Back to Basics

By February 22, 2020 News

Often times at this time of year we are looking for new ideas and strategies and trying to find that one thing that is going to spice up our classrooms. Here you can find a blog that will give you some great new ideas for class! These ideas are helpful to get us that jolt of energy, enthusiasm and joy we need to get through the tough times. Along with this, there is something else that is helpful to remember. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Often time it takes simply going back to basics. Remembering those foundational strategies and reasons of why you do what you do in the classroom.

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting several different schools and teachers and having the phenomenal opportunity to be able to see them in action. These were teachers who had been utilizing OWL strategies from six months up to three years, all of them excitingly enough having discovered OWL at a Bootcamp. It was incredible to see the common characteristics in each of their classes! Regardless of level taught, language taught and where teachers were in their OWL journey, all classrooms shared the following common characteristics: 

  • Joy and laughter 
  • Immersive environment 
  • Movement 
  • Strong community and relationships between teacher and peers
  • Fearlessness 
  • Risk-taking 
  • Lots of language 
  • Interactions, both orally and written 
  • Circle structure with deviations to rows, groups, etc. 

I saw shy kids jumping and laughing across the circle, rambunctious kids listening to and engaging with their peers, kids from different ‘cliques’ sharing stories and using the language together. It blew me away. It was obvious that there was mutual respect, that they cared for each other and that the teachers knew their students well. 

I sat back and realized that what I was seeing were the six OWL values played out in real life. These values were originally developed from the need to create a real-life, relevant learning experience for students. That pipe dream that started over fifteen years ago was alive and well in schools across the country, with different populations, teachers and languages. These values are as much or more relevant today than they were so many years ago. See where and how you relate to the following values: 

  • To build relationships and community 
  • To foster intrinsic motivation and student ownership 
  • To take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes) 
  • To create an immersive environment, 100% in the target language 
  • To be fearless in an immersive environment 
  • To be able to infer and circumlocute, negotiate meaning 

All of these values are representative of a classroom that reflects real-life learning, relevancy and authentic engagement. The palpable feel of a classroom where all of these elements are in play is something incredible to behold. This was evident through the other teachers observing these classrooms as well. They were laughing along and getting sucked into the joy and fun. They couldn’t hold themselves back as they interjected or answered questions, wanting to be in on the experience themselves!

The best thing about these values is that they are more than just a list on the wall, or something to think about in abstract terms; they are living, breathing ways of functioning, living and creating in class together. Which ones do you most identify with and embody, and which ones do you feel like you would like to explore more? Celebrate the ones that speak to you and that you are seeing happening in your classroom right now. Embrace one this week that you would like to do more of with your students. As you do, connect and share with the community and see what other teachers are doing. Have a great week of playing with these values and seeing the joy come alive in your classroom! 

Would you like to see snippets of a classroom and hear how it feels from a student perspective? Take a look at this video from ‘Bulldog Insider with Dr. Hector Freytas: OWL Classroom’ featuring Jessica Mauritzen’s classroom and students.