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 ...

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 ...

A Theme? A Motif? Which Is It?!

One of the cranky little issues that often (almost always) arises when you are trying to write about the leading ideas or stylistic choices in a piece of literature—as you often must in your courses that involve this kind of art—is when to use the term 'theme' and when to use 'motif.'  And it's no wonder. However, if you decide to settle this in your own head once and for all, and search out definitions either digitally or in print, ...

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 ...

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 ...

Summer Investigations(3) Works on the PLT: Cheese

For the last of these recommendations, a work composed in Dutch by a Flemish author, A.J de Ridder, writing under the pseudonym, Willem Elsschot.  To my knowledge, Cheese, has not appeared on any IB Language A: Literature syllabus, and I'd like to make the case that it might be very apt, particularly when people are looking for something to include that is not 'dark and depressing,' a request that often comes up in discussions and workshops. Originally published in 1933, this ...

‘Talk nerdy to me’: Delivering a winning IOP

The challenge of standing before your classmates and not just getting, but holding their attention,  is not a small one; in fact, that part of your audience is even more of a challenge than--yes--the attention of your teacher.  It's true that she or he is going to write down three marks, that this is your IB assessment, that it represents 15% of your overall grade.  But, let's look at it in larger terms. Here is a chance to try out your ...

Summer Investigations (2) Works on the PLT: The Thief and the Dogs

As we try to balance shorter and longer works in our hopes that students will fully read and engage with the texts in the syllabus, I think we are all inclined to look for works that work;  for works that are reasonably riveting for all of our students and that expand our sense of the complex world we live in, that foster some growth in both understanding and reading skills. People often find that Crime and Punishment, a work of considerable ...