Jacqueline from Organic World Languages came to our K-12 World Language department today to teach how to do a language circle. I was very excited for the session as my interest in OWL has been building since I attended a short workshop by them at ACTFL. I find their approach to be a good new tool for my teaching seeing that it focuses on community building, staying in the target language and making language learning engaging.
What is a language circle? I am nowhere near an expert on the topic after an hour long training, but I am intrigued to learn more. OWL offers full sessions on the topic. You can learn more via at owlanguage.com, which was my first step and how I decided that I wanted to incorporate the language circle into my teaching. The language circle is getting students into a circle to communicate with each other. Students are given a few chunks of language and then are asked in pairs to express their own meaning with the new language. This was a very freeing step for me. I quickly found once students are out from behind their desks and looking each other in the eye, there is increased communication. We were getting in more pair work more quickly and the number of times each student speaks has skyrocketed.
Classroom management is a strong component of OWL. Much like the clap echoing back and forth that we all learned from Responsive Classroom, OWL employs physical movement to refocus students when they first come to the circle and at other transition points. For example, after students communicate in pairs, the teacher says “un, deux, trois” and then claps and the students clap with her. Or, students are asked to touch their nose, touch their toes and touch their shoulders. The class comes back together to listen to the teacher without the teacher raising her voice.
In OWL Gestures are used to convey meaning. The teacher enthusiastically over-acts the gesture and repeats many times to express the new words. Words are made understandable through acting and then students use the new chunks of language right away. I need to spend more time learning about this approach in order to understand if the input is quite as rich as language learners need. Right now it seems that the teacher gives the input and attaches meaning to it through gesture or picture and I didn’t hear anything about the interpretive mode through reading or listening today, but again, I haven’t received the full training. Currently, with my limited exposure, this seems like another strategy for my toolbox and then I can use authentic documents and TPRS for further input.
In conclusion, an interesting approach to explore. The best new idea I have discovered in a while. I would recommend that you check out OWL.