Things to try to put into your OWI teaching that we learned in the Cascadia coaching sessions:
- Work on pacing. Allow yourself to go slowly. Walk to the words. Put your hand on the word when you say it. Count at least four seconds between each word or word chunk.
- There is a feeling in a really good one word image of “trying to figure it out”, trying to understand what the image looks like. It is group wonderment. But at the same time indicate to them that YOU already know what it looks like.
- If your artist is not of the highest quality, forget it. Don’t do an image. Do a reading class or something else. No good artist means no good image.
- Taste the words. If this doesn’t resonate with you, don’t taste the words.
- Work on voice quality, which can do so much to encourage interest. Put joy in your voice. Put curiosity in your voice. This leads to a more musical quality in the questioning. It leads to dancing the object into existence. As Annabelle Allen put it in one of her sessions this past week, “Prance and point instead of pointing and pausing.
- Do not turn it into a one person show; make a conversation out of it. This is a two way street and not a chance for you to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. If you are reserved in your general style as a teacher, this is best for the OWI/Invisibles process. It allows the group to be more cohesive instead of being entertained by a histrionic freak in front of the classroom, which is off-putting.
- Bring in genuine eye contact. Make it real. This is very hard to do. Andrew Rosene of Charlotte, NC had the best line I heard at the Cascadia conference which I keep thinking about over and over: “If you are truly teaching to the eyes, then you will know what to say next.” It’s kind of the ultimate badass comment about non-targeted input. It is a triumphant statement that refutes the idea that our students need a bunch of counted reps of targeted vocabulary in order to acquire the word. It is a statement in favor of the power of genuine human interaction in the foreign language classroom over mere mechanical ways to teach a language. I thank Andrew for that sentence. It’s a real zinger.
- Respect the space. Don’t move it around with your hands. Always draw their attention back to it.
- Own the space. This is the big one. Don’t act like you don’t know and are asking the questions in the prompt sequence out of weakness. Act instead like you already know the answer and make them guess what you are thinking, working in a powerful way with your Professor #2.
- If the object is small, make sure the artist uses a magnifying glass, ruler, giant hand, small buildings, etc. around it or other clever way of showing it’s small size by contrast.
- This is Tina’s idea: if the OWI is happy, then later in the story when you create the problem, just take away from the character whatever it is that makes them happy. This creates a problem.
I will add to this list as Tina and I go through the summer conferences. We are always learning new things about this work and Cascadia was no exception.
Note 1: It is always possible, indeed likely if not an eventual certainty, that the idea in people’s minds of what doing an OWI means will change from what I think it is. Think of the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall where he pops up from behind the movie marquis. This is normal, but please try to keep the above ideas in mind when doing OWIs anyway. They represent some very core aspects of what I think OWIs are and without them the scene weakens. If you go go a conference and someone presents on them, that is their interpretation of it and that is great because all of the strategies offered here are just suggestions to be interpreted by teachers in their own individual ways, but I just don’t want my old friend and gem of an activity for almost fifteen years now to get so diffuse over time that people fail to see the deep-seated mojo in the version we have now.