Adventures in CI: One Word Images


The adventures in CI continue! Newest development: One Word Images. I don’t know how I feel about the name, but to me it’s kind of like a mini story-asking exercise in which you pretend there’s an object in the room that has a backstory and some feelings about that backstory. I saw it modeled at my CI class and decided it was low-stakes enough to try the next week.

I have a tricky mixed-ability class; so mixed, in fact, that I started calling it “Upper School Spanish.” The students represent an incredible range of proficiency levels (including a native speaker!!), but one thing they have in common is that they’ve never really been asked to use the language in their heads except in really prescribed ways. As I learn more and more about CI techniques, I’m convinced this is the only way to move these mostly intermediate learners away from thinking of Spanish class like their other subjects and into real communication. No more fill-in-the-blank quizzes or explicit grammar; we’re going to talk to each other.

But how? Well, One Word Images is an option!

To get started, I worked with only half the class (the others worked independently and quietly on another assignment...sort of). I had them arrange chairs in a semicircle. I wrote on the board, in English:

What is it?

Size? Color? Etc.

How’s it doing?

I made the SpongeBob imagination rainbow above my head and asked them to tell me what was in the middle of the circle. First response, “una mochila” (there was literally a backpack). “No, no hay una mochila. ¿Qué hay?” No, there’s not a backpack. What is there? Some suggested people and animals. These aren’t allowed with OWI. It has to be a thing. This makes sense because teenagers are mean and also it’s funnier if a ketchup bottle is sad because it misses its best friend, mustard.

After some coaxing and lots of circling, we ended up with a story about a huge basketball shoe that belonged to a giant baby. The shoe, named Pepito, evidently replaced an old shoe named William. William needed to be replaced because he got a hole. William is now abandoned in a dumpster.

The coolest part of OWI is the artist. A student draws the story as the class makes it up, and revealing their artwork is the big finale. This was so fun; we had a drumroll and everything. After a brain break, I posted the drawing in the front of the room and did a Write and Discuss with the entire class to solidify the story. (Sidenote: I’m also really enjoying Write and Discuss, but I’m trying not to use it too much! Every time it amazes me I have tricked high schoolers essentially into taking notes. I don’t want to spook them by overusing it.)

Pepito and William

Pepito and William


Emboldened by success with Pepito, I tried OWI that same day with Spanish 2. The 7th and 8th graders decided there was a rainbow water bottle that belonged to a student in the class (this was probably a no-no for OWI, but the student was game). The water bottle was so huge, though, that The Hulk had to carry it for the student. The Hulk and the water bottle evidently aren’t friends, but by the time we got to why, the kiddos were over it. Good enough for me, though! Hope you’re inspired to try a OWI!

Maggie Dunlap