Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Kick IB Language A Paper One's Butt - Part 1: Criterion A

Language A: Literature – Paper One

Guided literary analysis

Nardvark is at it again – cramming for IB exams.  He is determined to get level 7 on his literary paper, but since he snoozed through most of his classes, he has no idea how.  Luckily, Nerdvark is here to help (mostly because Nard refuses to bring him a peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwich until he does)

with ...

How to kick Paper One’s butt (in four parts)

Are you looking for help with your IB English? I can help you. Click here for more info.

Part 1

In Paper One you are given a choice of two passages (texts) to respond to.  One is a poem, and the other is prose.  It might be fiction or non-fiction.  Your response is graded on four criteria.  Criterion A is called “Understanding and Interpretation.”


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How do I interpret a text, you ask?  How do I understand it?  This is why your teacher has been ramming LITERARY TOOLS down your throat for the past two years.  Analysing the tools the writer/poet used will help you get at the deeper meaning of the text.  Nerdvark likes to think of a literary text as an onion.  You can peel away the skin, and underneath there is another layer of onion.  You can peel that away, too, and underneath you will find another layer.  Peel that onion, peel it layer by layer... of course you’ll start to cry but you’ll eventually get to the core of the onion.
A poem is like an onion...

A lot of students shy away from the poem, because they think poetry is “harder” to understand.  Actually, poetry is easier to respond to, because it is rich with literary tools.  In each line of poetry you can find two or three literary tools being used, from sound tools such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme and rhythm, to imagery tools including simile, personification, and metaphor, to the very basic of tools, the word.  Each word the poet chooses is chosen for a reason.  Together, these words give clues to understanding the poem  via the writer’s tone, the poem’s atmosphere, and the many facets or meaning or connotations of the words.

Take a look now at the level descriptors for Criterion A:


The trick is to read the poem several times.  Each time, underline bits and jot down what literary tools are being used and what layers of meaning they reveal.  After several reads, you’ll have a “very good understanding” and be able to write a “sustained” (it’s long and it sticks to the same points) and “convincing” (the reader, aka examiner, is convinced that your interpretation is accurate because of the explanations you use) and you’ll support it with “well-chosen references,” i.e. the best parts of what you underlined. 

If you're not sure of how to structure your response, go with the old standby, the FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY.  Make sure you follow the writing process and do lots of PEEing to get full marks in this criterion.


Come back next time for an example of a poem that Nerdvark peeled like an onion (and cried!), and stay tuned for Criteria B, C, and D!  Eventually I’ll show you an example of alevel-7 paper.


Thanks for reading.  Exhausted? Take a study break! Written by K.I. Borrowman