Being human: how the drama genre means everything

"Meanwhile I want to go on talking to you as freely and intimately about what we live for and die for as if I knew you better than anyone else whom you know." English teachers want to open your eyes to what it means to be human and so do playwrights. Nowhere is the interaction between text, audience and purpose more immediate than the theatre. During your two years you may well be studying drama and, I recommend seeing any live theatre. The house lights down, ...

There is no true meaning to a text

How to approach the challenge of analysis In Language and Literature you will most probably be presented with texts that are from other cultures and time periods to your own. In Northern Australia the Tiwi people identify this with one word, Ngaruwanajirra, which means different people, from different clans, from different places, we come together as one. It will seem a challenge to find meaning but all people are connected. As you encounter creators and subjects of texts you need to ...

Paper 2: Choosing your questions and texts wisely

As an IB examiner for Paper 2 I often read very eloquent and promising responses that are hindered by poor question and/or text choices. Here’s some tips to avoid this. The questions The actual questions change every year, there are, however, certain aspects of a text that are frequently asked about, these include: How a writer presents characters and how they communicate and reveal their thoughts, feelings, and motivations to the audience.How writers offer their thematic concerns, ideas, and attitudes to the audience. The ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...