Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to write a commentary

You need to write a commentary on some random piece of literature. Great, you now know that at least two hours will be spent at the computer typing, deleting and retyping, all whilst you're trying to channel into the author/poet's mind, trying to express exactly what were they thinking when they've written "...the pentacle of sorrow".
Fear not. I shall tell thee how one doth write a commentary (for homework purposes only- where there's no time limit).

1.Read the given piece. What's the pace? What is the piece about overall? What's the format of the piece?

2.Annotate baby! Whatever ideas you have, let them spew out of your mind. Even if it sounds a bit weird, just list keywords and short sentences. What connotations do certain words carry (positive or negative?). Is the author's tone changing?

3.Hunt down those literary devices. Identify what's their point in the written piece. Does it add rhyme or give a continuous flow in reading? Is it to provide greater detail (identify the form of imagery)?

4.Note down the punctuation (more important in poetry than plain ole' text from a novel/play).

5. Start writing!

This is how I usually set out my commentaries:
- Introduction (author's name, the given piece's title, the overall context of the piece, list some literary devices used, the tone of the piece)
- Body (if it's poetry, then I usually do one paragraph for each verse. If it's prose, then each point with it's evidence [a quote from the piece] and affect on reader in a paragraph on its own)
- Conclusion (state the tone at the ends of the piece, the reader's reactions, summarise what happened in the piece, i.e: someone died, a man cried, etc...)

There is no 'perfect formula' for writing a commentary. There are many ways to go about. You can write it sequentially (start from the beginning of the piece til the end). Or you can write it in themed paragraphs (i.e: paragraph one discusses literary devices, paragraph two is about the author's perspective, tone and mood, paragraph three details certain examples of imagery and its affect on the reader, etc...). However, you must remember to be clear and eloquent in your writing, and must remember to explain the affect on the reader. A commentary is not a rewrite, it's an explanation and discussion of the thoughts and language in the written piece.

Here is a much lengthier Wikibook guide on writing a commentary (an excellent resource, no doubt).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do ToK

CAS: Creation, Activity and Service

Text: It feels lighter today... Did I forget something?

CAS holds a great deal of importance in the IB Diploma. It is necessary for obtaining the diploma, and can turn 'IBers' into selfsih souls who'd do an activity "just to get the CAS points." However, since we are forced to do CAS, we are pushed out of our comfort zones. We might learn a new skill (which can be used on a resume), get healthier, make new friends and just on a whole... be a much more 'globally minded' (yes, a favourite of the IBO). I know this sounds really cheesy, but so far I guess it's kinda working for me.

Anyhoo, if you're short of ideas, here are some.


  • Inquire about art workshops in your council/shire/local area or a community centre (in Australia it's usually a Neighbourhood house).
  • Take a few art classes (yeah, there's a good chance money is involved)
  • Create a 'history of the school' book.
  • Organise an activity (the planning/design process is counted as creativity)
  • Join a bookclub (the activities you do there are usually counted as creativity.
  • Write a story(or use one wirtten already, shhhh) enter it in a competiton (give your CAS supervisor the competiton's deets)


  • Participate in school sports competitons (inter/intra school sports).
  • Get a gym membership (don't forget to take photos of your sweaty self)
  • If going to a gym isn't an option, inquire about yoga/pilates/walking groups at your community centre.


  • Organise an activity at school. Or even outside of school if you want to get really picky. It could be a bookclub/artclub (+creativity), ex/incursion, an afterschool event for your class or year level.
  • Contribute in school publications (+creativity)
  • Represent your school at forums or meetings (let the teachers who usually organise these kinds of activities you're eager and interested).
  • Fundraiser
  • Volunteering at an event, such as ushering at a lecture, festival or even at a community theatre.

Long-term Project

This should continue over a genereally three month period and has to cover two CAS disciplines (i.e Service and Action). You must be part of a team, however the people don't need to be IB students nor anyones from school. It also has to tick off the eight outcomes.

  • Organise an initiative, such as encouraging recycling/composting at school.
  • Organise a sports tournament.
  • Organise a community project (planting trees, vegetable patch, clay/mosiac workshop)
  • Start a new publication (a newsletter targeted for Cooking Mama's/Gamers/Bookworms/etc...).

The word 'organise' is the key word here. It's all about getting the motivation to do something.


  1. Remember to always be on the lookout for activities for CAS. Be proactive.

  2. The best strategy is to complete CAS by the end of your first year.

  3. During your vacations, go out and do some CAS. It's even better with friends because you're motivated (and get to have some fun together).

  4. School is the best place to start looking for activities. Walking to the destination where the activity would be is the only transport involved. Afterschool activites are great, especally if you're supervising/leading (Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, art/science club, 'Let's Get Fit and Activated' Health Awareness and Encouragement Circle' -made it up, sounds realistic enough, hmmmm).

EDIT: here is an example of a CAS diary with CAS activities (inspiration perhaps?)