IB Oral Commentary English IV AP/IB Mrs. Snipes
General Information: • 15% of the Language A1 diploma requirements • Preparation time = 20 minutes • Recording time = 10 – 15 minutes • Candidates are provided with an extract for commentary from one of the Part II works: Hamlet, Macbeth, poetry of Keats, or poetry of Frost • Guiding questions will be provided by the teacher • The commentary is recorded and externally evaluated/assessed
What IB Says About Commentary: • “Commentary” refers to a close detailed analysis of writing, showing an understanding of both what is said and how it is said. It requires students to demonstrate close detailed knowledge and appreciation of: (1) elements such as subject matter and theme, (2) the means (literary and style technique) by which these elements are explored and presented, and (3) the effects of such exploration, or presentation, for the development of the work as a whole, and for the reader’s understanding
Basically, you should be able to: • Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of the works studied • Distinguish details and elements that are significant to the overall purpose of the work from those that are not • Deduce meaning and make valid interpretations from relevant textual material
Discern, where appropriate, the writer’s particular view(s) or attitude(s) toward the issues he/she raises, explores or alludes to • Appreciate the role played by language and style (including diction, imagery, symbols, tone, sound, and sentence structure) in achieving the writer’s purpose • Understand and discuss how, and to what purpose, elements such as characters, events, situations, and settings are created and to what effect
Discuss the use of relevant literary techniques in a manner that shows understanding of how they create and develop meaning in the text • Become aware of the ways in which writers use the features of particular genres for effect • Compare and contrast in effective ways • Make consistent and effective use of the most persuasive textual evidence to illustrate claims
Offer individual insights and independent perspectives on the works studied • Appreciate as fully as possible the close relationship between form and content WHEW!
Step I: • Read the passage/poem carefully three times: 1. silently, for first impression of total effect 2. aloud—noting shifts of pattern, thought, voice, tone, flow 3. again, to reinforce or adjust first impression
Step 2: • Establish how this extract fits into the larger work: what is this excerpt doing on its own? In the whole? • Ask yourself: why did the teacher/examiner choose this passage?
Step 3: • Go through CLOSE READING questions: WHO is speaking? TO WHOM? WHAT? WHY? (Situation, purpose) HOW? (tone, style) PATTERNS? (structure, form) TENSION? (contrasts, conflicts, ironies) SO WHAT? (dominant effect)
STOP BAD FIT Symbol Theme Organization Progression Big 3 (speaker, audience, situation) Atmosphere Diction Figurative language Imagery Tone
Dramatic context: how does the passage build on the existing dramatic tension? • Unresolved questions: what don’t you understand the passage or its context? • Personal response: what part of the passage stands out to you? • How is the passage structured? • What are the most significant patterns? • What are the most significant stylistic devices? • Is the passage consistent throughout? Is there anything unresolved?
If you were to explain the excerpt to a friend, what would you say? Keep it simple but include everything that your consideration of the passage has revealed to be important.
Step 4: • Compose and be ready to deliver the commentary: make notes and organize the structure of the commentary • Look again at the SO WHAT and taking this dominant effect as your thesis, select relevant details of evidence to support your argument and to include in your commentary • Be sure to include no detail without relating it to its specific effect and place it in the whole
Organize your commentary in any way that suits your argument, but let the passage or poem guide you to the shaping of your commentary
Caveats: • There is not one formula • This is an exploration and not a “Watch me, Mom!” display of all you know • Don’t forget that the characters are fictional; the writer is/was not—therefore focus on authorial intent and literary features and techniques used to achieve that intent
Guiding Questions: • The purpose of the guiding questions is to offer candidates a starting point for organizing the commentary • They will help you explore such aspects as the presentation & role of characters relationships themes use of language significance of the extract to the development of the larger work effects of structure, style, technique
Guiding questions should not: refer to fine detail, or any particular interpretation of the extract restrict the candidate’s ability to explore independently all significant aspects dealt with in the extract
Types of Guiding Questions: • In what ways do you think this extract defines the role of X, a character in the extract? What do you think the extract reveals about X’s state of mind? • What is established in this opening passage? By what means has this been achieved? • To what extent is our perception of the relationship between X and Y developed in this passage? • What is the primary significance of this passage?
Which literary/stylistic techniques are used and to what effect? • What are the effects of the dominant images in this extract? • What are the dominant themes in this extract?
Delivery and Subsequent Discussion: • Candidates will be allowed to deliver their commentaries without interruption • Teachers may not distract candidates or attempt to rearrange their commentaries • Teachers will only intervene if a candidate panics and needs positive encouragement or if he/she is off target or is finding it difficult to continue
Teachers may engage in a discussion with candidates to probe further into their knowledge and understanding of the work or topic • Teachers may inquire about a candidate’s understanding of specific words, phrases, and allusions • Teachers must be satisfied with the candidate’s understanding of the relationship between the extract and the whole work
Criterion: • Knowledge and interpretation of extract of work(s) • Interpretation and personal response--5 • Presentation (organization) • Use of language • Each category worth up to a score of 5
Some tips: • For Hamlet and Macbeth, don’t forget about dramatic features as well as poetic/stylistic devices; for Frost and Keats, remember poetic/stylistic devices, structure, etc. • Refer to specific line numbers in your analysis • Avoid a colloquial/informal tone
More tips: • Stay within the context of the passage: “You must not be tempted to discuss everything you know about the whole text. Your commentary must focus on the specific extract that you are given for discussion. You should relate it to the work only where relevant—for example, to establish context, or discuss its importance to the work as a whole” (IB Handbook)
More tips: • Avoid doing a line by line analysis • Organize your commentary by idea, not in the order of the extract • For Hamlet, remember to go beyond just translating. For example, if you are doing “to be or not to be,” you need to go past just saying, “in this extract, Hamlet is debating whether or not he should commit suicide. He doesn’t know if he should exist or not exist.” A way to extend beyond a translation is to do just what you do for everything else you read: analyze technique. Example: “Shakespeare highlights Hamlet’s unbalanced mental state by incorporating many examples of antithesis into this soliloquy. The most obvious of these is ‘to be or not to be’ in line 1” (and then develop from there).
Final thought: • Relax! I know; it’s hard to actually relax after reading this looooooong list of tips and listening to Mrs. Snipes drone on and on about it. But remember how capable you actually are. It’s good to feel some nerves, but remember that at the end of the day, it’s only a test. While your IOC is an important part of IB English, your score will not define your life or who you are. The process is more important than the end result. Simply going through an assessment like this will make you a better communicator and more interesting person. Remember that not all rewards in life come in the form of a grade.