Using the OWL in Traditional Classrooms

classroom with students on computersBecause the OWL is so media rich, engaging, and comprehensive, it works well as a unique writing resource, no matter your class format. If you are teaching in a classroom without computers, a “flipped” classroom may be the best option for you (see the section Using the OWL in Flipped Classrooms). However, if you are teaching in a face-to-face computer classroom or in a classroom where students have laptops or other devices, the OWL is going to work well as a way to engage students in class.

To begin, because the OWL is so comprehensive, it is important to spend some class time providing students with an overview of the resource, summarizing each learning area, and explaining some of the media-rich activities. This will not take long, as usability studies on the Excelsior College OWL indicate that students were able to comfortably navigate the resources. However, as content is continually added, it is a good idea to spend some time at the beginning helping students get comfortable with this new resource.

Once students are introduced to the OWL, it is still important to give them guidance—at least in the form of specific links for specific assignments and topics. For example, if you are beginning a narrative essay, it would be a good idea to point students directly to the resources on writing effective narratives available to students in the Rhetorical Styles section. Although a search function is available in the OWL, sending students directly to key areas of the OWL for classroom assignments will help students have a more positive and productive experience.

Using the OWL exclusively for homework assignments is an option but fits more with a “flipped” classroom scenario. If you are not flipping your class and want to take advantage of some of the OWL’s resources in class, you will want to become familiar with the resources yourself first. The OWL User Guide with links, available in the appendix, will provide you with a basic content overview of common topics related to writing instruction. Once you are comfortable with the kinds of topics you want to cover in class, thinking about activities from the OWL that are fun and interactive will help bring lessons to life for your students.

Some examples of activities that can be completed for an engaging class are as follows:
  • Have students work in teams to play Paper Capers. While you want to be careful to avoid individual competition, having teams compete for a high score might work well with students who do not feel comfortable with individual competition. The Apple Store version of Paper Capers works best, so having students download the app in advance to their devices will help make for a smooth class activity.
  • Students can work with partners to complete quiz interactions and activities. You can assign students specific activities, such as the comma “drag and drop” activities in Grammar Essentials or the thesis check interaction in Research & Citations. Having students share their results with the class will help add extra engagement and reinforce lessons learned from the quiz activities.
  • When teaching process, break students into groups to have each group watch a process video from Research & Citations, The Writing Process, or Argument & Critical Thinking, depending upon your focus. After the groups watch their assigned videos, have them share with the class what they learned. Ask them questions about what they might do differently or similarly, depending upon their own processes and habits.

These are just a few of the many possibilities the Excelsior College OWL offers for engaging opportunities in a face-to-face classroom. The key is to ensure lab time or access to laptops or other devices (Remember, the OWL works on phones and tablets.) to help bring some fun to important lessons in writing.

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