Introducing Observe-Wonder-Learn (OWL) Board Routine [Updated Jan 2021]

You probably use routines in your daily life as well as your instruction. Routines make our lives a little easier. Routines are predictable and dependable. Being able to anticipate tasks promotes a feeling of safety for children, especially important during times of uncertainty. Equally important, routines make your life easier because they will eventually run with little effort from you. 

One common issue that teachers have when new to digital game-based learning is not knowing how to support the game beyond assigning it to students. But the game doesn’t replace the teacher. While the game engages students in three-dimensional learning, it’s the teacher’s role to solidify their understanding and to connect the gameplay to your core science curriculum.

We suggest using the Observe-Wonder-Learn (OWL) Board as one way to do this. I’ll give you an overview of the OWL Board Routine in this post. I have also created an expanded OWL Routine Procedure to give you more detail and suggestions.

While the game engages students in three-dimensional learning, it’s the teacher’s role to solidify their understanding and to connect the gameplay to your core science curriculum.

Storyline Flow with OWL Board and Optional Activities

As an educator that’s been around for 20-some years, I’ve seen many variations of this graphic organizer. You may be familiar with Know-Want to Know-Learn Board/Chart (KWL), Driving Question Board/Chart, and when I taught reading, it was the Concept/Question Board. You might be using something similar that goes by a different name.

Regardless of the version you use, it’s important to have a place to generate and keep track of shared ideas that you can return to as students progress through the storyline.

Observe and Wonder

After Quest 1, Anchor the Learning

The first quest of every storyline introduces the anchoring phenomenon, a key feature of NGSS three-dimensional learning and Tyto’s pre-built Storylines. Use the OWL Board to anchor the learning by having students list what they Observed about the phenomenon from the first quest.

This would be a good time to connect the phenomena to your students’ lives, experiences, and cultures. You may also want to tie the anchoring phenomenon from the game to the anchoring phenomenon in your core curriculum, if applicable. Then, have the students generate questions or Wonderings about the phenomenon. These will usually be answered as they progress through the storyline.

I created an optional OWL Board recording sheet for students.

During Each Quest (Optional)

Students will then play a few more quests. As students complete each quest, you might have them keep track of their learning by using the Summary Table or a science notebook – whatever system you have for students to document their learning. You may also want to develop their argumentation skills by guiding them through an Argument Reasoning Prompt after a quest with an Argument Builder. 

Access the activity templates:

Wonder and Learn

Halfway: Putting the Pieces Together

Halfway through the storyline, you will want to pause to take stock of key learnings from the quests played so far by using the OWL Board to put the pieces together. Students will add more of what they’ve Observed so far to the board, using notes or the summary table for reference. This helps students to use scientific ideas gathered across several quests to help them explain and make sense of the anchoring phenomenon. Students engage with the class to create a shared consensus model or explanation using the “pieces” they’ve collected as they progressed through the storyline.

This might also be a good place to connect the game learning to key learnings from your core curriculum. Take a look at the Wonderings on the board and see if any of them have been answered so far. If so, write the answers in the Learn column. Add new questions to the Wonderings column. 

End: Final Putting the Pieces Together

Students will then complete the rest of the quests in the storyline, using the Summary Table or something else to document learning. At the end of the storyline, you will use another Putting-Pieces-Together Routine to close the storyline by using ideas gathered from the rest of the quests to revise and finalize the shared consensus model, representation, or explanation of the phenomenon.

Again, take a look at the Wonderings on the board and see if any of them have been answered so far. If so, add the answers to the Learn column. Add more questions that might come up. It’s okay if some of the questions in the Wonderings column don’t get answered. These questions can drive self exploration or research projects.

As always, these are just suggestions. We encourage you to try them out and tweak them to meet your needs. Let us know how it goes!

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