Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kicking FOA butt all over the place in IB DP Language and Literature Parts 1 and 2

The Further Oral Activity (FOA)

If you, like many Nardvark fans, are in IB Language and Literature, it's quite likely that at this moment in time you are getting ready to do your FOAs.

FOAs are part of your internal assessment (IA) for this course, along with your Independent Oral Commentary (IOC -- phew! What's with all these acronyms, IB?)

The good thing about FOAs is that they are not as formal or as frightening as IOCs. IOCs are recorded and moderated by IB examiners, while FOAs are marked by your teacher and the IB trusts your teacher to mark them honestly. But the fact that no mysterious IB examiners will see or listen to your FOA, and it's just you, your classmates, and your beloved English teacher, makes it less daunting, doesn't it?

Another difference between FOAs and IOCs is that FOAs are less structured. You can choose pretty much any format. You can do a straight presentation if that's what floats your boat, or you can do something more creative, like a talk show, an interview, a debate, a vlog post, a podcast, a TED talk... the list goes on. However, you still need to show your understanding of the text(s) and topic, and of how language forms meaning.

FOAs take place in both Part 1 and Part 2 of the course. They are based on the language parts of the course, unlike IOCs which take place during Part 4 and are based on literature.

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, you get at least two opportunities to do your FOA and your teacher simply selects your best mark to add to your IA mark.

So how do you kick FOA butt?

To answer that, let's look at the marking criteria:

Unpacking the FOA Marking Criteria

Criterion A: Knowledge and understanding of the text(s) and subject matter or extract is worth ten marks. That's one third of the total for the FOA, which is 30.

In order to do well in Criterion A, you need to demonstrate that you know and understand the text or texts that your FOA is based on. This has to be a text studied in class or assigned by your teacher; you can't just pick any random text to do your FOA on.

You also have to demonstrate understanding of how your chosen text relates to the subject chosen. In Part 1, the subject might be Language and Gender, or perhaps Language and Belief, or even Language and the Individual. In Part 2 it might be Textual Bias, Stereotypes, or Arts and Entertainment, to name a few. So whatever your unit or topic is, you have to show how your text is related to it.

Criterion B is also worth ten of your possible 30 marks for the FOA.

This criterion is measuring your work in terms of what is sort of the essence of this course, or how language creates meaning. To do well here, you have to look at specific textual features, stylistic features, and words or phrases that relate to your topic and explain how they affect the audience (with respect to the topic.) So for example, if your topic is Language of Gender and you're looking at a magazine cover that seems targeted at girls, like this one, you'd want to talk about some of the stylistic features and textual features that are aimed at girls specifically:
Stylistic feature: there is lots of pink on this cover. All girls like pink, right?
Textual feature: there are lots of words that have connotations of prettiness, like "sparkle," "shine," "cute," and "beauty." All girls want to be pretty, right? There's a pun in "DIY" -- all girls say something is "to die for" when they like it, and plus all girls like to "do it themselves" (but only things like crafts and decorations, because that's what girls are good at.)
Criterion C is pretty easy to get high marks in, but it's only worth five of the possible 30, so it's weighted lower than the first two criteria.

To be "effectively organized," your FOA has to have a clear introduction or starting and a clear conclusion or ending, and the ideas or parts have to flow logically from one to the next. It has to be coherent, in that it makes sense to your audience, and it has to be effective, in that your audience learns something from it.

Criterion D is all about language. It's also pretty easy to get high marks here, if you practice your FOA before presenting it so you're confident, but it, too, is only worth five marks.

By "clear" they mean your audience can understand your meaning, and by "appropriate" they mean you use language that it's okay to use in a school setting and especially use correct subject-specific vocabulary. Your grammar and sentence construction has to be correct. The last sentence in band five (which is what you're going for, right?) is the most confusing for students. It means basically that you speak in the appropriate style for your chosen task. So if you're doing a vlog aimed at your fellow teenagers, you should speak with a style similar to actual teenage vloggers. If you're doing an academic presentation, you should speak with an academic style. "Register" here means degree of formality, so in the first instance, you'd be using a low register with lots of colloquial language, and in the second you'd use a formal register with lots of academic language.

Follow these steps to make sure your FOA hits all the marking criteria:

1. Make sure you know what your topic is and select a text with your teacher's approval.
2. Draft a plan for your FOA and run it by your teacher or a really clever classmate to make sure you're on the right track.
3. Practice your FOA for your mom, best friend, younger siblings, cats, or mirror until you're confident. If you can practice it for a classmate, make sure you get feedback based on the marking criteria above.

So there it is, FOA butt-kicking in a nutshell.

If you have an FOA coming up, please post your idea or plan in the comments so other IB students can either bash it or rave about it. Come on, don't be shy!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Descriptive Writing for IGCSE First Language Exam

A massive Nardvark fan wrote,
I like your essays very much and i need your help in this igcse first language question its about descriptive writing  
Q:Describe a group of people at work 
I hope you reply back 
Please and thanks

First of all, let me just say thank you. The Nardvark is very excited to hear that you like his essays. 

Despite your complete lack of punctuation, massive Nardvark fan, that's actually a good question. The Nardvark has posted a lot about narrative compositions but not so much for descriptive compositions. Well, actually, the Nardvark has made a lot of unpalatable sandwiches while his alter ego, the Nerdvark, did the actual posting, but that's irrelevant to today's post, which is:

Tips for Descriptive Writing -- IGCSE First Language Directed Writing and Composition paper

1. In this paper, narrative means a story, and descriptive means NOT a story. For descriptive writing, you do not need a plot, a conflict, characters, or any of that other stuff you need for narrative writing. 

2. So if you're not supposed to tell a story, what ARE you supposed to do? You're supposed to create an image in the reader's head. Think of it as the exposition part of a story: you have to set the scene, but don't go on to tell the story. Or think of it as a page out of a novel that just seems to be one big, long paragraph about the main character's grandmother's moles. In fact, when you're reading a novel, you're probably tempted to skip over those pages. But if you're in IGCSE First Language, DON'T, for the love of Kevin Spacey, skip over the long, chunky descriptive passages! Read them carefully and try to emulate the style in your descriptive writing tasks.

Whew, tip number two was a doozy. And you still probably aren't really sure how to do descriptive writing. "What do you mean, create an image in the reader's mind, you crazy Nardvark?" you are probably asking by now.

Okay, so tip number...

3. Imagine you're standing in the middle of the scene you're describing. Without moving from your location, look around you. Describe everything.

4. Use imagery. Imagery comes in many forms: as well as describing what you see (visual imagery), you should also describe what you hear (aural imagery), smell (olfactory imagery), feel (tactile imagery), and taste (gustatory imagery.) To learn all about these five kinds of sensory imagery, click here.

5. Use adjectives. So instead of saying there's a house, say there's a two-story sky-blue house. See? You're already getting a mental image of the house.

6. Use figurative language, like metaphors, similes, and onomatopoeia. For example, instead of saying someone's sweater was uncomfortable, say it was like wearing a walrus skin. See? You can really imagine a scratchy, hot, heavy uncomfortable sweater.

7. Use imaginative vocabulary. For instance, instead of saying someone ran, say they sprinted, jogged, flew, scampered, or trotted. See? Each of these words gives you a different picture of how they ran.

8. DON'T use vague words. So, instead of saying someone is nice, say they're generous, thoughtful, or kind-hearted. 

9. DON'T use cliches, or over-used words. For instance, instead of saying someone's sleeping like a baby (Come on: anyone who's ever had a baby knows that babies wake up screaming at all hours of the night, anyway!) say they're sleeping peacefully with a calm expression.

Try this descriptive writing exercise

Look at an object in your work space. Without saying what it is, describe it thoroughly -- describe what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like, what it sounds like when you throw it against the wall (theoretically), and what it tastes like (possibly what you imagine it tastes like. The Nardvark doesn't want you to get salmonella for the purpose of this exercise!) Use adjectives, figurative language, and imaginative vocabulary in your description. Post your description on your favourite social network and ask your followers if they can guess what you're describing. If they guess easily, you win! Do this with your classmates so everyone can practice their descriptive writing. 

So, patient Nardvark fan, that finally brings us to your original question: "Describe a group of people at work." Easy! You probably work at McDonald's, so tell us all about those pimply, uncomfortable uniform wearing, non-English speaking coworkers of yours. But wait; since you're a student, you might not have a job, in which case this is going to be difficult for you. Have you ever been to "take your kid to work day" with your mom, dad, granny, or weird predatory uncle? If not, and you still don't have a job (get a job, kid!) then what you need to do is find an excuse to lurk around in the door of the teacher staff room for about ten minutes and drink in everything you see/hear/smell/taste/feel. Then run and jot it all down in your English notebook in point form. Now you have plenty to write descriptively about.

Think you've got what it takes to ace this practice question? Help a fellow Nardvarkian out and post your descriptive writing in the comments below!

Friday, March 17, 2017

IB English Commentary -- Meeting at Night by Robert Browning

A student wrote the Nardvark with the following question:

My name is Laura and I'm a grade 10 IB student this year. In my English course, we are currently analyzing poems about love before we write our in-class commentaries. I was wondering if there was any way you could help me analyze my poems more in depth, or if you had any tips for writing a commentary quickly and effectively (as I only have one 75 minute period to get it done).
-Laura, Canada

The Nardvark, always eager to help, went straight to Sparknotes, where he promptly got distracted by a clickbait article on the sidebar featuring a picture of pretty actresses wearing cute summer dresses. 

Meanwhile, the Nerdvark wrote this:

Hi Laura, thanks for your letter. I’m going to take a look at 

“Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning.

Since you are in grade 10 IB, I assume that means you are not yet in DP but you’re studying the skills you’ll need in DP. Keep in mind that in DP IB, whether you’re studying lang and lit or literature, you’ll get to study a bunch of poems by one poet rather than a bunch of poems with one theme. Your Individual Oral Commentary may be on one of these poems. Meanwhile, it’s important to master the skills of commentary because in literature, your paper 1 exam will give you an unseen poem to write a commentary on, in 1.5 hours at SL or 2 hours at HL.

So with the IOCs in mind, let’s look first at your poet and get a bit of context or background information. Robert Browning wrote “Meeting at Night” while he was wooing another poet, Elizabeth Barrett. Elizabeth’s father didn’t approve of her relationship with Robert, so they had to meet secretly. “Meeting at Night” brilliantly captures a clandestine meeting between secret lovers. Eventually Liz and Rob got married and she became Elizabeth Barrett Browning. You may have heard of her from such famous poems as “How do I Love Thee? Let me Count the Ways.”

Now, unlike an essay, a commentary does not have to follow a formal structure, but IB does give you a mark for “organization,” so it’s not a good idea to just ramble about the poem. You do need to structure your commentary in some way, and give it a sense of focus and unity. Also, your paragraphs should each be structured around a main point and fully developed. I recommend the PEEL structure to paragraphs.

Overall, to give your commentary focus, I recommend starting with an introduction that gives the meaning and message of the poem, and then going through the poem either line by line or by looking at the most effective poetic devices, and showing how each point you make ties in to the poem’s meaning and message.

Before we can do that, we need to read through the poem several times.

The first time you read a poem, write a little note of your first thoughts or your first reaction up in the top right corner.

Then read the poem again and try to get an overall idea of the tone/mood/atmosphere and general meaning. It helps at this point to highlight the words or phrases that establish the mood.

Then you read the poem again, this time using your keen eye for poetic devices. As you find them, highlight them and jot down what type of device they are (e.g. alliteration, simile.)

By now you should be starting to get a handle on the deeper meaning of the poem, and its message. Write them down.

Now read through the poem again, and note down the effect of each of the literary devices you highlighted last time. Also, look for any sort of overall, sweeping devices. For example, some poems are extended metaphors; some use lots of imagery, and some have a lot of sound devices that contribute to their mood or meaning.

Now you should plan out your commentary. Some students find it beneficial to start with a mind map showing how each of the devices connect to the meaning or message of the poem. Others prefer to do a linear, outline-style plan. Whatever works for you, do it. Is this really necessary, Nardvark, you might ask? Nardvark doesn’t know; he doesn’t plan anything. That’s why Nardvark is still in grade five and he’s thirty-six years old. But according to Nerdvark, research shows that students who plan their written responses ALWAYS get higher marks. Remember, part of the mark for commentary, either IOC or paper 1, is for organization.

Since you, Laura, are studying ten poems, I’d recommend writing a plan out for each one in preparation for your exam. Then at exam time, you’ll be able to sit down and jot down your plan super quickly from memory. That gives you plenty of time to write out your commentary.

Now, Nerdvark promised that he’d explain this poem for you. So let’s start by looking at Nerdvark’s annotations:
"Meeting at Night" by Robert Browning annotations -- if you can't quite make it out, try clicking on it for a larger sized image.

Here's Nerdvark's quick interpretation of "Meeting at Night" based on his annotations:

The poem is about a nighttime meeting between secret lovers. In the first stanza, the narrator is in a boat traveling across the sea and then reaches a cove (a hidden beach) and pulls the boat up onto the sand. In the second stanza, he crosses the beach and three fields, reaches a farm, and signals his lover through the window pane by tapping. She lights a match and welcomes him in a whisper and then they embrace.

The tone of the poem is nervous as the narrator is sneaking around at night, clandestinely meeting his lover in a secluded farm house. Some of the words and phrases that add to this secretive tone are:  "gray," "black," "half-moon" -- the poem takes place at night, probably just after dusk as the moon is "yellow... large and low." The atmosphere is dark and quiet; he's being very sneaky, and his nervousness is evident through the "startled" waves that "leap" -- this personification gives the nervous feeling of the narrator to his surroundings. The narrator first enters the poem in line five with "As I gain," giving the poem a bit of a first-person narrative effect. It's like the narrator is relaying an experience to the reader. There is some alliteration in line five of the 'p' sound in "pushing prow" which could mimic the sound of the waves hitting the wooden hull of the boat, the paddle dipping into the water, or the nervous narrator's pumping heart. The next line has sibilance in "its speed i' the slushing sand" which could mimic the quiet sound of the little waves lapping the beach and the boat hitting the wet sand at the edge. As the boat hits the shore, its speed is "quenched," as the narrator's desire to be in his lover's arms will soon too be quenched.

The pace is a little faster in the second stanza via short words with light vowel sounds: "a mile of warm sea-scented beach" trips off the tongue as the speaker is getting closer to his lover and starts presumably striding quickly across the beach and through the fields. The farm "appears," it seems almost magically, like when you have to go through a lot of work and cross many obstacles and then your goal seems to suddenly be right in front of you. The onomatopoeia of "tap" is a bit of aural imagery; the reader can hear the light sound of the narrator signalling his lover through the window pane. The scratch and blue spurt relay aural and visual imagery of the exact moment the match is lit from within the farm house; as after a long, arduous struggle, sometimes the moment you reach your goal seems very quick. There is sibilance in line 11: "voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears," mimicking the whisper of his lover's greeting and maintaining the quiet, secretive atmosphere of the poem. The last line uses synecdoche -- the hearts, symbols of love, represent the two lovers as they embrace. Their heart beats are louder than the voice of the narrator's lover. This hyperbole enhances the sense of nervousness as the clandestine "meeting" from the title finally takes place.  

The poem has a unique rhyme scheme: ABCCBA which could mimic the idea of going in and out, as the narrator has to travel so far to meet with his lover and then presumably has to make the same journey in reverse before morning; since the rhyme scheme is repeated, we get the impression that these meetings are repeated. The poem is short, like the short period of time that the lovers get to spend together during their nighttime meetings. The rhythm is more or less iambic tetrameter, which gives the poem a light, fun feel and also mimics the narrator's fluttering heartbeat as he nears his clandestine destination. All over, the rhyme, rhythm, meter, and euphonic sounds of the words combine to make "Meeting at Night" enjoyable to read, enhancing the pleasurable feeling of the narrator as he nears his lover.

"Meeting at Night" is not just about the lengths one poet went to to meet his lover for a secret meeting; it is about the lengths we're all willing to go to in order to reach our goals. For this reason, you could say "Meeting at Night" is an extended metaphor, in which the sea, beach, and fields represent obstacles we must tackle as we work towards our goals, the lover represents the goals, and the final embrace in the last line represents the satisfaction we feel when we finally make it.

Learn more about perfecting your skills for IB commentary by clicking here

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Make a Book Trailer – Part 3

So, I’m assuming you’ve come from Part 2. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, do so now. Then come back here.

Okay, you’re back! Great. That means you’ve done a story-board for your book trailer, and you’ve compiled all the images, video clips, and audio that you are going to use.

Making a Book Trailer Video

The next step is to edit it all together into a marvelous book trailer video! I can’t tell you how to use your video editing software, because there are so many options for software out there and they’re all different. Here are tutorials for your basic software that comes with your computer:

Windows Movie Maker: Narrated by a nice American lady.

IMovie: Vanessa here is also American. Her volume is quite low, though.

Here’s a tutorial for how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, my personal favourite video editing software. Warning: it’s expensive. But if you want to be a pro video editor or if you think you’re going to have a lot of multimedia projects at school, this is a good investment. Kris here claims that he can teach you how to use it in 20 minutes... go!

Ready to put your video together? Remember: a fantastic book trailer for school should…
  •     Set the tone or mood of the book through the words, music, colours, and images you select.
  •     Give the book’s HOOK, but not too much information.
  •     Make the viewer want to read the book.
  •     Be quick, catchy, and enigmatic – think lots of visuals, not many words.
  •     Show the book cover and give the author’s name and book title.
  •     Show any previous books if your book is part of a series.
Have fun! 

If you have done a book trailer you’re particularly proud of, please link it in the comments so my readers can watch it.

Do you want to see some excellent book trailers done by my students? Check these out:

Book trailer for Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis (done by Martha, grade 10):

Book trailer for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (done by Amna, grade 10):

More awesome book trailers done by my students are coming soon! To a screen near you! :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How to Make a Book Trailer - Part 2

So you've come here from Part 1, eh? That means you've already done your storyboard. If this is not true, you need to backtrack a little and read Part 1. It's linked. Click it. Then come back here.

Oh, you're back? Great! Well, in Part 1 you learned that every good book trailer starts with a storyboard. Now that you know what media you're going to use, you need to:

Make a Folder

The next step, once you have your storyboard complete, is to gather all your media into one folder. So, go to your computer's hard drive and make a folder. Call it "Book Trailer" or something like that. 
Then, you need to fill up your folder with all the stuff you need for your book trailer, as per your storyboard. You need images, videos, special effects, music... you might be creating your own (if you're awesome), finding stuff on the internet, or combining your own material and found material. 

A word of caution: a lot of stuff that's on the internet is copyrighted.  You can go onto Google or YouTube and search and find pretty much anything, but pretty much everything is copyrighted. That's because when someone creates something, they automatically get copyrights. "What do I care?" you ask. "I'm just making a book trailer for a school assignment." Well, that may be true, but if you use copyrighted material you run several risks:
1. The risk of plagiarizing: Plagiarism is defined as taking someone else's words or ideas and presenting them as your own. So if you do not give credit to every source you use, you are plagiarizing. That might not matter if you're making a grade eight book trailer, but it will matter when you're in college or university and you're given a multimedia assignment. So just be careful to give credit to all your sources.
2. The risk of punishment: If you post your book trailer on social media and it includes copyright material, you will be punished. In YouTube that means you'll get a copyright strike against you. Three strikes on YouTube and you're out. On Facebook, they'll just take it down. So if you need to post this book trailer as part of the assignment, be aware that copyright material, especially music and video clips, could result in your trailer being removed from the site. 

3. The risk of screwing up: Read your teacher's instructions carefully. Some teachers have certain expectations, such as expecting your video clips to all be recorded by you. Be aware of where your teacher sets the line between creating your own book trailer and trying to pass off someone else's work as your own.

So, now that we have all that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let's take a look at the folder Nerdvark created for his book trailer for "In a Cat's Eye":
Nerdvark's book trailer folder. As you can see,
there is no copyrighted material in that baby!
These are some sites where you can find free stuff you're allowed to use in your multimedia projects. Some of them request that you mention them as sources or link to them, and some ask you to sign up. If you want to search for your own, do a search as normal and include the words "free stock"
Video effects:
Sound effects:
Music: and don't forget, YouTube also has tonnes of free music for you to add to any video you upload.

Of course, it's always best to do your own photos, filming, and narration. If you're really hardcore, you can even create your own music. Now go forth, and fill up your folder!

If you're finished with Part 2, click here to go on to How to Make a Book Trailer, Part 3.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Make a Book Trailer - Part 1

These days, thanks to the advances in technology that are spreading across the planet, innocent children everywhere are being forced to create multimedia assignments instead of the good, old-fashioned book report that can be easily stolen from many internet sources. 

The most evil multimedia presentation of all has to be the book trailer. It takes a lot of skills with many different types of software to produce a half-decent book trailer. Sure, you can steal one off the internet, but the problem with that is, most book trailers out there today were actually produced by other students! So if their work is crap, you're not going to get a good mark for it! Of course, there are the professional book trailers actually produced to promote the book, but if you try to pass that off as your own work, your teacher will smell the scent of your cheating butt a mile away. 

What is a kid to do?

To find out the answer, we have turned to the all-knowing Nerdvark. Nerdvark now presents the book trailer tutorial, step by step. Today we have step one:

Draw a storyboard

Every professional video, from Disney movies to Adventure Time cartoons to Volkswagen commercials to Fine Brothers YouTube videos, begins with a storyboard, and yours will too.

There are lots of formats for a storyboard. You have a lot of options, but as long as your storyboard lets you plan out the various scenes of your book trailer and show what audio and visual elements will be included in each scene, you're good.

Nerdvark tells us that every book trailer has to have the following elements:

  • visuals
  • audio
  • the name and author of the book

Visuals can include photos, pictures, videos, animations, text on the screen, special effects, transitions, and credits. You can film yourself or your friends acting out parts of the book, or even film yourself acting as the author reading out his or her favourite passage. You can put in comments from critics, which you can usually find on the back cover. Basically it's whatever the audience sees when watching the book trailer.

Audio can include narration, dialogue, music, special effect sounds... whatever the audience hears when watching the book trailer.

Every book trailer should include the actual book, usually in the form of a picture of the book at the end of the trailer along with the title and author of the book. 

Here's an example of the storyboard the Nerdvark did for his upcoming book trailer for an anthology of speculative fiction stories called In a Cat's Eye, published by Pole to Pole Publishing:
Nerdvark's storyboard for In a Cat's Eye, an anthology by Pole to Pole Publishing

Speculative fiction includes stories like horror, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian future, and alternate history. In a Cat's Eye has lots of such stories, so Nerdvark chose just a few for his book trailer. 

To do this storyboard, Nerdvark used Corel PhotoPaint. You could use another drawing or image editing program, or you could do it with a pencil on a piece of paper. 

For each scene (there are six on this storyboard), the top box is where you put the title or number of the scene. The middle, big box is where you show what will be SEEN in your book trailer for that scene. The bottom box is where you write what will be HEARD in your book trailer for that scene. 

Before you begin working on the actual video, make sure you have your storyboard exactly how you want it. If you change your mind about order, you can re-number the scenes or move the scenes around. If you decide you don't want a scene, cross it off. It's much easier and quicker to make these types of changes on the storyboard than on the actual video. 

Come back next time to see how to start transforming your storyboard to your actual video! Chow for now! (i.e. it's dinner time!)

Go on to Part 2. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A* Descriptive Writing for IGCSEs

Recently, a student wrote to the Nardvark:

Hello, I actually needed some help for my descriptive writing since i really don't know how and where to start it from but i really want to attempt it in the exams if possible and get an A* in English subject . Also if u could give me some topics to start on.

In his usual incredibly helpful and attentive manner, Nardvark printed off the letter in really huge font to waste as much paper as possible, crumpled it up, and tossed it at his wastebasket. He missed.

The paper ball bounced off the top of the growing accumulation of debris surrounding the waste basket and rolled to a lazy stop at the base of the Nardvark's stinky laundry pile. The Nardvark stopped wearing clothes several weeks ago because he ran out of clean laundry, but that's okay because he's very furry. Anyway, the odour emanating off the pile of mouldy clothing, which is not unlike cream-of-rotten-eggmcmuffin-and-toilet-brush-graveyard soup, helps Nardvark find his way back to his room in the dark. Nardvarks don't have very good night vision, but they have excellent senses of smell due to their very long nostrils.

The dirty laundry pile is also a valuable tool in the Nardvark's daily life, because without it he would have to lift his feet quite high in order to get in and out of bed. Nardvark's legs are quite stubby so he prefers not to exert too much energy by lifting his feet all the time. When he finishes playing X-Box for the day, instead of standing up and walking over to the bed, he simply rolls onto his back and then flops towards the laundry pile. He then half-rolls half-flops his way up the laundry pile to the surface of the bed, much like an overweight walrus coming ashore onto a chunk of arctic ice. At the crack of noon when he wakes up, Nardvark merely rolls down the pile in the direction of the kitchen. 

Nardvark's kitchen is much what you might expect, having visited his laundry pile. The lower cupboards all contain food, and to make his foraging easier, the food is sorted into "sandwich filling" and "pizza topping." The top cupboards are difficult to reach, and therefore contain only dishes, which Nardvark rarely uses because they're difficult to reach. (an example of "begging the question" by the way.) Nardvark takes care of his shape (a pear) by eating six to seven meals a day, except on weekends because he is not awake for long enough to eat so many meals. For these meals he alternates between sandwiches and pizza. Nardvark's favourite sandwich fillers include peanut butter, mayonnaise, mashed banana, five-pepper hot sauce, jelly beans, and fruit cup. These are also his favourite pizza toppings, which is why the border separating sandwich fillers from pizza toppings in his kitchen is very fuzzy and gray, like an out-of-focus photo of a sleeping elephant.

Descriptive Writing How-To

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, this is the sort of writing you need to do on the composition section of the IGCSE English exam. This is specifically first-language English, and the international course syllabus is number 0500. If you're studying this course, you're going to have to write a creative composition in Paper 3 Section 2.

You have a choice of four questions: two are narrative and the other two are descriptive. There will be a question or a scenario for each. It could be a first sentence, a brief synopsis of a situation, or a leading question. You have to pick one and write a composition.

Descriptive Composition Pointers

For descriptive composition, you need to keep in mind that you are NOT writing a story. There is no plot, no climax, probably no dialogue. You can have a character and a setting, like in a narrative, but you will stick to describing the character and the setting. Your descriptive composition should NOT cover a span of time like a narrative. What you SHOULD focus on is creating an image in the reader's mind, and for this you need to use figurative language known as imagery. Remember that metaphor, simile, personification, and other figurative language tools like that all add to imgery.

For more on imagery look here.

To learn more about the descriptive task, click here.

In terms of topics, I highly recommed getting your hands on some past papers. Keep in mind that the orgainzation of the paper has changed recently (2015) so if you're looking at past papers from before that date, you'll see six instead of four options, and the other two are discursive or argumentative essays. Don't even be looking at those. Just pick your descriptive piece and write a practice composition.

Feel free to check your practice writing in the comments for this post and at some point the Nardvark might give you some feedback. It might even be useful!

Till next time, this is Nardvark, going for a nap.