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TXBC17 Day 4

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Summary:

Trust your passion.  As Darcy has frequently said, OWL is not just about a method; it’s about us as people.  Who we are is how we present to our students.  We are at our best when we are doing what we are passionate about.  To that end, all three of our strands spent the day exploring PPATH, collaborative planning, and leading circles.  Our Green Strand was engaged in kinesthetic topic webs, the curriculum triangle, and collaborative planning.  The Blue Strand did a consultancy protocol, discussed challenges and successes, played a fun round of question tennis, and did collaborative planning.  The Orange Strand did a deep dive into threads and progressions and pushing students to the next level.

 

Significant Quotes:

“The consultancy protocol gave me the opportunity to contemplate my own practice through the discussion of someone else’s.”  –Blue Strand participant

 

“We beat ourselves up about grading when we should be focused on using something really simple that highlights what students can do”  –Orange Strand participant

 

“Writing the questions at all three proficiency levels has been great because I’ve had the opportunity to practice questioning while getting feedback.”  –Green Strand participant

 

Commentary:

Today was such an inspiring day for me as a teacher.  It was amazing to see so many fellow teachers with a genuine passion for what they do.  They exemplified their passion by being willing to look critically at themselves and their practice.  The most meaningful experience of the day for me was watching participants in the Blue Strand take a deep dive into an essential question:  “How can I get my students to be 100% target language?”  Through the consultancy protocol, participants were able to explore the topic and refine their essential question to: “How can we create an environment that supports students staying in the L2?”  By shifting the question participants shifted the onus of the solution to the teacher:  it is the teacher’s responsibility to create the right environment.  This new essential question simultaneously created a role for students:  once the right environment has been created, students much have ownership in it.  Watching teachers reach this conclusion together via the consultancy protocol was an amazing experience.  Just as changes in our classroom are most meaningful and effective when they involve giving students ownership, workshops such as this bootcamp are at their best when they are giving teachers the room to think critically and take ownership of their own practices.

TXBC17 Day 3

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Oh the possibility of day three!  Possibility was the word of the day as we dove into the nuts and bolts of the OWL methodology.  Beginning the day with the “Spectrum” activity was a wonderful treat as we had the opportunity to see where OWL’ers stand on the really important issues like chocolate or vanilla and cats or dogs.  This activity also gave us a chance to see where teachers felt they were on the OWL continuum.  Knowing this vital information set the stage for the rest of the day. 

 

One of the most important things we examined today was the process of trying something knew.  We have a great group of teahcers that found OWL because they were looking for a paradigm shift in their classrooms.  We were reminded that great things only happen when we allow ourselves to try and fail a couple of times before we reach that breakthrough.  A new OWL’er said it best when she mentioned, “trust that even if you make mistakes and have some bumps along the road, it’s ok.”  She could have not been more correct! Other participants also noticed that this concept is not exclusive to our classroom practices. He said, “this practice goes beyond the classroom.  It applies to our lives in general.” 

 

Day three was also all about connecting the activities and process done on day one and two with the fantasticness that is OWL.  Teachers self-selected strands to follow to either give them a foundation in OWL, get a quick refresher on what they already know and dig a little deeper, or share their experiences with other veteran OWL’ers and work out some kinks in their practice. In these small groups teacher unpacked the ACTFL proficiency guidelines, shared games like “Schooch” and learned some tools for “de-unitizing” there classroom. The strands are a vital part of the work done at Boot Camp because the small groups give teachers the opportunity the share, glean ideas, and build a community with teachers who are in the same part of the process as they are.  Talk about differentiation and meeting the needs of all involved! Whew!

 

By the way, the language circles today were on FIYAH! We started the morning with four circles for our teachers (1 French, 1 German, 1 Chinese, and 1 Spanish).  Everyone had to participate in a language to which they had had no previous exposure.  This gave teachers the change to feel what their students feel.  The circle debrief revealed feeling across the spectrum.  From frustration to triumph, embarrassed to empowered, needy to fulfilled, teachers felt it all!  We were then able to observe one of our facilitators run a circle with some great students from some of the Houston Area schools.  The demo circle served as a vital teaching tool for new and veteran OWL’ers alike. 

 

Tomorrow we will continue the awesomeness under the big blue Texas sky.  The possibilities are endless and all participants are be given the tools they need to  sustain their teaching journeys.  

TXBC17 Day 2

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Hello from day two of Texas Bootcamp 2017! Today we were blessed to have ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) trainer, Dr. Mark Darhower, all the way from North Carolina. We started the day being reminded of our focus for the week: Possibility, Passion, Purpose and Power! Today we would be focusing on a new “P”- Proficiency! We started with a quick stretch and an invitation to be present and we were on our way towards fully understanding how proficiency and questioning play a role in our daily interactions in class.

After a quick history lesson on how the proficiency ratings came to be, we dove right into the guidelines and the structure and protocol of the OPI. Today was a great reminder that the proficiency guidelines are there to help us determine what students CAN do with the language.

Next we spent a good amount of time learning all about the characteristics of each level of the proficiency guidelines. This is always a great reminder no matter how many times we have heard about the levels because this is at the core of everything that we do! The structure of the OPI was also explored.

After understanding the process of the OPI, we were able to listen to some actual OPI samples. This was great practice in identifying different questioning strategies as well as identifying the levels of our students. We also practiced taking a topic and spiraling our questions up the proficiency levels across many functions of language.

Lastly, and most importantly, we talked about how we can apply this in our classroom! This was where it all became clear! First, we need to remember as teachers to be a good “interviewer”. That is we should be actively listening to our students and finding out what is important to them while simultaneously listening to the type of language that they are producing. Next, the proficiency levels are perfect for rubrics. It tells us exactly how to assess our students and what criteria to use. Lastly, we considered the POSSIBILITY that our daily class time could actually work much like an OPI! WOW! That thought is POWERful! Just think about what that could do for our classes and language learning!

In reflecting with a table partner, she said “I realized that I only usually ask questions that I know that the students know the answer to. Now I know how to ask more open ended questions like ‘tell me about your house’ to find out what they can actually do with the language’.” This teacher realized that by asking more open ended questions, we could move our students from simple recall to actual reflection and application of the language. This is where critical thinking happens! Overall today was an amazing day full of learning and I am excited to see how we can connect what we learn the rest of this week back to the structure and purpose of the OPI.

Texas Bootcamp Day 1!

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Welcome to OWL Texas Bootcamp 2017!  Houston has welcomed us with beautiful blue skies,  heat and humidity.  Throughout the day we focused on building community and challenging ourselves in a variety of activities, allowing ourselves to feel what many of our students feel in our classrooms.  We all experienced fun and exciting times, moments of pure frustration and connection with our colleagues. Activities such as the Name Relay, Word Race, Cards, Growth Line, Hashtag, Heart- to- Heart Musical chairs, Hula Hoop Races, and the Blind and Silent Mazes were led by the fantastic OWL facilitators. Each activity was tightly tied to this year’s themes: PossibilityPassionPurposePower.   Each experience shared today was carefully designed to be transferable and applicable to our practice in the classroom!

Our day started off by delving into our themes – adding actions, reflecting on and exploring the personal and professional implications of  Possibility, Passion, Purpose, and Power.  We were grouped into smaller circles to get to know each other’s name with the Name Relay. Next, we did the Word Race activity where we were split into smaller groups and had an opportunity to compete with the other teams to recreate words using the letters from our four theme terms, an interactive variation similar to Boggle.  We dug deeper by creating a concept web and reflecting on what our groups had come up with.  With as much fun and play going on , there were just as many meaningful discussions and relationships being built throughout the afternoon.

With ‘Cards’,  we were strategically paired and prompted to answer questions based on the key themes of the week, allowing us to expand our interpretations of the themes and what they mean to us.  After that, we did the emotional Growth Line, which gave us the opportunity to think about challenging situations in our life and how we process them, allowing us to once again experience what our students might feel in our classrooms.  Activities like this one made our opening day stand out a little more than your typical Sunday afternoon.

Heart-to- Heart Musical Chairs was a fun and powerful way to get people moving and talking to a lot of different people in a dance- fueled manner.  At the end of our day, we were pushed through our comfort, growth and risk zones  with a few low -ropes course activities!  The Blind Maze and Silent Maze challenged people to work together, work through frustration, and push themselves and each other to their limits. Last but not least, technology was incorporated using the activity Hashtags #TXBC17. Please use it throughout the week to share the excitement and passion from this great group of teachers! After each activity, there was a debriefing which allowed us the opportunity to reflect on and see how we could use each activity we experienced in our classrooms.

Possibility, Passion, Purpose and Power – the week is just beginning and we are all looking ahead toward what we will be gaining with the unimaginable possibilities awaiting us over the next five days!

Teacher Quotes:

“I think its great we get to experience what our students go through.”

“It’s a wonderful experience to work as a team.”

“Teachers are stronger when we work together.”

Bootcamp Experiences- From Fellow OWL’ers

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Only 5 days until we kick off our summer with Texas Bootcamp! We’re so excited, we can barely contain ourselves. As we get ready, we wanted to share some experiences from fellow OWL’ers. It is messages like these from teachers that make us inspired, motivated, and excited for our three bootcamps this summer (West Coast at the end of June and East Coast at the beginning of August)!

OWL Bootcamp is every language teacher’s dream. I attended the first bootcamp in Oregon in 2013. It set me up withe the tools and strategies I needed to take the OWL leap the upcoming year and I started off the year with so much energy and a great network of OWLers around the globe. I then went back for more the following summer, attending West Coast 2014. I loved it so much and still somehow had energy to join my east coasters and popped in for the East Coast 2014 camp.
-Heidi H., MA
OWL Bootcamp solidified numerous practices and concepts for me. Learning in circles led by consultants, watching model classes, and discussing language acquisition theory were beneficial experiences which improved my teaching, my OWL understanding, and my teaching strategies. The camaraderie that we felt was immediate, supportive, and inspiring. It didn’t matter what level of experience the teachers had with OWL, we were all together, learning and teaching as one.
-Nancy B., ID
I attended West Coast Boot Camp 2014 in Portland, OR just before beginning to teach in an all OWL school. It helped to set me up for a very successful year even though it was my first year teaching on my own.  At OWL Boot Camp, all the techniques are modeled so that participants can experience them first-hand. We learn by doing, and that is the reason I was able to learn so much in one week. Teachers can use as much or as little OWL in their classrooms as they see fit, but for me, Boot Camp helped me to dive right in to teaching completely with OWL and showed me how to stay 100% in the target language with my students!
-Annamarie N., OR
What most impressed me about the bootcamp was that I was immediately part of a larger teacher community, all striving for authentic language and immersion in their classrooms. Every activity we did as a group was applicable to my own classroom. Through participating in these activities, I got to feel what it is like for my students and walked away with a better idea of how to implement the method as well as how to structure my curriculum and lesson plans.
-Erin M., CO
I attended East Coast ’14 and feel so grateful to have taken that leap. I OWL as much as I can and all of my classes are at least 90% immersed in the TL every single day. I feel re-energized and my students are taking so many risks in my classroom because we have created this incredible community of learners where we knowingly have to fail to move up that ladder of proficiency. Thank you, OWLers for keeping me motivated and inspired to teach world languages!
-Patricia B, MA

Don’t forget to check out this awesome video put together by OWL’ers too! We can’t wait to see you this summer!

End of the Year Survival Skills

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Welcome to the end of the year! That glorious time where getting to the end of each day feels like you just crossed the finish line of a marathon. Each day you wonder how you’ll get through the next. Where suddenly all those Leonardo DiCaprio memes feel more true every day. But there are ways to survive and even enjoy the last few days or weeks!

1. Stay in the target language. This may be the opposite of what you feel like doing, or what seems like would work. We all know that by now students are basically already out the door. Bring them back in! Make it comprehensible, relevant and meaningful. Have visuals and manipulatives and incorporate technology by using videos or music. It will make the last few weeks seem important and like they are still learning, even as the year winds down.

2. Make it about them. Building off of making class relevant and meaningful, personalize, personalize and personalize. Kids are fried and are only thinking about the video-gaming, sleeping in and playing they are about to do for the summer. Grab their attention and interest by making the material about them. Start with them and their interests, then bring it around to the topic(s) in class. How does it relate to them? Why should they care?

3. Recycle back in topics from throughout the year. Bring it all back together. Create prompts that combine topics in new ways, with a fresh way to talk about it. Students will feel successful and it is a great way for them to see language and its use in new ways!

4. Play and have fun!! (in the target language of course 😉 The time will go by much quicker for you and them. They will still be learning without even realizing it and will leave each day laughing and smiling, which is so important with all the stress of what the end of the year is for them and you. It is also a great way to stay in the target language and negotiate meaning.

5. Get kids moving! Incorporating movement, target language, play and relevancy will ensure that students are with you all the way to the end. Make sure students are interacting with each other and the language each day. Do something kinesthetic that gets their bodies and minds involved. If the body is engaged, the mind is engaged.

6. Put it on them. We all know that those who teach, learn! Have students lead the class whether in activities or actual lesson plans. I incorporated a ‘Teacher for a Day’ concept where students lead the class for half or all of the period. Topics can either be selected by students from topics throughout the year, or they can choose their own. I always preferred it when they chose their own because you can really see what they can do with the language, as they combine language from all throughout the year to share or lead about a topic that really interests them! Topics have included everything from playing soccer, to global warming to repairing a car. We get to learn new things about and from our students, even at the end of the year.

7. Show them their growth in the language. Show them how far they have come since the beginning of the year! This could be done by comparing any samples, spoken or written from the beginning of the year to now. I used composition books as journals, but any samples from earlier in the year can be re-looked at and reflected on. Anything that may have digitally been collected will also be great to compare. Students will be amazed by how much more they can do, how much they have learned and it’s fun for them to see the mistakes they used to make, that they don’t anymore. I had one student say ‘I can’t believe I ever used to make that mistake.’ They feel proud and successful, thus fulfilling one of the OWL goals of intrinsic motivation and student ownership.

These are some ideas that have helped end the year on a high note! With language programs, it is important that students stay with the program and continue on to the next level. We have the perfect opportunity to end the year in a positive way that encourages students to keep going in the language. End the year strong, with fun and interaction, letting kids see how far they have come. Have it be a celebration of what they can do with the language and let them see that they are learning right up to the last day. What tips do you use? What are some of your go-to strategies that leave you ending on a high note?

*If you are curious about some of the concepts mentioned in the blog, such as Teacher for a Day, use of compositions books, assessment and reflection tools, or anything else, contact info@organicworldlanguage.com.

Welcome to Our Blog!

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Welcome to the Organic World Language blog! We are very excited to provide a space for collaboration, learning and sharing. This space will focus on the two main concepts of OWL: proficiency and student-directed learning. Within that fall other concepts that OWL is known for, such as the kinesthetic learning space, which is embodied through the alternative physical space of lack of desks and a circle structure. Based on neuroscience, these strategies promote student interaction, use of target language and building community. Embedded in this are the 6 Goals, which are powerful intentions that bring about a strong sense of family and working together.

The 6 Goals of the OWL Methodology:

  • To use the target language 100% of the time
  • To not be afraid of a second language environment
  • Take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes!)
  • To be able to infer and circumlocute
  • To participate & be part of a community
  • To foster intrinsic motivation & student ownership

The OWL classroom is a space where the integration of 21st century skills, social and emotional learning and best practices all come together. The main purpose of OWL is not only to teach a language or a subject, but to grow a person and develop a contributing member of society who is empathetic, compassionate and self reflective. Through social justice themes, students become aware of themselves and the world around them.

The strategies and techniques are built on creating a meaningful classroom in the target language, where students are motivated to use the language and build relationships with those around them. Specific prompts and questions target students’ language level and gently push them to higher levels of language use, through integration of authentic literacy. These strategies and techniques will be showcased throughout the blog.

Expect to see guest teachers share their thoughts and learning experiences in the classroom. This space is intended to be a conversation to facilitate the continuation of the journey towards a truly student-driven environment.

We hope this space will inspire you to continue to create the learning space that you want for your students, where both you and them bring your authentic selves to the table and interact in relevant ways. Welcome and enjoy!