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Words in Motion: The HABLA- OWL Winter Institute for Language Teachers

“Alegría” is a Spanish word that means happiness and joy; a word we believe should describe all learning experiences. For many students learning a language in school is an anxiety provoking process. They give up. They grow into adults feeling that learning a new language is impossible.

OWL and HABLA have created an approach to teaching languages that is creative, engaging, and joyful. For the first time the two organizations are teaming up to launch a winter institute, an opportunity for language teachers to participate in best practices from both organizations. Led by the founders of OWL and HABLA, the winter institute will share concrete, hands-on tools for designing a student-centered language environment.

Words in Motion will offer language teachers concrete, transferable activities as a way of  reimagining the language classroom.


A primary focus of the institute will be community building in the target language. With a strong foundation of  play, humor, compassion, and connection, the institute will demonstrate a set of strategies for building healthy, diverse and positive relationships between students. The opening of the institute will introduce teachers to engaging activities for building a strong foundational community using the target language.


At the Words in Motion Institute teachers will experience how to design a student-directed curriculum that empowers students to communicate in the target language from the first moment they walk into the classroom. The language classroom lives in the interactions between students and teachers. Teachers at the institute will learn how to redesign the classroom structure to reflect the resources and “lived worlds” students bring to  the classroom rather than teaching from a prescribed textbook.


Arts integration will be a key focus on the institute. Language will be created around rich works of literature and art. A variety of approaches for “making students thinking visible” will engage participants in deep conversations around cultural artifacts. The arts will be explored in the context of language learning. Participants will create a community mural, write original work around the theme “memory is magic,” and engage in a variety of kinesthetic activities.


This February, make life-long connections with a community of international teachers, experience new approaches and hands-on activities for direct application, and enjoy winter under the mango trees at Habla in Merida, Mexico.


Institute Itinerary


Saturday, February 16  


8:30am-9:00am Breakfast, Coffee, and Welcome


9:00am-12:00pm Who We Are: Our World Brought to Life


12:00-12:45pm Mexican Lunch Provided


12:45-3:00pm Extending Your World: Connecting Memories  


Sunday, February 17


8:30-9:00am  Breakfast and Opening Reflection


9:00am-12:00pm  Visible Memories: Exploring Culture and Life


12:00pm-12:45pm  Mexican Lunch Provided


12:45-3:00pm  Memories are Magic: Literature in the Language Classroom


This session will explore ways literature develops students’ vocabulary, level of discourse, and brings their own rich lived experiences into the classroom.

Monday, February 18


8:30-9:00am  Breakfast and Opening Reflection


9:00am-12:00pm  Telling, Creating, and Performing Our Stories: Connecting the Word to the World


Language learners can reach beyond the walls of the classroom to impact their communities in powerful ways. This session will explore ways students can collaborate to tell and share stories with the larger community in a variety of ways.


12:00pm-12:45pm Lunch


12:45pm-3:00pm Hey, Wall: Language, Art, and Community


In the final event local teaching artists will lead participants in creating a community mural from the stories and ideas developed throughout the institute. This session will model ways language classrooms can be designed around “exhibitions of understanding” that demonstrate students’ learning throughout a language course, whether in the elementary or in the college classroom.


  • February 16, 2019
    8:30 AM - 4:00 PM
  • February 17, 2019
    8:30 AM - 4:00 PM
  • February 18, 2019
    8:30 AM - 3:00 PM



Venue Phone: 401 374 3237

Venue Website:

Calle 26 No. 99-B x 19 y 21 Col. México Mérida, Yucatán, México C.P. 97125