Article By: Alice Ye
Only three weeks into the second semester, many ISM students are still trying to adjust their sleep schedules and accept the fact that winter break is over, but for the IBHL English Literature juniors, the third week of second semester brings their intimidating Independent Oral Presentations (IOP’s), an especially nerve-wracking assessment, as it is the first externally-graded assignment they send to the IB.
The IOP is a unique presentation that explores a question students develop themselves about a piece of work they have read. It is a very interesting assignment in that students are given a lot of freedom and very little restrictions or guidelines with it: in fact, the English department considers it one of the most “creative pieces” of work with “minimal restrictions”: students may present in any medium they want, on any pre-approved question and use props during the presentation—a flexibility students may find either liberating or overwhelming.
Some students enjoy this extra opportunity because they are given more leeway and make most of the decisions about this assessment themselves. This way, students are more likely to choose a topic interesting to them and find the daunting task slightly less tiresome. This assignment not only teaches them the strictly analytical elements of English, but also discipline and making decisions, and helps enhance their oral presentation skills that will be useful in other situations in the future and outside of the classroom.
However, this amount of freedom may also be a setback for students who find it harder to narrow topics down by themselves and produce work without a strict structure or instructions to follow to create a specific piece. The choices are infinite, and the number of opportunities may overwhelm them. Other students find it hard to take initiative and create a presentation by themselves without much structure.
It is important for anxious juniors to remember, however, that this IOP is only one single part of their course and should consider it as preparation for the more difficult Independent Oral Commentary later in the year—an impromptu commentary where students are given a poem and are expected to give an oral analysis, then answer discussion questions on another written work they have previously read, the recordings of which are then later sent to the IB. It is rare that projects that allow this level of flexibility are given, especially in the IB, so juniors should practice (at least 5 times!), have fun with it and make the most of this unique opportunity.