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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

The Richness of IB Global Connections

It's useful for us to remember that the Language A courses are taught in a whole panoply of languages with different critical approaches. Very often, in workshops that include teachers of the Language A programs working in a variety of languages, good ideas emerge that can be used by everyone.  Here is one that might enliven or deepen your approach to close reading, from Nataliya Tsetkova: A proposal for work with close reading from Nataliya Tsetkova, teacher of the Russian A Literature ...

Coming to Terms with Some Greek Terms (1)

Currently, there are some critical terms that many IB students are using in their essays. These terms are often used when writing about narratives such as novels and short stories, though they also occur in drama. Still, some of you might not be using these – although you are referring to the things they signify. It's possible that you might raise the quality of your discussion by using them – and using them accurately, which is not always the case in  ...

Two Sites You Might Usefully Explore

Workshops are a two-way street, as we know.  From time to time I pick up very good hints from participants.  I also have used one of these sites when I want to give students a better sense of the writers they are studying.  Neither may be new to you, but perhaps not. The first of these could be a boon to anyone teaching drama in a part of the syllabus, particularly Part 3, the study of genres.  Many of us have ...

Are Memes Relevant to Studying Printed or Digital Texts?

The larger version of this question is really, 'do we need to have a good working knowledge of what memes are in order to usefully expand a sense of our audience, our IB students?  Does such knowledge have some relevance to such new textualities as fan fiction and texts published online using various composition strategies?' It's interesting that, in the last revision of the Language A courses,  various forms of digital texts were suggested as one of the options schools might ...

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

This wonderful title comes from a book about translation recommended a while back by a colleague. It’s a stimulating set of short essays by David Bellos, a distinguished translator, written in a style that makes many of the facets of translation easily accessible—which is why I like using some of the essays, or parts of them, with students. As we study works in translation, it seems a significant omission if we do not take a little time to address the ...

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 ...