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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

IB English Literature Paper 2 - Last Minute Tips

Your IB English exams are just around the corner, and since it is the last minute, you are studying your butt off. You have only days to prepare, you are panicking because you feel like you have learned nothing in the last two years and there is no way you will be ready to write a literary essay. Sound familiar?

Relax. (written in pink, which is scientifically proven to be a relaxing colour. Also baby blue.  But I digress...)

The Nardvark is here to set your cray-cray mind at ease with:

Last Minute Tips to Excel on IB English Literature Paper 2

Or, rather, Nardvark will eat a PBJ (pretzel, broccoli, and jalapeno peppers sandwich) while the Nerdvark does all the hard work of giving you tips. Either way, you're the winner. Read on:

Unfortunately for the Nardvark, you have to write Paper 2 on at least two of the texts you studied in Part 3 of IB English Literature (Literary Genres)
  • Paper 2 consists of a bunch of questions. Your task is to write an essay in answer to one of the questions which addresses TWO OF THE WORKS YOU STUDIED IN PART 3 of the course.
  • To prepare for Paper 2, you need to do two things: 1. Review all your notes on your Part 3 works. 2. Review how to write an essay.
  • I would actually recommend re-reading your Part 3 works, or at least skimming through them, in preparation for Paper 2.
  • When you go into Paper 2, you need to time yourself. One great way to get a totally low, crappy mark on this paper is to randomly choose a question off the exam paper and scribble down your stream-of-thought answer as fast as you can and then nap for the remainder of the exam period. You are given a short amount of time to produce a brilliant essay; use it fully and follow the writing process.
  • Spend the first few moments selecting a question. This exam paper seems daunting because there are so many questions to choose from. Make it easier on yourself by first ELIMINATING all the questions you will not be able to choose from. That is to say, Part 3 of the IB English Literature course is on a specific genre -- defined as poetry, prose - novel and short story, prose - other than fiction, and drama. Whichever genre you studied, that's what you have to answer a question on in Paper 2. So either cross off all the questions for the other three genres, or put a big circle around the questions for your genre. There, that reduces the exam paper to something a lot more manageable, does it not?
  • Spend the next several minutes CONSIDERING THE QUESTIONS for your genre. Think about each question and figure out exactly what it is asking you to do. Criterion B, worth 20% of your overall mark for Paper 2, is "Response to the Question." So make sure you understand what the question is asking you to do before you begin your response.
  • Here is a sample of a Paper 2 question on poetry from the IB board:

A sample of a Paper 2 question on poetry from the IB board, which I easily found by Googling.

  • Let's analyze this question. First, what kind of essay is it asking you to write? Answer: discussion. Some questions might ask you to analyze, evaluate, or explain. Pay attention to the question word. Next, what is the topic? Answer: "the object of a poem is pleasure, not truth." So think about the poems you have studied. Do at least two of them appear to be written for pleasure rather than to demonstrate a truth of the world? Jot down some ideas in the margin of the question paper.
  • Analyze each of the questions in your genre like this before deciding which question you will answer.
  • Spend the next few minutes (5 - 10 minutes) OUTLINING/PLANNING your essay. Criterion A is for "Knowledge and Understanding," so you need to spend some time coming up with everything you know/understand about the two texts you'll be discussing and jot it down in point form. Criterion D is for "Organization and Development," so you'll want to plan out your essay instead of just rambling on, and you'll want to jot down all the ideas you will use to develop your points so you don't forget anything.
  • Spend approximately 50% of your time (one out of two hours for HL and 45 minutes out of 1.5 hours for SL) DRAFTING your essay. I recommend double-spacing so you'll have enough space to add to or correct your work.
  • Spend the rest of your time REVISING and then PROOFREADING your essay. Check that you've included enough information to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the works and that your writing is well-organized and flows. Criterion E is "Language," so you'll want to make sure your writing is clear, precise, and concise, your punctuation, grammar, and spelling is correct, and you've used the appropriate literary terms. It is totally acceptable to add to your essay, cross stuff off, or change things. If you want to add a whole bunch of stuff, like a whole paragraph, put in a little indicator like a star (*) where you want to add it, and then put the same indicator after the conclusion and add your extra paragraph. You will not lose marks for having stuff crossed out or added, but you will lose marks for not expressing yourself clearly, making mistakes, and writing incorrect stuff about the works. You will also lose marks for not answering the question, i.e. writing something totally unrelated to what the question is actually asking. So spend some time revising and proofreading to make sure your essay is brilliant. 
I would also recommend doing a practice paper to get your pacing down. You probably haven't written very many essays, especially ones that you do by hand and have a limited time for. If you write at least one practice paper and limit yourself to doing it in the allotted time, you'll feel a lot more prepared on exam day. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Last Minute Tips for IB English Literature Paper 1

Exams are coming up soon, and you might be starting to panic. Fear not, dear student, the Nardvark is here to help!

I always advise my students to follow a five-paragraph essay structure with PEE paragraphs. Although the IB board is not specific about how the literary analysis should be structured, this is a sort of simple catch-all for pretty much any literary essay. You can add as many PEE paragraphs as you want, so your five-paragraph essay might end up being a seven- or ten-paragraph essay, but the structure will still be sound.

Once in the exam, I recommend looking through the extracts quickly to see which one speaks to you more. Some students go in to the exam prepared to write about either the prose or the poetry, but it's not a good idea to limit yourself like that because the IB board always chooses pretty complex extracts and you want to be able to choose the one that is more suited to you. 

Next spend some time reading through your chosen extract several times and annotate it. You have 1.5 hours in SL or 2 hours in HL, and I'd recommend dedicating about 25% of your time to this analysis. If you're in SL, take a look at the guiding questions and try to find enough evidence in the extract to answer them. If you're in HL, you should be prepared to talk about the broad aspects of your extract such as progression, characters, plot (if applicable), tone, theme, structure/form, etc, AND the literary features. Remember that this is not an exercise in hunting down examples of literary tools -- you need to explain the effect on each. This is Appreciation of the Writer's Choices on the rubric.

Then spend a few moments to arrange your annotations into an outline. Consider your introduction, points in your PEE paragraphs, and a conclusion. Spend about 50% of your time drafting your response, and then spend the rest of your time rereading your writing. At this point you need to check your structure and language, two more points on the rubric. For a high mark, your structure should be unified, so if you find yourself rambling, try to insert sentences to link your ideas together. You also need to be precise and concise, so eliminate any extra wordiness (e.g. "I think", "It can be seen that," etc,) and repetition, and check your word choices to make sure you are using the correct literary terms. 

Before the exam, you should review all the literary terms (see here and here) you have learned in your course and make sure you can use them correctly, and practice with some past papers to get the timing right on the process I've outlined above.

If you have done some practice papers and want to send any of them to me, I can give you detailed, specific feedback. I charge for my services but since I am an IB examiner, the feedback I would give you would be very helpful in your exam preparations.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

IB English A: Literature -- Differences between SL and HL Part 2 - Detailed Study (Oral Commentary)

If you're considering taking IB next year, you have to choose three or four courses to take at HL (higher level). Should English Literature be one of your HL choices? 

If you're already in IB LanguageA: Literature, you might be confused about the differences between HL and SL. Are you in a class that has both HL and SL students in it? That can be really confusing. Who mixes dumb kids with smart kids, anyway? That's just a disaster waiting to happen. (Just joking. I don't really think you're dumb just because you choose to take English Literature at standard level. You're probably really smart at something else, like calculus or something, nerd.)

Here are the differences for Part 2 - Detailed Study

Nardvark carefully considers his course selection for next year.

  • If you're in SL, you will do an oral commentary on an extract from one of the two works studied in part 2. If you're in HL, you will do an oral commentary on POETRY you studied in part 2, AND have an oral discussion with the teacher on one of the other two works studied in part 2.
  • If you're in SL, you get two guiding questions on your extract. If you're in HL, you don't.
  • The rubric for SL has four sections: Knowledge and Understanding of Extract (or Poem, for HL), Appreciation of the Writer's Choices, Organization and Presentation, and Language. The rubric for HL has two additional sections: Knowledge and Understanding of the Work used in the Discussion, and Response to the Discussion Questions.
  • If you're in HL, each of the six criteria are marked out of five for a total of 30 possible points. If you're in SL, the first two criteria (knowledge and understanding of the extract, and appreciation of the writer’s choices) are marked out of ten each and the other two criteria are marked out of five each, for a total of 30 points. 
If you're still having trouble choosing between HL and SL, try printing off this handy Venn diagram and filling it in to compare them. 

If you actually finish filling in your Venn diagram before you get distracted by squirrels and go off to raid the fridge, this shows that you're definitely HL IB English-student material. Congrats!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to Kick Butt in IB Language A Part 2: Detailed Study

When your oral commentary rolls around, you don't know what extract you're going to get or from which of the works you studied it will be taken, so in order to prepare to kick butt in the oral commentary, you have to do two basic steps:

  1. Learn literary devices: you need to be able to recognize, define, explain, and evaluate the effects of the literary devices in the extract you get. It could be poetry, prose, or drama, so you need to be familiar with literary devices for all these genres. Click here to read some of my posts on literary devices, and memorize your literary device handouts from your teacher. 
  2. Practice! Your teacher might give you opportunities to practice in class. If not, you can practice on your own. The best way to practice is to emulate the conditions of the oral commentary. 

First, get an extract. If your teacher doesn't provide practice extracts, just go through your works studied in this section and choose some likely-looking extracts. Remember that an extract for the oral commentary is usually about 40 lines. It could be a whole poem that's roughly 40 lines, or a 40-line passage from a text.

Second, look at the guiding questions. In HL you won't have guiding questions, but you can still ask yourself some questions. If your teacher doesn't provide extracts with guiding questions for you to practice, try to think about these typical guiding questions suggested by the IB board:


  • What is revealed about the character(s) through the diction employed? 
  • What role do music/sound/lighting effects have to play in this extract? 
  • What impact is this extract likely to have on the audience? 
  • For what reasons can this extract be considered a pivotal/key moment in the play? 

Prose: Novel and short story 
  • How does structure function in this extract to convey key ideas? 
  • How does the balance between dialogue and narrative affect your understanding of this extract? 
  • How are the key themes of the work explored in this extract? 
  • How does this extract work to change your understanding of the characters involved? 

Prose other than fiction 
  • To what effect is sentence structure used in this extract? 
  • In what ways is the style of this extract typical of the work as a whole? 
  • What is the likely impact of this extract on the reader? 
  • How important is the logical sequence of ideas in this extract? 

  • What is the relationship between the title and the poem itself? 
  • How does the progression of ideas contribute to the development of the theme(s)? 
  • How does stanza structure reflect the development of the poem’s subject? 
  • In what ways does the final line/stanza change your understanding of the poem as a whole?

Third, practice preparing your commentary by analyzing the extract and annotating it. You are allowed to take the extract into the commentary with you, so write as much as you can all over it. I recommend colour-coding it. For example, if you see lots of metaphor in the extract, use green for all the metaphor, and if you see lots of personification, use blue for it. Use pink for the rhyme scheme and orange for the punctuation. And so on. Highlight the examples and write notes to yourself about them. Remember you have to explain the broad aspects like structure, characters, etc, and the details like aural devices, imagery, etc. and you have to tell the effect of each. So write all your ideas out, but in point form. If you try to write out your entire commentary, you won't have time, so just write points - key words. Don't forget to PEE! click here for more on PEEing in English class. Time yourself and don't let yourself spend more than 20 minutes. With practice, you'll get better at analyzing and annotating an extract in 20 minutes, and this exercise will also help you prepare for the exam as you will be writing a commentary on an unseen passage.

(now for the fun part!) Fourth, after annotating your extract for 20 minutes, practice giving an oral commentary to your friend, dog, family member, or mobile phone. Record it and play it back. Reflect on your practice session and write notes to yourself. What did you like about it? What do you want to improve? Don't worry if you can't pull off ten minutes of commentary the first time. You might speak for three or four minutes the first time. That's why you're practicing. If you can manage three minutes for your first practice session, set a goal for yourself to speak for four or five minutes at your next practice session.

After you've selected, prepared, and commented on five or six extracts from different texts in Part 2, you should be ready for the oral commentary.

Join me next time for: How to Kick Butt in IB Language A Oral Commentary!

Friday, April 1, 2016

How to Increase Writing Speed for IGCSEs

Please help!

A student wrote to the Nardvark with some questions about the IGCSE exams. Nardvark promptly printed off the email, crumpled it into a ball, and chucked it at The Nerdvark's head. The paper got impaled on The Nerdvark's funny drooping horn and The Nerdvark couldn't reach to get it off, so Nardvark summarized the question like this:

Dear handsome, intelligent Nardvark,
I don't get it. How am I supposed to write all that stuff in such a short time? 
Your biggest fan and groupie,

Always one to help a student in need, The Nerdvark quickly sat down and composed the following response while Nardvark went to the kitchen to see if there was any apple and coconut wasabi pizza left over.

That's a really good question. It is very difficult to write a good response in a short period of time. 

Increase Writing Speed

I recommend two things you can do to increase your writing speed:

Follow the Steps of the Writing Process

First, you should follow the writing process. There are five steps: prewrite, plan, draft, revise, and edit. Click here to read more about the writing process on The Nardvark.

I'll go through your two papers with you and give you more details on how you should follow the writing process for each of them. You should follow the writing process when writing a test paper with a time limit, because it helps you to streamline your writing and get more written in a shorter period of time. Keep an eye on this blog for detailed explanation of the IGCSE English papers.

Practice Writing Test Papers

Second, you need to practice doing past papers with a time limit. Once a week, you should do a practice paper and time yourself.

The international IGCSE course number is 0500. Paper 1 is 1 hour 45 minutes for core and Paper 3 is 2 hours. If you are in extended, you will write Paper 2 instead of Paper 1, and you have 2 hours.

Paper 3 is your directed writing and composition paper. Your total word count on this paper (two passages) is 650 - 750 words. Most people write about 250 words per page, so you're going to write about three pages in total.

Don't Waste Time Counting Words

A lot of students really waste time counting words. You don't need to get hung up on the word count. The examiner is probably not going to count your words. If you write about three pages, you'll be fine. If your paper looks really long (four pages) or really short (two pages), the examiner will do a quick word count by averaging the words per line and counting how many lines you wrote. Some people have bigger or smaller handwriting, which affects how many pages they will write. The examiners are pretty good at judging how many words are written without having to count. 
Nardvark wastes a lot of time during exams counting his words after every
sentence and then adding them up.

Learn How to Estimate Your Word Count

You should count words on your practice papers so you know what to aim for when you're in the actual exam. Instead of stopping to count every single word, like some students do, follow this procedure:
  1. Write your response without thinking about word count.
  2. Count the words in the first line. Write the total at the end of the line.
  3. Count the words in the next four lines, writing the total at the end of each line.
  4. Skip any lines that are at the end of a paragraph. Only count full lines.
  5. Take the average number or words per line. So if line one has ten words, line two has eleven words, line three has ten words, line four has nine words, and line five has eleven words, you can say your average word 1`count per line is ten.
  6. Count how many lines you have written in total. If you wrote several paragraphs, consider the last line of each paragraph to be a half line.
  7. Multiply your average line word count by the number of lines you wrote. For example, I write an average of ten words per line. If I write twenty-five lines, that's 250 words.
  8. Voila!

Further Help

I hope this helps you increase your writing speed. Don't forget to check back with The Nardvark for explanations of the IGCSE papers. Meanwhile, Nardvark's posts with the label "IGCSE" can be read by clicking here

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Understanding IB Language A Part 2: Detailed Study

Part 2: Detailed Study requires you to study 2 (SL) or 3 (HL) works from different genres. 

Everyone's favourite nonsense artsy-fartsy crap movie, The Room

While movie-goers consider comedy, drama, action, and nonsense artsy-fartsy crap to be examples of genre, the IB board defines literary genre in its broadest sense: prose - novel and short story, prose - other than fiction, drama, and poetry, and if you're in HL one of the works you study in this part of the course has to be poetry. 
Your work in Part 2 will be assessed by an Individual Oral Commentary.

The oral commentary goes like this:

1. Your teacher prepares a bunch of extracts from the works you've studied, which include guiding questions to help you talk about the extract.

2. You should get an opportunity to practice the oral commentary in class, using practice extracts. These are not the extracts you will have in the real commentary.

3. In the commentary, you randomly choose an extract and have 20 minutes to prepare your commentary.

4. You have ten minutes to talk to your teacher. You should aim to talk for at least seven or eight minutes, and your teacher will ask you some questions to finish up the commentary. Your teacher must record the commentary.

5. You only get one chance. Your school will schedule the oral commentaries and give you a place to prepare. If you don't do your commentary as scheduled, you fail, so make sure you know the schedule and be in the right place at the right time!

6. Your teacher will grade your oral commentary according to the IB marking guide. The recordings are kept on file and eventually, the IB board will ask for commentaries from a sampling of your class. The IB board decides whose commentaries they want; your school doesn't get to choose.

7. The IB board moderates your teachers' marks. To do this, IB examiners listen to the sample recordings and mark them according to the same marking guide without looking at your teacher's marks. After marking all the samples, the IB examiners compare your teachers' marks to their marks. If their marks are higher or lower, they scale all your marks for your whole class accordingly.

Join us next time for "How to Kick Butt in IB Language A Part 2: Detailed Study" followed by "How to Kick Butt in IB Language A Oral Commentary!"

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Punctuation - the Comma

Don't you hate it when you are trying to read your friend's post but it doesn't make any sense because it is completely devoid of punctuation

If you act now, I'll add punctuation for free!

Nardvark prefers not to use punctuation, himself. He thinks it makes his posts seem more deep and poetic, but actually he's just incredibly lazy.

Nerdvark is so tired of trying to make sense of Nardvark's unpunctuated posts, he's offering to let Nardvark throw a piece of wet toast at him for every correctly placed comma he uses.

Small and ubiquitous, the comma is one of the most important punctuation marks for conveying meaning. But did you know, in the early days of writing, when the alphabet was first invented and most people were illiterate, stuff was written down with no punctuation, or even spaces between words? 
Now THAT'S a run-on sentence!
In the beginning of writing, alphabets were used to record texts that had previously been passed down orally. In the 3rd century BC, a Greek scholar invented a system of dots inserted in written text to indicate pauses to the reader. The mid-level dot was called "komma" in Ancient Greek, and even though it is now indicated by a little curvy guy instead of a mid-level dot, it is still used in a similar way and called by the same word: comma.
Can you find the komma in this illuminated bible passage?

In grade two, you probably learned that you should add a comma in your writing every time you would pause in speaking. That might be a good way to help decide whether or not to add a comma if you aren't sure, but it isn't a rule. 

Here are some of the most common rules for when you should add a comma:

1. In lists:

 If you list more than two items, you should separate them with commas. The oxford comma: There's a vicious debate raging in grammar circles about whether the penultimate item in a list (before the 'and') needs a comma. This comma is called the "Oxford comma". No matter which side you stand on, you should use an Oxford comma if it will clarify your list. This is the kind of confusion that might arise from not using an Oxford comma:
The Oxford comma - use it for clarification!
2. To separate clauses: In English, commas are used to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause, and to separate an embedded clause from a main clause. Don't use a comma to separate two independent clauses; if you do, this is called a "comma splice" and is grounds for punishment of up to ten years in a maximum-security punctuation prison. Two independent clauses should be separated by a semi-colon, or by a coordinating conjunction. There is some debate as to whether you should add a comma before the coordinating conjunction. As with an Oxford comma, you should insert a comma here if you feel it is necessary for clarity. 

3. After conjucts at the beginnings of sentences: Conjucts, or linking words, are used to show how an idea is linked to the idea before it. Some examples are 'therefore,' 'however,' and 'nevertheless.' If you use a conjuct in the middle of a sentence, you should separate it on both sides by commas.

4. Parentheticals: Parentheticals are phrases that are added to a sentence to give additional information. They can also be delineated by using parenthesis instead of commas.

5. Before quotations: If you're introducing recorded speech in your writing with a speech tag, you should use a comma. However, if you are using a quotation to support an assertion, you should introduce it with a colon.

Of course, these are not the only ways the comma is used. If you're not sure whether to use a comma, look at Wikipedia's comma entry or Purdue OWL.

And now for today's sentence challenge: Write a sentence for me in the comments below with correct use of commas! Easy peasy, right? If I like your sentence, I'll feature it in an upcoming video. But be careful: if your sentence is silly, I will make fun of you! 

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