FOA & IOP: The Burden of Creativity

By Janka Steenkamp

(English Literature, Edge Writing, Public Speaking, Drama (IB) tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

As an IBDP English student, 30% of your final grade is orally assessed. 15% of that is the dreaded IOC, and the other 15% is your FOA if you are Lang/Lit and your IOP if you are Lit. Now, a speech or run of the mill PowerPoint presentation is generally a straightforward thing: you have a topic; you find points you want to bring across; and you try to make it slightly more entertaining (read: less dry) than an essay. Bing, badaboom! You’re done!

But, the IOP and FOA are assessments that require a creative engagement with learning material. In other words: you need to demonstrate that you understand what you’re talking about, but you need to do it in a less academic way. The aforementioned dichotomy can be daunting, so I have endeavored to give you a few tips to make this process slightly less uncomfortable. But first:

Let’s Talk Basics: Delivery

At the core, both of these assessments are oral this means that they are not only going to be testing your knowledge, but your communication skills as well. Therefore, you need to be aware of the fact that putting all the work into the slideshow or text is not the only thing that is going to make this a successful undertaking; you’re going to have to think about the actual delivery too.

  • Enunciate – Speak clearly! No one likes a mumbler! You don’t want to come across like certain orange individuals who confuse the audience when they speak: articulate your words!
  • Project – Make sure that you are heard – Timidity is not a sin, but lack of volume in a presentation is – what is the point of speaking if you’re not heard?
  • Pace Yourself – Pause when you need to; this is not a sprint, this is a marathon (or at least it should be a very well organized walk). Know where you want to change slides, breathe, give your audience time to digest what you’re saying – you don’t want to be the speech equivalent of a heartburn-inducing burrito.
  • Make Eye Contact – Yes, unfortunately, you’re going to have to look at the other people in the room, even if it is sporadically. You don’t have to look right at them, if you’re nervous, pick a spot to look at just above their heads, but make sure that you’re looking up and acknowledging their existence!
  • Own it! – You worked hard on this, enjoy your time up there!  


Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Creativity

Both of these assessments are going to test your ability to be engaging whilst demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the texts/concepts you have chosen, and there’s no better way to be engaging than getting creative with what you’re exploring. In fact, it’s part of each assessment rubric in both cases: how interested is the audience in what you’re doing?


Now that we have accepted the challenge…how do we do this? Well, let’s look at overall strategy:

  • Pick your text(s)
  • Choose the specific themes/elements you want to explore
  • Brainstorm: what is the most logically creative way I can engage with what I have chosen?
  • Once your choice is made, write your script/make your slideshow/choreograph your dance/make your collage
  • Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse! (This will help with all that delivery stuff we just talked about).

A Few Examples:

Monologues Exploring Theme/Character/ Element

Writing a monologue from a character’s perspective can be a great creative way to engage with a text. Keep in mind: Where in the plot would I put this? What does the character know at this point? What about the character/themes/elements am I exploring? How does the character speak (because you’ll have to mimic it)?


Lit: Madam Butterfly – Pinkerton’s thoughts as he sails away at the end of the play.

Lang/Lit: Exploring political rhetoric by writing a speech as Winston Churchill using his strategies to explain them.

Visual Representations of Theme/Character/ Element

Collages, Comic strips, Paintings, accompanied by an explanation that should be entertaining, of course! I.E. Pasting the pictures/ coloring in as you talk about their significance and explain why you’re pasting/shading in that way related to the theme/characterization/element you are exploring.

Out of the Box

If you’re a really creative person, you can really do whatever you like! Just remember: you must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of what you’re exploring!

interprative dance

Hopefully, some of these ideas have gotten your creative juices flowing, just don’t get too carried away: you need to be able to rationalize why you do what you do!

Remember, the most important thing is balance: understanding/knowledge and creativity!

Related Blog: On Not Being A Torturer of Poems: 4 Tips for Engaging with Poetry

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