Written by Carin Lee
One World Language School is the brainchild of Julie Reece of Lee, NH and Brigitte Herz of Durham, NH and is hosted in 11 area schools. The OWLS goal is to prepare students to travel to a foreign country and be able to communicate with kids their own age. They originally organized as a club and offered languages as diverse as Japanese, Swahili, and Gujarati. In 2003 they formed the One World Language Schools, a non-profit, and now offer classes in German, French, Spanish and Chinese. The school draws on UNH for international teachers.
Herz and Reece develop their own curriculum, which is games-based and designed to be fun. For example, learning the names of fruits becomes an opportunity to make ice cream with those fruity flavors. Learning the names of vegetables means using those vegetables to make pizza toppings. Puppets of all kinds accompany the lessons. It is deliberate that kids think they’re only having fun when they are actually picking up a second language.
OWLS emphasis is also on spoken language and communication rather than grammar. The teachers use language and sentence patterns that kids already use in English. For example, the familiar sentence, “Do you want to play?” is used in English and then taught in the second language. Other translated familiar sentence patterns, for example, “Do you see the green frog?” or “May I have an orange?” are translated into Spanish or Chinese to allow students to move successfully from familiar word construction in English to that in a different language.
Ages 3 through 7 use spoken language exclusively. Once children are 8 years old, about third grade level, their understanding of English is solidified, so they are ready to read and write in a new language. Reading and writing are introduced gradually and naturally.
Children are grouped according to age. Ages 3 through 7 are Trailblazers; ages 8 through 10 are Explorers, and ages 11 through 13 are Voyagers. The emphasis is on kids seeing themselves as world travelers.
Classes are kept small – no more than 8 students per class – so teachers can individualize. Repetition is built into the curriculum in fun ways. For example, the lessons include a forgetful veterinarian character. Students have to keep reminding her of the names of animals, so they get more than one opportunity to learn those names.
Central School’s Principal D’Aran enjoys working with the OWLS students and faculty. She sees OWLS classes as a wonderful opportunity for children. “If the kids don’t do sports, this offers another dimension in which to be involved. It lays a foundation for later studying of language. The kids are passionate about it, and teach other students what they are learning.”
According to OWLS’ Director Herz, former OWLS students have gone on to such success with languages in high school that they are able to take outside classes at UNH. One OWLS graduate is now studying at a university in China, and many have become global travelers. Herz emphasized, “OWLS teachers bring the world to the kids.” It happens at Central School every Tuesday.
Parents can find further information at: www.oneworldlanguageschool.org.