OWI Writing

From Russ:

Hey guys,

Just wanted to let you know how things were going over here in Silverton. I just did my first one word image with students in 4th period today (level 1 class). We have been in school since last Wednesday, but because of weird schedules and procedural stuff, they only really had some TPR and CWB for a couple days.

It went great! My kids described a giant red Chipotle burrito. We got to it having no face but big eyes. I think I went slowly enough because no one looked lost (teaching to eyes) and engagement was high. It took about 10 minutes and I only got it’s size color face and name.

The best part is this: I realized as I was writing the reading for it, that will use the reading options with, using some classic Blaine Ray style circling, I got about 130 word reading for them. I didn’t really embed a ton of new language just really tried to circle any time I added a new detail in the writing.

My thinking is that if I focus on really going deep with what they know now I can release the reigns as we go so that when we start stories I won’t need to circle pretty much at all.

Lastly I want to thank you guys for teaching me so much. All your work in the workshop and on the blog has really helps grow as a teacher.

Thanks again,




8 thoughts on “OWI Writing”

  1. I have noticed that the eyes are an important part of a one word image even if other aspects of the face don’t get included. They can convey a lot and the artist always has a good time depicting eyes. I also like that it only went ten minutes. I think that we have a tendency to get carried away with the images when really they are only part and parcel of a larger process that is the formation of an entire emergent (Invisibles) story.

  2. So I used the first reading options with this today. I know this was probably not the best but I wanted to see what they could handle. I put the reading in the past. My thought was the image created in true present but now that moment passed and we were reading about what we did the day before. The reading was basically a script of what i said while we were making the image. But it was a really big reading for them and the cool thing is that I could watch their processing speed increase from the first time they read it to the last time. In fact on the second time we read and translated together their processing really increased from the first word to the last. This wasn’t my goal but in the end it was like I was watching one of those TPRS demo videos on YouTube where the teacher works and works on the actor until they can produce it with confidence, but the best part is I didn’t do any work the kids did, and it wasn’t production it was acquisition. (Or at least comprehension) It’s amazing how well these techniques work!

    1. Russ, great news! I have been writing up a good deal of OWIs these days myself. The kids are doing very well so far helping me remember the image – answering my questions and giving me ideas for the writing from time to time. It feels so good to help them write and then hear them reading something that THEY created. Maybe tomorrow we will do more reading options; the little descriptions are cute and well-loved and I could see spending another day on them.

    2. ” I put the reading in the past. My thought was the image created in true present but now that moment passed and we were reading about what we did the day before.”

      Yes Russ this is good too. After developing the character I started in the past with my level 1s. Because I started “one day…” So a story in the past presented itself. I went slow because in French there are two verbs used in the immediate past — in spanish preterito. But grammar aside, I just keep establishing meaning, gesturing, recycling and then discussing the artists work. It was a fast and easy day!

  3. Ok it’s good to hear I am not alone on this. I just have always sort of done story asking in the present and teaching in past. To me it just made sense and the kids really handled it well.

  4. Here is what Steve wrote to me in an email about it:

    Hi Ben,

    I was doing OWI for about 3 weeks and started spinning off stories. What I noticed is that once the class does the OWI of the character, I can move into the past by saying “one day”. Then start a past story of one of the character’s adventures.

    This way as storytellers were are not locked into staying in the present tense the whole time while doing stories. Later students can read it in the present. Or read the story exactly. I feel that this a more natural way of storytelling.


    The main thing, Russ, is that we feel good about all aspects of what we do, since there are no rules. Anything that works for us is the way to do it. Win win!

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    OK I put on my big girl pants, binged on Tina’s OWI videos, and marched into Hebrew last night to DO OWI. It was great, though I’m sure I haven’t even begun to mine its greatness (I sucked – but they all loved it – it’s THAT powerful).
    Since none of the kids have ever seen/done anything like it, I decided to model the drawing of it (plus we don’t have an easel in the Hebrew room yet), with the promise of a student artist later/next time. I didn’t first gesture it (like Tina does while the artist draws) – but will do so once I hire a qualified artist. So I know it would have gone better w/a student artist and big reveal, but I’m cool with that for this maiden voyage.
    I saw the newbies – 3rd-4th graders first. So open and joyful about it. We created a chocolate bar (we voted on it) with big blue eyes and an enormous pink mouth (no nose). The Teacher #2 decided on the ‘no nose.” It’s legs were green and miniature, but it had big purple boots. It took over 25 minutes! In comments above you talk about doing a OWI in 10 minutes, but I stretched it to that long, and no one seemed to notice or mind! I was in that’ time dissolves around you’ FLOW with the kids, at 4:15 on a Wednesday evening – all the way thru the 3 groups- til 6pm.)

    In the 5th grade class, where there are several behavior issues, a few were not in attendance, but one major playah (we’ll call him H) got involved RIGHT AWAY. We were drawing a giant felafel. I asked if it had hands. The class said yes. A discussion of big or small ensued. H raised his hand and offered, brilliantly, “one of each” (in English, of course). I fist bumped him and brought him to the board to show me exactly where and how big/small each hand would be. Long story short (longer) – he went to the director after class to check in and excitedly told her all about it! She came in later to see it, as promised to him.
    A teacher raised her hand during the OWI and asked me about the felafel balls in Hebrew. I was afraid to say/write ‘balls’ because of how immature the group is, so we just drew ’em and pointed when we said the Hebrew word for balls. No prob. They named it ‘Father Felafel’ (in Hebrew). It had long legs and Birkenstock sandals.

    The 6th-7th grade class had me draw a giant taco with 3 green eyes (a small eye between the 2 larger ones). It was a sad taco with a small sad blue mouth, and tears since it was crying. We didn’t get much farther with it cuz when they entered the Hebrew room, they saw the other 2 classes’ drawings, so I started there and got tons of mileage out of it!
    Needless to say, I’m delighted to have finally grabbed and tried this fabulous tool, and I look forward to honing my skills with it. I reiterate how fortunate I feel to be in a community of such inventive and generous artists! Thanks so much. I’m gonna try my best- I really want to go to the Cascadia conference!!!

  6. So here is something interesting. I will be starting this year with OWI and everything. I will probably do some invisible spin offs etc, but I won’t be doing this:

    The best part is this: I realized as I was writing the reading for it, that will use the reading options with, using some classic Blaine Ray style circling, I got about 130 word reading for them. I didn’t really embed a ton of new language just really tried to circle any time I added a new detail in the writing.

    I will literally just really tread it with them. I won’t try to add more reps in the story. If the kids said the burrito has really big eyes, like really really big then I will stress that. But I won’t Brandon brown it. (He wants a dog. He wants a big dog. He wants a really big dog. He wants a really big dog like Clifford…) I don’t do that when I read to my 3 year old. So I’m not doing that with students. I think it has taken me this year to understand what I need to do. I like the OWI in the present and reasons in past but I am not going to really milk my readings with a bunch of translations of whatever.

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