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.

Membagi Ide Bagus – Student Free Day Links for Circling & Assessment

I would like to share with you a variety of links which we will either be covering at our PLC Student Free Day or will be useful as a follow-up afterwards. This hopefully will make it easier if all the links are together so that we can refer back to it later or pass on to others who were unable to join us.

Our schedule for the day will be:

8:30 – 9:00am meet and greet, grab a cuppa

9am  Aim (French) demo with Sarah Slee

10am Circling workshop

11am break

11:30am Strategies to assist with recording student progress

1pm Lunch

1;45pm Assessment & ACARA
– Assessment and reporting parameters and issues
– Designing assessments to reflect the AC intentions and AS
– Connections between TPRS & the AC

4pm finish


Links include:


1, Martina Bex has a great post entitled, What is Circling and it includes a free PDF hand out.

2. Terry Waltz has  circling cards available through her website, Mandarin Through Comprehensible Output as well as a Prezi demonstrating how to use them.

3. TPRS Q & A also has a post called What is Circling And How to do It?

4. TPRS Q & A is a great blog and this post entitles What Does the Goddess Laurie Clarq say about Circling is well worth reading.

5. A French Demo At a Blaine Ray Workshop – Carla Tarini is being coached by Blaine Ray on how to circle.

6. Circling does not always go smoothly or predictably which can be said of just about anything involving children and/animals, so they say! Keith Toda wrote a blog entitle Circling Troubleshooting which will help you identify why your circling efforts may not feel successful!

7. Here is another great video! This one is of Terry Waltz working with students for their first Chinese lesson. Here you can see Terry demonstrate a multitude of skills one of which is circling!

8. TPRS Lesson Demonstration – Great PDF which breaks down of circling


1. Martina Bex posted recently, End of Term Assessments which although definitely aimed at high school teachers, included some great ideas & interesting clarifications.

2. Fluency Writes (Free Writes) by Judith Dubios on her fantastic blog called TPRS Witch can be read here: http://tprs-witch.com/fluency-writing-2/ This post explains both what fluency writes are and why they are so useful.

3. Bryce Hedstrom’s Blooms Taxonomy for Foreign Language Instruction


Looking forward to our Student Free Day!! See you there and thank-you for supporting it!

Reporting and Assessing to the Australian Curriculum

On Wednesday last week, the Indonesian teachers met again with Mel Jones, the Coordinator for Primary Australian Curriculum (CPAC) for our region. The purpose of our meeting was to focus on reporting and moderation. Attending included Cheryl & Sharon from VH R-7, Jemma from C.A.S., Annie from G.P.S. and myself from P.E.P.S.

The meeting was brilliant on so many levels but mostly because we were able to attend training specific to the teaching of Indonesian with other local Indonesian teacher colleagues. Non-metropolitan language teachers know how rare these opportunities are! In fact ‘rare’ doesn’t even come close to counting the times! Let’s just acknowledge that this is the second time that we have been provided by DECD Indonesian language teacher specific training in our local area!! Let’s hope there are many more!

Our meeting began with the awesome question: How can sites that provide students with less than the recommended number of minutes of Indonesian instruction per week cover the curriculum and therefore report accurately against it? We discovered that several sites within our district are way under quota for no other reason than that the program is not supported nor valued by leadership. In both cases, the staff and principals have been lobbied, both verbally and in writing, offering various solutions to rectify the issue, yet it all seems to have been conveniently swept under the carpet. To return to the burning question, do teachers who cover less than half the amount of the curriculum due to time limitations, give their students ‘D’ & ‘E’’s or do they shift the goal posts and create their own bell curve? What is your take? We all agreed it was tough to grade the students poorly because of an administrative oversight/decision.

Mel then introduced the Reporting Resource: A-E Guide (see below)

reporting resource A - E Guide

as a baseline for devising a grading system relevant for assessing Indonesian language students. We spent quite a bit of time on this as between the 5 of us, 3 teachers use TPRS methodology and the other 2 use traditional methods. This lead to some interesting discussions and ensured the guide we agreed to was inclusive of both methodologies. Yet once, we started looking at student work against our determined criteria, we discovered that it didn’t completely recognize the Achievement Standards which students had acquired. For example, one piece of work we gave a ‘C’ using this criteria yet when we looked at it against the Achievement Standards, the work sample ticked more than 50% of the points, so how could it only be given a ‘C’? So we went back to the drawing board and agreed that the reporting guide is actually quite accurate as it stands and all we had to do was remove the ‘in new contexts’ for the grades ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ and then we were all satisfied with it.

Sharon began first with her writing samples from a free write she had done with her year 2’s. We all agreed the samples were amazing. Jemma was blown away and instantly wanted to know more about TCI methodology because if this is what year 2’s are producing, TPRS/TCI must be worth investigating! We discussed the task itself (write as much as you can about this picture –a picture from the folk story we have been focusing on this term – Kancil dan Buaya) and realized that we should have given the students more detailed instructions to ensure they were clear on how they could incorporate vocabulary from previous stories into their writing and thus achieve an ‘A’ for the task. For example, students could have included colours , numbers, body parts, clothing (kancil tidak pakai sepatu) etc.

We next looked at Cheryl’s task which was based on her terms focus on the Daniel Bradbury book, “Ada Berapa?” a beautiful counting book. She had created an A3 sheet with 5 pictures taken from the book and students had to write sentences about the pictures using the language modeled in the text. Cheryl was very apprehensive sharing her results after Sharon, which is understandable, yet for me, the student work she presented demonstrates clearly that TPRS/TCI methodology assists student language acquisition far greater than traditional methodology. Cheryl also asked for more information about TPRS/TCI and is keen to look at the Ben Slavic book, “TPRS in a Year”. We suggested she develop each skill one by one, so it is less intimidating. I really hope she does because it will help both her and her students enormously. We all start with baby steps.

We all agreed it was brilliant to have time to collaborate with colleagues in preparation for the 2016 implementation of the Indonesian languages curriculum.  For me, I was especially thankful for the chance to look once again at the curriculum through reporting eyes and be involved with the creation of a grading guide which is highly compatible for all language methodologies.

Lesson 3 & 4 Reflections

Overall, the lessons ( see previous post) this week were awesome. I had a brilliant week and thoroughly enjoyed telling the story, ‘Pleased To Meet You’ with my middle and upper primary classes. The junior primary classes though, focused purely on ‘nama saya’ and Siapa nama?’, so I could get photos of my reception students and also because unlike the older students, they only have one 50 minute lesson per week.

Storytelling Reflections:
As it was the same lesson repeated 8 times in all, I had to constantly remind myself to talk SLOWLY. While I was very comfortable with the story, students were encountering both the familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary for the first time ever in this context.
The stop sign came up many times and that everyone joined in, made it easier for both the students to initiate it and for me to see it. Really helped me remember to go slowly and ask for comprehension checks.
My 2015 timetable has worked out so well. I teach mostly middle primary classes on Monday which gives me the opportunity to iron out any potential kinks in it before facing the upper primary classes the following day. This week I was ready for them. I stayed upbeat and we all enjoyed a great lesson. So much so, that with the class before recess, when the bell rang, no one moved because we were mid way through acting out the story! They wanted to see it through to the final scene!
Student reactions to the story were hilarious! The responses ranged from incredulous (Taylor Swift/Will.i.am was at McDonalds yesterday?) to disbelief (It wouldn’t have been Taylor Swift fainting!!)
Acting out the story was very popular and there were many volunteers. I tried to avoid choosing students who usually hog the limelight and gave the quieter students a chance to shine a la Ben Slavic advice.
I introduced jobs this week during the first lesson with the upper prrimary classes mainly because I wanted to film each 6/7 lesson so that I had a record of the lesson. Had it gone haywire, I would be able to watch the video and pinpoint where I’d lost my students. I am also really curious to discover what I missed! So much happens with large classes, that I either miss things totally or suddenly realise that a student I believed to have been totally focused was successfully staying under my radar by timing his/her asides well. I haven’t had a chance to watch the films yet (partly because I am dreading watching myself in action/but mostly because I haven’t had the time!) but I did have a quick look at the photos. I had hoped to use the photos for lesson # 4 to help with retelling but unfortunately the photos were largely useless: out of focus and too far away from the action. The few that were in focus were not enough. Interesting assumption on my part that all older students know how to take photos with an ipad!
The filming of one 50 minute lesson filled up an ipad, so instead of having a ‘tukang film’ for the year 5’s and 5/6’s, I introduced ‘Penghitung’, the counter. Unfortunately I forgot to introduce the jobs until too late with the year 5/6 class and the poor counter barely made it into double digits, so with the year 5 class I made sure to do it first up! I asked Sienna to count each time someone said, “Nama saya” and the final count blew us all away! In 50 minutes, Sienna counted 310 reps!! I wrote it on the board for future reference:


Story Retell Reflections:
-The look of panic on students faces when during the second lesson, I asked for the retell to be in Indonesian was in retrospect, to be expected. But once someone made a start, the panic evaporated and it all came together. I was delighted with how students collaborated to retell the story.
-I had 2 visitors during this segment of my lesson; Marg, the year 5/6 teacher (who incorporates Indonesian phrases into her classroom day where ever possible) & Brenton, PEPS principal (& in a past life, was a Spanish teacher). I haven’t had a chance yet to ask for feedback, but I will….
-I have several year 6/7 students who rarely engage with my lessons. I successfully targeted 2 of them this week and gave them each an opportunity to shine while learning the importance of staying focused during lessons. Jesse rarely looks up, so during bola kenalkan, I firstly reminded everyone that they need to constantly watch. I then threw the ball to Jesse while he was looking downwards. He fumbled, grabbed it, responded and then returned the ball to me. After a few more students, I noticed that Jesse was once again not focused, so I gently threw the ball to him again. He looked up puzzled, returned the ball to me and said, “But I have already had the ball!!” To which I responded, “You need to watch ALL the time!” and pointed towards the expectations. I returned it to him again and asked, “Siapa nama?” and this time he caught it and returned it answering my question. I then targeted other students and if I noticed Jesse was again unfocused, I again gently passed him the ball. He loved it!! It was so lovely to see a smile on his face as he reveled in the attention. The icing on the cake was when one of the sporty boys complained that it wasn’t fair, Jesse had had the ball 10 times and he’d only had it once!!
-The other student, Drae, is one of those students who pretends he doesn’t understand so that he doesn’t have to contribute. I’m sure you all have one of those students. We had just started retelling the story and I asked him what came next. He baulked and stated he had no idea, so I asked him to translate what we had written so far. Again he baulked, so I reminded him about the stop signal. I then returned right back to bola kenalkan and passed him the ball, while asking, “Siapa nama?” Of course he could answer, so I did a comprehension check and naturally he could tell me what both sentences meant. So returning to the story, I again asked him to translate. Again he balked, so once again, I grabbed the ball and repeated the whole process. By this time, it finally dawned on him that there was no escape! He took a deep breath and proceeded to translate everything. The loveliest thing was that when he’d finished, the class erupted into a genuine and spontaneous applause! With impeccable timing, Brenton then entered the Indonesian classroom, so Drae received even more kudos!
– I introduced the job of ‘reader leader’ with all classes. Luckily I have a sound field system in my room which incorporates a microphone. This makes the job of reader leader so much easier. The reader leader reads the story at a pace that we can all read along together. Great way to get extra repetitions of the story & target language. I did have one student who had difficulty with pronunciation. At first, I corrected him and then I stopped. I suddenly remembered a post on tprsquestionsandanswers. This post included research and information about just this! I need to acknowledge that not only does it take confidence to get up and read in front of the whole class, the last thing a student needs is to be embarrassed and have his/her confidence undermined. Speaking in the target language is the most anxiety provoking form of communication. Anyone who has attempted communicating in a foreign language can relate to that! Here too is a quote from Chris Stoltz from the moretprs yahoo group:

Since I started TPRS, I stopped both pronunciation and spelling instruction . This year, I didn’t say a single word about anything in Spanish– and I got the best spelling (and pronunciation) ever. If they hear/read it and they get it, their brains seem to soak up the rules and conventions. The same is broadly true of grammar.

Free Write Reflections
-What a range of writing abilities! I was blown away with the stories students wrote. Even one of the year 3 student wrote a few sentences amongst his word list!! (see below)
-I love the concept that students can write anything as long as it is in Indonesian and they understand it. It’s simplicity appealed to all students and is a great example of how TCI differentiates for all levels of ability and confidence. The more capable wrote stories while others were challenged finding words around the room they knew.
Here are a selection of free writes beginning with a year 3 and finishing with year 7’s:





IMG_9477I love the way the above student wrote a sentence structure and then focused on it! What great repetitions!

IMG_9479I love how Harriet incorporated kenalkan vocabulary from previous years into her story!


Look how Illiana (above) added to the end of the story! Not an ending rewrite as such but a great example of what others could do too.



Miranda also took the structure and built on it using vocabulary from previous years! How awesome!

Look how Eli used dengan and suka!! Brilliant!

IMG_9504Georgia has used the story structure to rewritte an entirely original story! In 5 minutes!

IMG_9514Winter has used this opportunity to experiment with all the sentences and phrases she has learned over the primary years! How great is that!!

IMG_9516Look how the above student has spent the entire 5 minutes writing solidly!!

Aren’t they amazing! Reading through them has given me an idea! How cool would it be to read them to classes and have students illustrate them as they are read??? The drawings then would make awesome ‘Look & Discuss’ pictures. I only read about L&D recently and this could be the springboard I need to give it a try!