Unique Characteristics of the Methodology:
The number one focus in the OWL Methodology is community-building , and we do it 100% in the target language. Through play, humor, compassion, and warm demanding, we achieve a sense of community in our classrooms that is rarely seen in educational institutions today. We strive to build healthy, diverse and positive relationships with our students so that the language acquisition process can be a safe and empowering one.
Empowering and Student-Centered
We use our students as the curriculum. We do not come to class with prescribed content for the day. Instead we come with a structure in mind that allows us to create a space where our students get to be the driving force of instruction. Through unique questioning and scaffolding techniques, we wrap the language acquisition process around our students’ lives. When the class content comes from the students, students feel empowered with the language. They OWN the language because it is developed in real-life, real-interest situations and it is applicable to their life in their native language, while at the same time opening up worlds to be a global citizen.
Focused on Communication Skills
To develop communication skills in a second language, the learning environment has to mimic that of the first language. This means there is no translation and that grammatical concepts are only addressed when there is a need to clarify something in context. Guided by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language (ACTFL) National Standards for Foreign Language Education, we strive to achieve 90+% target language in our classrooms, ensuring that the focus in our classrooms is not only on comprehension, but competency as well.
Redesigned Classroom Structure
Students stand and sit in a circle. This structure allows for equality, accountability, and the flexibility to create an academic and social space for language acquisition to occur. The purpose of the circle is to create pairings and groupings of students so that they can interact, practice, produce, learn, and teach each other in a fluid way. This structure allows for students to interact with ALL of their peers, all the time.
Consistent Integration of Kinesthetics : When we see that our students are starting to leave the learning zone and enter the risk zone, we incorporate kinesthetic transitions to help them “reset”, take a breather, and simply give their brains a rest. We invite our students to get silly, shake the tension out and join in with their peers to collect themselves together, so that they can continue on as a community of learners. At the beginning levels, the physical aspect of this methodology is much more present than at the higher levels.
The desire to create a space for second language acquisition to naturally occur is how the OWL methodology was born. Founder Darcy Rogers began developing the methodology in 2003 after taking a group of students abroad and seeing her students’ fears of hearing and using the second language. Her students shied away from native speakers and demonstrated a lack of the communication skills necessary to feel confident in the second language environment. At this point, she knew that what she was doing in the classroom needed to change.
Upon returning from her trip, her focus transitioned to an emphasis on the natural, organic acquisition of language. Instead of worrying about covering chapters in a textbook or specific grammar concepts, she began to focus on comprehensible input, student production, social interaction and the necessity of functioning 100% in the target language. The result? A classroom environment that became a fun, engaging, encouraging, and positive place that fostered spontaneity, making mistakes and learning from them, and a desire to speak and communicate in the target language. Students were no longer bystanders of their learning, but guiding it.