OWI tweak for nervous teachers

I can be a nervous teacher at times. I hate having to keep track of many things at once… I like to be able to simply focus on my students and their responses. I find that if part of my mind is focused on one or two steps ahead of where we are, then I cannot react to what we are doing in the moment and my nervousness ends up making me miss some of those beautiful, enjoyable moments of pure creativity.

A few weeks ago I was in Cameron Taylor’s classroom and we were working on One Word Images (OWI) in four different languages: Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin and French. Normally when I demo we stick to one language and delve deep into that language so that workshop participants can get a sense of the depth of acquisition that can happen with OWIs. Since our Japan workshop lasted two days rather than one, we decided to work in small groups after the initial demo so that more people could experience the process of making a OWI from the teacher’s perspective before returning to their classrooms on the following Monday.

On the board I wrote a quick outline of the characteristics that I was going to ask about to help scaffold the process. Normally in my own classroom I have this posted on a small note card because my heritage students lead OWI creation during lunch tutorials. It never occurred to me, however, how useful it is for everyone to be able to see the scaffolding! Not only do I, the nervous teacher, no longer have to consult my note card to remember what the next question is… but students are now anticipating the questions and thinking of more creative responses beforehand. Cameron added this tweak to his classes the following Monday and reported that they created one of their best OWIs yet!

I created a poster that you can download and hang on the side of the whiteboard. If you print it in color then you get a cool blue glow, but it still looks good printed in black & white.

Remember that the purpose of posting this scaffold poster is to be able to participate in the flow of the lesson with your students. If you use this and find that you are listening to your students less as you barrel through the list of characteristics, then slow down! The whole idea is to be in the moment and listen carefully to your students’ brilliant ideas. Download the poster by clicking here: it is a series of four pages printed in landscape mode.


  1. I love it. I would like to do OWI with my elementary students but I have never seen a demo.

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