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 ...

Venezuela: How and Why Did It All Go So Wrong?

Venezuela was, until relatively recently, one of the richest countries in Latin America. Due to its vast oil reserves, and the revenue they brought in, they were able fund food subsidies health care and education programmes. Under the presidency of Hugo Chavez (1999–2013) unemployment and poverty halved and personal incomes doubled. Chavez nationalized the oil industry and used the profits for welfare programmes. Chavez dies in 2013 and was replaced Nicolas Maduro, who continued with the spending programme. However, the price ...

The Year of the Periodic Table

In this post I cover some principles of TOK, NOS and the learner profile whilst focusing on our favourite chemistry friend, the periodic table. 2019 has been officially designated ‘The Year of the Periodic Table’. I often wonder who makes these decisions but this one was made at the highest level, by the UN – so I guess we can’t argue with that! Why 2019 though? Why not 2018, 2020 or another year? Well, the reasoning behind it is that this marks ...

Ancient Babylonians Do It Again!

Babylon – in ancient Mesopotamia, now Iraq – hosted one of the earliest recorded civilisations. Partly because they became a trading nation, they developed some of the earliest mathematical techniques. We already know that they were aware of what we now call Pythagoras' Theorem (in a numeric sense, since algebra didn't exist), but the some of the secrets of a tablet known as Plimpton 322 have been unravelled to show that they had developed a highly sophisticated form of trigonometry, ...

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 ...

Moral Machines

Have you seen this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?=21&v=XCO8ET66xE4 You'll find it on this page http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ at the MIT website, 'A platform for gathering a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence, such as self-driving cars. We show you moral dilemmas, where a driverless car must choose the lesser of two evils, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians. As an outside observer, you judge which outcome you thing is more acceptable.  You can then see how your responses compare with those of other ...

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 ...

A Cautionary Tale

A week or so ago I read a BBC blog post that I thought I should share on this blog.  Then a few days later I read the same story on Petapixel.com, a photography blog.  I have also found it on CNN.com,  Independent.ie, Metro.co.uk, and aplus.com. I'm sure there are more, but that's enough to be going on with! Here's the story:  Shubnum Khan is a South African author (Onion Tears, Penguin), artist (IG: shubnumkhan), freelance writer (Huffpost SA, O magazine, Times, Marie ...

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, ...