Jingyi Zhang, Chinese Teacher, Chillicothe City School District
This is my second year teaching since I graduated from Cleveland State University. I am teaching all levels of Chinese in all buildings in my school district. As a new educator, I always look for effective teaching methods that can improve my teaching.
The first time I was exposed to OWL, was at the spring OFLA conference. The lead teacher, Darcy Grytness Rogers, gave us a Spanish lesson demo. In this demo lesson, Darcy used 100% Spanish and taught us basic Spanish words. As a Chinese teacher, I could not fully understand the content. In order to figure out the instructions, I had to focus on her demo lesson and imitate others teachers’ actions and words. This session was very impressive, however, I did not start to use OWL in my classroom until the end of September.
After a recommendation from a colleague, this fall I attended another OWL workshop at Olentangy Liberty High School. During the workshop, I met many passionate world language teachers. After I observed more Spanish demo lessons, I gave a Chinese mini demo to Spanish students applying the OWL methodology. I was so excited to see how students engaged in those lessons and how they applied their language to communicate with each other and build good relationships with classmates and teachers.
I decided to try OWL the following week. I was so frustrated in the first couple of days. My students tended to lose focus and give up, especially my Chinese II students. They were not used to the absence of tables in my classroom. OWL methodology has the students and teachers standing up and moving around the classroom to enhance interaction. Mostly, they were not able to use 100% Chinese in my classroom. However, three days later, some of my students found that they did like the OWL classroom, as they gained more freedom and had fun using Chinese in my classroom. My AP Chinese students told me that they can’t believe they learned so many vocabulary words in two days and can keep talking in Chinese with the help of classmates, vocabulary lists and myself.
OWL is a win-win teaching method for both students and teachers. By changing the classroom arrangement, the learning atmosphere improves significantly inside my classroom. With all the desks gone, I feel like we are a family: we all are together to pursue our goals. That’s what the language is for — to communicate, and that what the communication is for–to better understand each other and to be a global citizen.