Abstract? General? Vague?–or just not understood?

Here’s something we often find as students try to express their ideas about the literary works they’ve read, and it’s captured in statements like these: ‘The causes of the hero’s death are abstract.’ ‘The town is presented in abstract terms in the poem, rather than with particular features that give the reader a clear sense of the setting. ‘The final outcome for the married couple in the ending of the play seemed to me abstract.’ ‘The moon acts in frightening, abstract ways in Lorca’s plays.’ It’s ...

Beyond Persepolis (2): ‘The Arab of the Future’

Although this work is not on the PLT, you might just want to consider pairing it with Persepolis in Part 1, and including it in Part 4, since the two works could create a more rounded view of growing up in the Middle East.  The leading character is a charming fellow with an unforgettable profile.  The work is originally in French, by Riad Sattouf, and like Persepolis, is published in two volumes with perhaps more to come. There is a fine ...

Writing tips #3: Get to the point!

Some of us (teachers and students alike) are handicapped in delivering what we want to say in the most direct way (17 words) --or to put it another way-- we all have trouble being direct (6 words). Sometimes this weakness arises from a love of words, sometimes from being inattentive, sometimes because we don't really clearly know what we mean to say. Here are some common evasions of directness, clarity and persuasiveness that often appear in IB writing. A good exercise would ...

Writing tips #2: Conventions make readers happy. . .

. . . and a happy reader (examiner) is likely to have a friendly response to what you write.  So as your final effort for 2016, the one where you are determined to 'get better' and eliminate the nasty gremlins in your writing style, give your writing an honest look at these three matters: The convention of punctuating a work's title in your essays and responses to questions. The convention of only talking about one thing at a time, a ...

A contemporary poet for complicated times

I’d like to recommend the poetry of Daljit Nagra as an entrance into the many complex issues that we are all living with these days, the issues of identity, multicultural life, migration. Sometimes literature can open up new avenues of thinking about our place in the world, and I have to say that Nagra’s work is appealing to me on those grounds. I also think that his energy and straightforwardness as they come through in his videos and in his poetry ...

Teaching ‘Broken April’ or ‘Leo Africanus?”

If by chance you are studying either of these texts--Broken April by Ismail Kadare or Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf--I've two suggestions of supplementary materials that can enhance both your work with students and also with their Interactive Orals. I know that Kadare's work is the more popular of the two, and I've had both the experience of including it in Part 1 with great success and of reading Written Assignments that handle it successfully, the latter as an examiner.  The ...

Cloze exercises with a Twist

Here is a little more developed approach to cloze exercises.  I particularly like the aspect of having the students develop their own short contributions.  Many of you probably use this technique with poetry, but here is a nice adaptation to prose.  And possibly short dramatic scenes lend themselves to the same practice. A proposal for work with close reading from Nataliya Tsvetkova, teacher of the Russian A Literature course In order to ensure that students have well understood and remembered the details ...

Facing up to the IA assessment: the dreaded oral

This is a tough one, and there's no doubt about that.  Here are a few bits of good advice selected from various teachers. Collaborative advice from teachers for HL/SL candidates facing the IA for Part 2 Preparation through the year Take good notes in class, mark up your poems or passages, and all of your Part 2 works, color code, so that you have easily accessible materials to revisit for review for both the IOC and the HL discussion. Pace your review, ...

If you’re teaching any of the Greek plays…

...I want to recommend the work of Daniel Mendelsohn, which appears in many places if you Google his name + Greek plays.  His most recent offering in the New York Review of Books: 'How Greek Drama Saved the City' confirms my sense that I can learn a very great deal from him, a great deal that I can pass on to my students and colleagues.  His very readable discussion of how the plays we often teach from this era fit ...

Beyond ‘Persepolis’

Much good work is being done with Persepolis, both in Parts 1 and 4.  Do remind students, however, that including address of both the words and the images is expected in order to recognize the nature of the work. I would like to point out that there are two other works on the PLT that you might consider for Part 1.  The first is Marguerite Abouet's work, Aya, set in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  This is also an autobiographical work and quite ...