OWAT -One Word At a Time

I read recently a post on Keith Toda’s blog, Todally Comprehensible about OWAT’s and while I agree OWAT is an activity for advanced students, I was still curious to see if my upper primary students could manage this. Last week was an extremely short week for us with Monday being a public holiday and Tuesday a student free day; so it seemed a perfect window to try OWAT with the 4 upper primary classes I taught. 

I chose the following vocabulary which are both a mixture of vocabulary just covered and totally new words as well as a mix of verbs and adjectives:

Ambil -get

Nakal – naughty

Buka – open

Tutup – close

Lucu – funny

Sekarang – now

Jam – time

Besok – tomorrow

Sedikit – a few/ a little bit

Datang – arrived, came, come


I printed the words off onto card, cut them out and then wrote on the back the translation. For the word ‘jam’ I also put it into 2 sentences to demonstrate how it can be used: What is the time? (Jam berapa?) & It is 2 oclock (Jam 2). On the back of the lucu card, I wrote funny (haha) to distinguish it from funny (strange) and in retrospect adding the words ‘haha’ was confusing and I should have just left it as ‘funny’ which was clear enough. I then laminated the cards but in future I don’t think that is totally necessary. 

I lay the cards Indonesian side up on the shelf under my whiteboard, asked the students to “Cari satu, dua atau tiga teman” (get into groups of 2,3 or 4) and then explained the process:

1. One student from each group comes to the front and chooses one card. Before looking at the back, check to see if anyone in your group knows the meaning.

2. Together as a team, create a sentence using that word.

3. When the sentence is finished, put up your hand and I will check your sentence. (Check for grammar- pop-up only)

4. If I like it and tell your group bagus sekali, then return your card and choose another.

5. Repeat with the next card and this time, the next sentence must follow on from the first to create a story. Do not write 10 unconnected sentences. 

When there were only about 5 minutes remaining of the time, I asked the students to finish the sentence they were working on and then write the resolution for the story. 

I collected them and then read them out to the class correcting any grammatical errors as I went. This was an extremely challenging exercise for my students and a few groups created stories they were truly proud of. The groups had some fantastic discussions which must have included many repetitions of each new word because while I read the stories out, I added a few comprehension checks and students could confidently translate the new words. In contrast, the last lesson of the day was with a year 6/7 class who staggered into the Indonesian room and collapsed on the floor. They had come from PE where they had played dodge ball so they were very hot and exhausted! They begged to just lie down and do ‘relaxation like a reception class’!! I explained the task and offered that we could do it as a whole class instead if they preferred. Of course they jumped at this. Together they created a funny story about Cody falling over at KFC. I would be interested now to see which classes learned (not yet aquired) the new words best; those that worked in small groups where the words were repeated many times or as a whole class where the words were held up, spoken by just a few and then put into sentences. In reflection it is clear I should have circled to address this however everyone (including me) was too hot and tired and maybe we should have all just enjoyed free reading time? Oh wel…….

Here are a few of the stories from the year 5, & 6/7 classes:









While very challenging, there is definitely merit to this exercise and I am wondering if students will improve and more groups will create even better stories next time. It is truly rigorous! I loved that students worked collaboratively to create sentences, because I feel it helped those students who find free writes (fluency writes) challenging. Sometimes during free writes, I have students sitting facing the word wall overwhelmed, so this hopefully gave them an opportunity to be involved in the process of creating sentences and or stories.

I also believe that OWAT has postential for those of us in Australia struggling to create/design open ended assessment tasks that align with TPRS. The chosen words could be taken straight from the story just covered with students having the option to recreate the story exactly, recreate the story with a few added details or rewrite a totally new story.

How do OWAT’s align with ACARA- The Australian Curriculum?

1.1 Socialising – Interacting orally and in writing to exchange ideas, opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings and participating in planning, negotiating, deciding and taking action.

1.3 Creating – Engaging with imaginative experience by participating in, responding to and creating a range of texts such as stories, songs, drama and muisc. 

1.4 Translating – Moving between languages and cultures orally and in writing, recognising different interpretations and explaining these to others. 

2.1 – Systems of Langauage – Understanding language as a system, including sound, writing, grammatical and textual conventions.

4 thoughts on “OWAT -One Word At a Time

  1. L. Sastri says:

    What an excellent approach, By Cathy!! I’m so impressed with the lesson and the students ability to put sentences together as a story. Saya mau pindah ke Australia biar anak saya bisa belajar di sekolah Ibu 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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