Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

<< Back to AP/IB World Literature << Back to Ms. Spachman's Home Page

 

How to Develop a Commentary

Oral Commentaries on a PASSAGE Oral Commentaries on a POEM
Written Commentaries (with no time limit) IB Exam Written Commentaries

 

 

--Oral Commentaries on a PASSAGE--

BEFORE arriving for your oral commentary...

1.  Know where the book/whole text is going for yourself!  You should already have settled on 1-3 major themes and judgments.

2.  Know what the key passages are!  You should not come into the commentary and be surprised about any passage that awaits you.  All the passages should be ones we've covered in some way in class and most are probably ones you isolated out in your own reading as notable.  Spend some time reviewing passages you know we've covered so you are well-prepared.

 

DURING your PREPARATION time (20 minutes)...

1.  Identify the passage, familiarize yourself with how/if it has been cut (i.e., there's an ellipse--[...]), and access your prior knowledge about the passage.  Again, you should not be surprised about any passage you might get.  You should already know quite a lot about any key passage you might get.

2.  Read the passage and start taking notes and marking techniques.  Highlight, underline, circle, mark it, mark it, mark it and make sure you can understand your own markings for easy reference during your commentary.

3.  Re-read the passage and add more markings as needed.

4.  Settle on your thesis (quickly!) and the function of the passage.  Sample language to use: 

"This passage reinforces the idea...."

"This passage introduces..."

"This passage opposes..."

5.  Organize your commentary, particularly the order of your evidence and analysis.  Remember, your commentary should have a beginning, middle, and an end (see next section).

 

DURING your oral commentary...(remember: 15 mins.!)

1.  Begin with a brief statement of where you're going.  This should not be a formal, long, and detailed thesis like you'd write out in an essay.  You should introduce your theme and the function of the passage, though.

2.  Present your evidence and analysis.  Build your evidence and analysis up step by step to fully prove your thesis.

3.  Wrap up your analysis with a conclusion.  This is your opportunity to really make sure you've "sold" your thesis.

 

 

*Back to Top*

 

 

--Oral Commentaries on a POEM*--

*OR, for example, an entire short essay like "Old Mrs. Grey"

BEFORE arriving for your oral commentary...

1.  Know major themes the poet focuses on!  You should already have settled on 1-3 major themes for each poet.

2.  Know the poems we've covered!  You should not come into the commentary and be surprised about any poem that awaits you.  All the poems should be ones we've covered in some way in class.  Spend some time reviewing poems you know we've covered so you are well-prepared.

 

DURING your PREPARATION time (20 minutes)...

1.  Identify the poem, familiarize yourself with how/if it has been cut (i.e., there's an ellipse--[...]), and access your prior knowledge about the poem.  Again, you should not be surprised about any poem you might get.  You should already know quite a lot about it.

2.  Read the poem and start taking notes and marking techniques.  Highlight, underline, circle, mark it, mark it, mark it and make sure you can understand your own markings for easy reference during your commentary.

3.  Re-read the poem SEVERAL times and add more markings as needed.

4.  Settle on your thesis (quickly!) and how the poem fits in the work we've studied by this same poet.  (Also, if the poem is only part of a poem, be aware of how it functions within the whole of the poem.)  Sample language to use: 

"This poem explores <insert theme here> but with different results than <this other poem by the same author>...."

"This poem revisits <insert theme here> which the poet explores in <name of other poem>..."

"This poem opposes the idea of _________ presented in <this other poem by the same author>..."

"This part of the poem clearly [pick one of the following] concludes/introduces/opposes/provides evidence for/changes the tone of/changes the mood of..... the earlier/later parts of the poem..."

5.  Organize your commentary, particularly the order of your evidence and analysis.  Remember, your commentary should have a beginning, middle, and an end (see next section).

 

DURING your oral commentary...(remember: 15 mins.!)

1.  Begin with a brief statement of where you're going.  This should not be a formal, long, and detailed thesis like you'd write out in an essay.  You should introduce your theme (and if appropriate, the function) of the poem, though.

2.  Present your evidence and analysis.  Build your evidence and analysis up step by step to fully prove your thesis.

3.  Wrap up your analysis with a conclusion.  This is your opportunity to really make sure you've "sold" your thesis.

 

 

*Back to Top*

 

 

--Written Commentaries (with no time limit)--

BEFORE writing your commentary...

1.  Know major themes the author focuses on!  You should already have settled on 1-3 major themes.  If you're writing on a passage in a book, you should also have considered judgments for those themes.

2.  Only write on a key passage or a poem you understand well.  Get your text choice approved with Ms. Spachman ahead of time.  A passage should not be longer than 40-60 lines.  The same rule applies to poems, so some of the poems we've read this year will have to be cut down.

3.  Study the passage/poem and mark it up.  Use class notes to help with this.

4.  Settle on your thesis statement.  Remember, if you're doing a passage commentary or part of a poem, you need to demonstrate how the selection functions within the text as a whole.  If you're doing a poem or a short essay that can stand on it's own (not an excerpt), you need to demonstrate how that text fits into other works by the same author/poet.

5.  Outline/organize your commentaryNo matter how much time you have to write, outlining makes your writing time more efficient and, theoretically, it will help you put together a stronger argument.  Also, because you are writing a commentary, you need to make sure you have a conclusion to reinforce your ideas about the function of the text and your judgment statement.

 

WHILE writing your commentary...

1.  Stay focused.  Follow the outline you made.

2.  Present as much textual evidence as possible and analyze each piece in depth.  Build your evidence and analysis up step by step to fully prove your thesis.

3.  Tie your analysis of each piece back into all or part of your thesis.

4.  Proofread/read aloud to yourself to check for clarity and errors.

 

 

*Back to Top*

 

 

--IB Exam Written Commentaries--

I cannot stress this enough:  TAKE YOUR TIME.  YOU HAVE 2 HOURS.  BE BRILLIANT.

BEFORE arriving

1.  Breathe a lot. 

2.  Have a plan for attacking the passage or poem you choose on your exam.  Decide before you come into the exam how much time you are going to allow yourself to read, to mark, to think, and then to write your commentary.  Know yourself and what you will need to budget time for to be successful.

REMEMBER: YOU WILL HAVE 2 HOURS TO READ, PREPARE, AND WRITE YOUR COMMENTARY.

 

DURING your PREPARATION time

1.  Read both the passage and the poem through once each.  Read carefully.

2.  Decide which text you think you want to write your commentary on.  Only pick ONE.

3.  Re-read the texts (the passage or the poem) you chose 2 or 3 more times.  Start making some notes about themes and what the text seems to be about.

4.  Re-read some more start taking serious notes and marking techniques.  Highlight, underline, circle, mark it, mark it, mark it and make sure you can understand your own markings for easy reference during your commentary.

5. Settle on your thesis (quickly!). 

6.  Outline and organize your commentary, particularly the order of your evidence and analysis.  Remember, your commentary should have a beginning, middle, and an end.

 

WHILE writing your commentary...

1.  Begin with a brief statement of where you're going.  This should not be a formal, long, and detailed thesis like you'd write out in an essay.  You should introduce your theme (and if appropriate, the function) of the poem, though.

2.  Stay focused.  Follow the outline you made.

3.  Present as much textual evidence as possible and analyze each piece in depth.  Build your evidence and analysis up step by step to fully prove your thesis.

4.  Tie your analysis of each piece back into all or part of your thesis.

5.  Wrap up your analysis with a conclusion.  This is your opportunity to really make sure you've "sold" your thesis.

6.  Proofread/read carefully to yourself to check for clarity and errors.

 

*Back to Top*