Choose Your Own Homework!!



In my first year of OWL teaching, I was terrible at assigning homework.  I would be so focused on repeating vocabulary and ending class on a positive note, that I would forget to explain the assignment. Likewise, if I did manage to assign homework, the following class would either take a direction that rendered our homework irrelevant or I would simply forget to check and incorporate the work.  To tackle this problem, I decided to stop assigning and checking homework and jumped on the choose your own homework bandwagon.

Creating a Choose Your Own homework document has been a lifesaver.  It has given me more time in class, taken away the stress of creating a homework assignment and most importantly, it forces students to take charge of their educational experience.

Below, I am attaching what I use for my Spanish Two Classes.  It is based on Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s of Musicuentos Choose Your Own Homework document. Here you can find her version as well as other samples from fantastic educators.  In the Musicuentos’s version you will notice that homework options are assigned a point value ranging from one to five.  As the point value increases, the tasks become more difficult and interactive. The different point values also require different language functions. For instance, one pointers ask students to list words and use a lot of vocabulary from the class.  A two pointer might ask them to write phrases or sentences with the vocabulary. A three pointer might require some internet investigation as well as a description while a four pointer might require narration.  Five pointers frequently require interactivity with the community beyond the classroom.

For grading, I choose a number of points to be completed each week and then multiplied this by the number of weeks in the quarter in order to determine how many points are necessary to receive an A.  I also had students record their homework in a blog.  I chose blogger by Google as students can easily email videos and posts to their blog. This accountability system worked well for me, but use what works for you!

Enjoy and OWL on!

Elige tu propia aventura










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?