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[A1] Oral Commentaries -- Tips?

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In December, all the A1 English students (standard or higher level) have to do these oral commentaries where you go into a room (where there is a teacher, of course) and pick randomly from a table an extract from some previously studied literary work. As soon as you open the envelope that contains the extract, you have twenty minutes to read, analyse, and write a plan for an oral commentary on the extract. After your planning time has finished, you have to present your oral commentary to the teacher (and it should be around 12 minutes long).

So I'll be doing this next month, and I was wondering if anyone has tips or pointers for preparing for this, or things to keep in mind when actually doing it...?

[if this is a duplicate of a thread, please just delete it. I looked through other threads and only saw threads about oral presentations, but none about oral commentaries... I think.]

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Remember to speak slowly and clearly...when people are nervous, they tend to speak really quickly, which is bad considering you should be speaking for about 12 mins or so. Speak slower than you normally would, and take advantage of natural pauses in between sentences to gather your thoughts.

Obviously know all the main themes from the works you're doing..you can probably guess which extracts will be important and do some practice ones on your own. I did a few practice ones to prepare and one of the extracts I practiced ended up being my actual extract.

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OK

you've asked the right question.

i JUST did my english commentary a week ago.

:D

PREP:

-- Try to study the books/poems (at least read it through once) thoroughly the week before the exam

-- Pick out the significant extracts which you think could come up (trust me, my friends and I were pretty much right on about the extracts)

-- List possible themes, symbols, motifs from the book and LEARN them, make sure you're able to talk about each one well

-- If you have time, DO use it to do some actual 20mins prep 15mins talk practice

-- Derive a structure which you feel comfortable with (eg go chronogically or by themes), but of course themes is better

-- Find the time to also find a way which you feel comfortable with to analyse your extract efficiently in 20mins

(I used colours to highlight the different themes - super colourful, whilst my friend used OHD (those transparency paper) papers to annotate with markers, so each sheet focused on one theme)

I personally rushed my revision and didn't start properly until the day before the exam(don't be like me), well I read through my books before that

What I did was list the themes and learnt it, then picked out two or three significant extracts to practice.

ON THE DAY:

-- DO NOT go in-depth and practice extracts anymore, just go through the general themes again, the sections of the books - at least know the order of events

-- RELAX and calm down

AT THE EXAM (ANALYSE EXTRACT - 20MINS):

-- When you open your extract, read it carefully but quickly of course, and identify the themes

-- Analyse well, try your best, duh there won't be enough time, but try your best

-- Analyse the MOST significant themes FIRST

-- AS you're analysing, think how your extract LINKS to the whole book, please don't just focus on your extract, expand!

I personally got the WORST extract ever, the one i dreaded having.

I felt like crying when I saw my extract, but well, i still have to do it. I still managed to get some good themes and pick out good points.

DURING THE 15 MINS:

-- I hope you get to sit down. Just relax, have your extract in front of you, I found that holding a pen in my hand or doing hand gestures helped ease my nervousness.

-- Talk slowly, if you need to think, PAUSE. pausing 5 or 10 seconds to say the right word is better than making up some crap.

-- DO HAVE A CLOCK OR STOPWATCH IN FRONT OF YOU, i ran out of time and couldn't even conclude...because i had no stopwatch or whatever

-- Use more "I Think", either criterion B/C was personal response :rolleyes:

-- Be emotional, don't be monotone (like me T^T)

You won't realise how fast the time passes, 15 mins went by in a flash for most of us - i don't think any of us managed to say everything we analysed...need not worry about running out of things to say :) . I thought I wouldn't survive 12 mins with SUCH A CRAP EXTRACT - but i lived through it. I was so surprised...

edit: i just received my score today! i got 26/30! that's a level 7!!!! i was SO SURPRISED i got such a high score, considering i barely mentioned any literary device :)

Well, if you have any more questions, message me!

Hope I helped you in some ways!

Good luck with it!

BTW.

There's a course such as "ASIAN HISTORY"?

Sounds awesome :)

Is it an actual course or is it a pilot course?

I thought only if you do higher level you can have "History of Asia" at paper 3

Which countries do you study???

Edited by rubii
  • Like 4

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Well, for oral commentaries the most important thing you can ever do is to make the analysis as deep as possible.

If it's a metaphor, nobody cares unless it means something, and same thing with all other literary devices.

If there's something unusual about the scene, it's worthless to you unless you can discuss the author's purpose or the effect on the reader in a profound way.

If you have a theme, then saying that something supports the theme of whatever it is is not going to help unless you define the theme and discuss the author's message with it.

Usually, I find the best way to go about it is to write down all the themes, and find as much evidence as you can for an analysis, then come to conclusions towards the end of your commentary. It's also a good idea to make a case for why the passage is significant, because usually it will be a turning point or a really good example of something in the rest of the story (assuming that you got a book or play page) Anyways, if anything, remember to say the author's name when in commentary, because saying that the author does a certain thing within the passage tends to make a more powerful analysis than saying that the characters in the story do something. This is because the latter implies that you don't understand how authors use their character's actions to reinforce their ideas, whereas the former allows you to show that you understand the significance of the actions displayed in the plot.

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Ahh -- I should have replied earlier.

Anyways thank you, all three of you, for the advice. I heeded some of it and did three practices by myself, looked at the themes, motifs, symbols, etc. etc. and all language techniques and tried to remember all of them... My oral commentary is first thing tomorrow morning! :) Feeling pretty confident, I just hope I'll speak slowly enough...

I know using it excessively will obviously detract from the final grade, but do examiners really hit hard if you say "um" once or twice? Sometimes it's just a reflex, and I don't want to lose points just because I'm thinking of my next point and let an "um" slip out...

Thanks again for the great advice!

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For the commentary, are we allowed to use "I" or will we be penalized for not sounding formal?

Nah, a part of the oral rubric is, after all, "Personal response". I wouldn't be afraid to use it at certain points, but don't use it too much, I suppose.

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I did so badly on mine.. I should have read this thread..

Remember to talk about the passage more about the overall themes.. :P I should not have taken higher English.

Edited by eblake

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I am slowly preparing for my IOC as well.

one thing I have found a great method is: picking out the text which you are sure wills how up on the actual oral. Every time I come across a great passage, I photocopy it and then analyze it over a span of time (different points of view come in as time passes by).

Then, I get a clean copy, along with my friend and we both sit down and exchange the passages we thought were important. That way, the element of surprise is still present and you are actually stimulating the environment that the oral will have. Then, since we both analyzed the passage we handed to the other, we both listen to each others oral and use the actual rubric to grade. This is just a thought, and it has helped me greatly.

the best thing to do would be go to a college professor, and ask them if you could have about 30 min of their time, in exchange for something u may want to do for them. I plan on doing this soon. That way, you can hear from a very harsh critique on what you presentation lacks. Often times, I just say a few vocab words and people jump to say whatever I stated sounds correct. Which is of course not true.

Good luck :P

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ahhh... mine is tomorrow, we've studied so many works this year... i'm just so scared... especially if i have to do Donne... I've gone over most of the wroks, (i.e, reread them and stuff), but i feel as if i might not have much literary devices for all of them... at least not MEANINGFUL ones... blah... whatever happens happens, but if i were to give a tip, it would be use colours. My teacher recommends them, and htey honestly saved my life. it makes differentiating themes and motifs, much more easily.

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Can the oral be on absolutely any work you have studied? We have studied 8 texts so far and have 3 more to go before our oral. Can a poem be counted as an 'extract'?

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Can the oral be on absolutely any work you have studied? We have studied 8 texts so far and have 3 more to go before our oral. Can a poem be counted as an 'extract'?

No: the Oral Commentaries are on the works you've studied in the group called Detailed Study (I don't remember its number, sorry). At HL four works are studied: one novel, one drama, one collection of short stories and one collection of poems. At SL two works are studied: they will be two different kinds from the list for HL. You should ask your teacher well in advance what works will be used for what: every single group of text you study has its own way of being assessed, so when studying them you need to know what to focus most on. (For example, the study of the World Literature works should focus on thematic and other links between the works, whereas the Oral Commentary works should be studied with the author's style in mind.)

As for poems, yes: one poem is usually counted as one text and may appear on the oral.

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hey, i had my English A1 HL Individual Oral Commentary today, and although there are a number of things I remembered after I'd done it (that happens all the time though..), I thought it went ok. I think most of it was due to the advice I read on here, so I'd like to thank the above posters, as I found what you said to be really helpful! :)

Advice to people doing their's would be to pick 3 or 4 central themes for yor book that you can apply to ANY part of the novel. For example, I had Dubliners by James Joyce, and had revised The Irish struggle, and Darkness as two easy themes. I would also advise you to pick a theme/focal point from the guiding questions, to show that you have at least acknowledged one of them. With most of these themes in mind before you enter the exam, it is easy enough. I also think you should JUST stick to those themes, no matter how much else you find in the text, as most of it is irrelevant to YOUR commentary.

And mainly, read the above comments, as they are all really useful!

Thankyou :rofl:

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Hmm.. I didn't know you guys who have english A1 use the same format for an oral commentary. Our teacher was very clear of what she expected from the oral commentary:

1.- Present yourself and the book you are about to present the excerpt from.

2.- Briefly mention the main characters of the book, and the main plot.

3.- State the theme and topic of the book.

4.- Situate the extract you are analyzing (what have just happened in the story, where does it take place) and the purpose of the author in the extract you are analyzing.

5.- Find evidence in the extract that support the purpose. Analyze sentence by sentence, in order.

6.- Give a conclusion, and find a way to add the things you have forgotten to mention before.

Hope that helps ^^

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Haha. I actually just did mine today, and much to my surprise, everything transpired quite well. Naturally, because I'm incredibly Type A and thus, get anxious about everything, I expected to fall flat on my face. But I didn't. Which was nice. So, first and foremost, it's absolutely imperative that you DON'T PANIC. Seriously. It won't be nearly as awful as you initially think.

1. When you receive your passage, make sure that you immediately state the context of the piece. If it's from a novel or play, briefly explain what events occurred before the passage in question. If it's a poem, attempt to make connections between the passage and the other works by that poet.

2. Discuss both what is said and how it's being said. In other words, give an analysis of the events taking place in the passage, and include literary or poetic devices that the author employed in order to make his or her work more effective.

3. Use your preparation time as wisely as humanly possible. Write anything that comes to mind, regardless of how ridiculous it may immediately seem. This will assist you if ever you draw a blank.

4. It definitely helps to give your commentary a definitive structure. I personally find it most useful to start with the importance of the title of the work (particularly if it's a poem). Then, I like to talk about the general form (the author's writing style, or perhaps the meter of the poem), and then delve into a line-by-line analysis. Of course, this is what I would be most inclined to do, but your organisation doesn't necessarily have to adhere to this outline. Just ensure that you follow some sort of pattern.

5. Speak slowly! This will ensure that you coherently express all of your thoughts, and will eliminate the possibility of either ending too soon or being misunderstood.

6. Avoid colloquial language. I accidentally slipped in an untimely "Oh, crap" into my commentary, and I can't say I'm too pleased with myself. ROFL. Be as formal as you can, which will serve you well when it comes to the grammar portion of the rubric.

Edited by DeStijl

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FINALLY DONE WITH MINE!!! It's so much less stress now that its all done. I can give a couple tips on what I've picked up during this tramatic experience of my life:

1) Make sure you study over the week leading up to it and leave no last minute 'learning' to the last night.

2) On the last night, review everything that you have learned up to that point, particullarly quotes.

3) Go to sleep early the night before. If you studied enough that week, you'll be fine and more sleep will just make things go better the following day.

4) RELAX! The more stressed you are during the oral, probably the better you will do.

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I've always personally believed that these orals are a preparation to sight analysing passages. You shouldn't try to prepare other than knowing the fundamentals of literacy criticism.

  • Like 1

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Mine is tuesday in the middle of my testweek :|

I feel like crying! My English is not that fluent and I tend to forget my vocabularly often so then I just sit there and can't even formulate a proper sentence. It's just aaaah.

Everyone keeps saying that you have to say something about the themes,but how can you link the themes to the extract?

I am guessing you can't just randomly discuss one of the themes..

We never practiced these things in class,so that's why I have no idea what the examiners expect from me.

Any other tips for someone who has less than two days for preparing it ( I also need to study for my regular tests)

tnx

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