There has been some buzz on the OWL listserv and on the OWL forums about what everyone is doing for English week.  I thought I might get into the mix and share my thoughts on the very important foundation week.

For me, English week (the only time where the classroom is not 100% immersion) has three main goals:

1.  To Build Community

2.  Establish OWL Routines (the circle, immersion, circumlocution, risk taking, class structure, etc. . . )

3.  Set Quarter and Semester Learning Targets

This year, my English week is actually six days, two days before labor day and four days after. At the end of these six 40 minute classes,  I want students to be comfortable with their classmates and me,  understand the class philosophy, and be aware of their proficiency level and how to progress to the next level.

So here goes!


My mantra this year is, build a community, learning follows.  Therefore,  the objective for this day will be for students to meet each other and me and to HAVE FUN.  Let’s set a positive and supportive tone from the start. Likewise, the expectation is established that in an OWL classroom, you will MOVE and BE ENGAGED.  Most likely, even though this is the first day of English week, I will not speak any English.  This way we can also establish the rules of circumlocution: describe it, draw it or act it out!

If you want some suggestions on first day games check out my earlier post or the OWL forums!


Undoubtably, the classes will have produced some first day vocabulary.  On day two I am going to stress putting backpacks on the tables, coming to the circle and repeating the vocabulary with a partner.  However, instead of designing a lesson around the previous topics, the literacy activities and questioning will be replaced by reviewing my class expectations (coming soon!) and going over the contents of their Google Folder.  (Many teachers have a class website, but I have found that making class documents available in a google folder works for me.)  If time allows, we can play another game.  At the very least, we will end class with a final word and a cheer.


After a warm up and circle activities, we will take some time to discuss the purpose of the circle, transitions and immersion.  And of course, you can’t forget a game or cheers!


Last year, students’ biggest complaint about OWL was the lack or seeming lack of  structure.  Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of structure in an OWL class, but at first it feels so different to students they just don’t see it. As a result, I am making it a point to explicitly go over the class structure with students: Warm up, review of vocabulary, hook, conversation, literacy activity, conversation, literacy activity, final circle.


As a private school, my high school is fed by approximately 15 different middle schools.  As a result, I have wide range of abilities in my classes, especially in Spanish Two.  I cannot set blanket goals of for example, students must reach a novice high level by the end of the quarter.  Proficiency targets need to be individualized given that I have novice mids and intermediate mids in the same class.  Therefore, on this day I will have students write about and record a conversation on familiar topics so I can have a more accurate idea of their proficiency level. My prep and evening will be spent assessing approximate proficiency level!!


While students work on a choose your own homework activity, I will meeting individually with students to let them know their approximate proficiency level, look at what they do well,  and to set quarter and semester goals. They love this individual attention!


Thoughts? Feedback?  What games will you be playing? What themes might you start the year with?


7 thoughts on “ENGLISH WEEK!

  1. The purpose is also to debrief the immersion experience they just had and provide them with the skills they need to function in that environment (for ex: circumlocution-act it out, draw it out, use what you know) and help students understand the ACTFL levels and set goals based on those levels.


    • elizapfeifer

      I couldn’t agree more. Spending the time to speak with each student about their proficiency level has made a world of difference and encouraged students to learn intrinsically!


  2. A great topic for the first week is their summer. What are all the topics that can be addressed/brought up? This can be done at a novice, intermediate or advanced level. Everything from activities to travels to where and with who, even current events (Should we worry about ebola?). Those first few days/weeks are about building community, setting expectations, getting to know one another, and ‘fishing’ for language level. A variety of topics with prompts at level and above should reveal a floor and ceiling.


    • elizapfeifer

      Thank you for reminding us to use prompts above and below level as a way to gauge student level and also for the start of the year topics! Your comments also made it clear what perhaps, my blog entry did not. The discussions about immersion, the circle or ACTFL levels are all happening within the context of an OWL activity. For instance, in my class we might be basing our conversations on summer time activities, debating back-to school fashion trends and dress codes, comparing school classrooms from across the world or discussing firsts (first day of school, first words, first friend, first sleep over, etc). Thank you for clarifying and reminding us that the OWL classroom continues during English week. It just has debrief time!


  3. Katie Martin

    I had a lot of luck last year starting with 3 or 4 days of full immersion BEFORE doing English week. We did mostly easy community-building stuff that was easy to make comprehensible: mostly games and circle activities. Then we de-briefed the experience during English week.


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