Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writing a Commentary for AS or IB

Nardvark used to be in AS Language and Literature class, but his school demoted him because he rarely attended class or did homework. Well, with exams coming up, he recently realised he'd better learn how to do a commentary.  Here Nardvark pleads with Nerdvark to teach him:
Luckily, doing a commentary is not the difficult task that everyone seems to think. 
You read the text. Then you have to establish two basic things:
1. What is the purpose of the text?
2. How is the writer conveying the purpose?
Use the standard five-paragraph essay format found HERE and follow the writing process found HERE and you will be a successful commentary writer, able to write a commentary on ANYTHING, 
(as a certain student was quoted as saying a grand total of seventy-one times during one lesson!)

Ok, let me break it down for you -- let's try writing a commentary on this advert:

Use Step 1: Prewriting and determine -- first, what is the purpose? Well, it would appear to be to sell some extremely expensive eye shadow. Second, how does the writer convey the purpose? Now you must use your super-sleuthing skills to figure out which literary techniques the writer used.

Nerdvark used different coloured pens to underline and make notes when he found literary techniques being used on our eye-shadow text:
Next, Step 2, Planning -- You know you need a thesis to begin with. Your thesis should answer the questions (see above) and give the main points you will use in your commentary.

Nerdvark's thesis, in lavender: This eye shadow advert attempts to sell a product called "The One Sweep" through techniques such as using diction to establish tone, repetition for urgency, and hyperbole to exaggerate the uniqueness of the product.

Now you must plan the rest of your essay using PEE paragraphs for the three techniques you discovered in the text (tone, established via diction, repetition, and hyperbole) where you quote the text as evidence and go into as much depth as you can to explain how your quotes support your points.

Here's Nerdvark's first PEE paragraph, in teal:
First, the entire advert establishes a professional salon-like tone to make readers feel as though they are visiting a salon, not a department store, when they purchase the eye shadow. The writer creates this tone through diction, using such words as "new," which shows that the product has just recently been developed, and "define, colour, and highlight," which are words normally associated with beauty products, particularly in regards to eye shadow, to make readers feel that they are indeed dealing with a qualified make-up company and not some fly-by-night operation.  The ad also uses words such as "expertly," which shows that the product is made for professional make-up artists, not amateurs, and "enhance," which increases the readers' confidence in the quality of the product and its ability to make their eye lids more beautiful. This tone of a salon atmosphere will make readers feel secure that they are buying a valuable piece of specialized eye-lid-colouring equipment, and as such they will be prepared to pay a lot of money for the eye shadow in the advert.

Now, see if you can use Nerdvark's notes to continue the commentary, and add a good conclusion that summarizes the main points.  Don't forget to add a great hook to draw your reader's attention (Nerdvark suggests "Have you ever spent more on a bit of coloured sand than on a week's groceries?" and finish off with a WOW!

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