InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.


Curriculum Design Series Begins Next Week

We are extending our June series on heritage language learners by one week, finishing today with an article about assessment by Cynthia M. Ducar. Next week we will start a two-month series about curriculum design for language learning. In the coming weeks you can look forward to article about best practices in language learning, the NCSSFL-ACTFL Global Can-Do Benchmarks, student learning objectives, integrated performance assessments, and more.

Topic of the Week: Assessment and Heritage Language Learning

Cynthia M. Ducar is Associate Professor of Hispanic Sociolinguistics at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include Spanish as a heritage language (linguistic characteristics, motivations, pedagogy) and Spanish in the United States (attitudes, code-switching, identity, and maintenance and loss).

The field of heritage languages continues to grow along with the population of learners it aims to serve. As the presence of heritage language learners in classes at all levels and across nearly all languages continues to grow, so too does the need to assess those students. There are at least three major types of assessment that are pertinent to the HLL field: diagnostic assessment (or assessment for placement purposes), formative assessment and summative assessment.

Placement of heritage students involves at least a two-step process.  As Kim Potowski frequently states, you first have to separate the apples from the oranges – that is the second language learners (L2s) from the HLLs, and you then have to separate out all of the different varieties of apples and oranges as well, so that each can receive the proper nourishment.  Thus, an effective HLL placement tool must first identify HLLs and separate them from L2s while also being able to separate out the varying levels of linguistics abilities among the HLLs tested.  This can be done in a myriad of ways, from surveys regarding a student’s linguistic background, to oral interviews, compositions, multiple-choice exams, lexical identifiers (i.e. slang that L2s would be unlikely to know), to computer adaptive placement exams.  Issue 1 of Volume 9 of the Heritage Language Journal offers a comprehensive overview of placement issues in the HLL field for those interested in additional information.

Summative assessment is defined as assessment that intends to gauge a learner’s understanding post-instruction in order to assign a grade. Although summative assessment is what some might refer to as a “necessary evil," it is important to look at what types of evaluation tools are employed to assign students grades in the HL context, bearing in mind the natural language acquisition process through which a majority of HLLs initially acquired their heritage language.  The non-classroom context of early heritage language acquisition for most HLLs makes them less apt to be aware of metalinguistic terminology and academic discourse styles so common to testing in the L2 context (see Correa 2011a, 2011b). Thus, it is imperative that we design summative assessments with the HLL in mind rather than simply relying on measures already used in the L2 context.

Lastly, formative assessment refers to the continuous assessment that should occur in classes in order to enhance student learning (Carreira 2012). Formative assessment concerns itself with understanding the whole picture of language learning – from attitudes and motivations to the how, why and what of the knowledge being gained. The on-going feedback that such assessment offers is crucial to both student success and successful planning on the part of HLL instructors as well.  Such assessment helps instructors to know when to adjust the pace of their classes and modify both the topics and the teaching methods employed in class in order to be more effective teachers for their students. Given the heterogeneous nature of typical learners in the HLL classroom formative assessments that lead to differentiated instruction are key to successful HLL instruction (for specific examples of formative assessments in the HL classroom, see Carreira 2012).


Carreira, M. (2012). Formative Assessment in HL Teaching: Purposes, Procedures, and Practices. Heritage Language Journal, 9(1), 100-120.

Correa, M. (2011a). Subjunctive accuracy and metalinguistic knowledge of L2 learners of Spanish. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 8(1), 39-56.

Correa, M. (2011b). Heritage language learners of Spanish: What role does metalinguistic knowledge play in their acquisition of the subjunctive? In L. Ortiz (Ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (pp. 128-138). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

The Heritage Language Journal, 9(1). Available for free download at:

Activity of the Week

  • Advertising: Who Is Your Audience?

    Stephanie Knight is the Language Technology Specialist for CASLS at the University of Oregon. This activity was developed in order to meet the various needs of the students in her International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Spanish course at Hillsboro High School, an urban high school in Nashville, Tennessee. It can be adapted to fit other languages and levels.

    This activity aims at developing speaking and critical thinking skills among intermediate-high and advanced-low students. Insofar as students are led to consider varying levels of acculturation in differing generations of heritage learners, this activity is appropriate for classes of heritage learners and for classes with students studying Spanish as a foreign language. In completing the activity, students are engaged in reading, listening, and speaking skills.

    Mode(s): Presentational Speaking, Interpretive Listening, Interpretive Reading


    • Students will understand the importance of cultural awareness when designing effective advertising campaigns.
    • Students will understand that translation is an ineffective means of targeting an existing advertising campaign to a Spanish-speaking audience.
    • Students will be able to create their own commercials tailored to first generation immigrants and third or fourth generation immigrants.
    • Students will develop their persuasive and narrative speaking skills.

    Resources- Advertising PowerPoint, Handout 1, Handout 2 (English versions available here:  PowerPoint, Handout 1, Handout 2)


    1. Through the use of a PowerPoint presentation, students are introduced to the concept of advertisers targeting a specific subset of the general population. In this overview, the power of persuasion inherent in advertisements and the economic impact of Latino spenders in the United States are discussed. In addition, students are drawn to consider general characteristics of the Latino population that advertisers must keep in mind, and students are introduced to advertisements that have failed given the misguided hope that simple translation into Spanish would be a sufficient vehicle to tailor ads to the United States’ Spanish-speaking population.
    2. The next step is to give students Handout 1 that they use to analyze State Farm advertisements. Two commercials are directed toward Spanish speakers in the United States, while the other is tailored to English speakers.
    3. Next, students are put into teams of 3-4 in which they prepare (by outlining in lieu of script writing) two commercials for the same product or service--one commercial targets first-generation immigrants, and one targets immigrants who are more acculturated into the United States’ mainstream culture (third or fourth generation). Handout 2
    4. Students present their commercials. While the teams are presenting, the rest of the class must guess the desired audience of each advertisement. In addition, each student should pick one student presenting to evaluate with regards to language output and language control.

    It is recommended that students record their commercials and do a self-evaluation and reflection in which they focus on three strengths that they discovered in listening to the recording. Remind them to cite proof of the strengths and to use them as part of an improvement plan. The students may wish to also work on 1-2 weaknesses in their improvement plans.

    Adaptations: While students originally completed this activity by presenting each commercial live in the classroom, the commercials could be pre-recorded. This activity could be easily adapted to lower-level students by allowing them to write a script instead of an outline of the commercials. Such an adaptation would allow students to rely less upon spontaneous output than they would in the activity as presently created.

CASLS Spotlight: Catching Up with Educational Software Engineer Scott Morison by Deborah Cooke

Educational Software Engineer Scott Morison began working for CASLS in fall 2009. Scott is responsible for designing CASLS’ online language learning tools, including the popular e-portfolio LinguaFolio Online.

Scott describes his early days. “Working with CASLS in the beginning was like hopping a train without knowing its final destination or knowing precisely what towns I might be passing through on the way. As a traveller on this train, I had to be prepared to accommodate whatever came my way and adapt to fit whatever environment I would find myself in. Soon though, most of the stops along the way became predictable, and my skills at navigating each new station we stopped at become fine-tuned. I have learned a great deal since starting here at CASLS, not only in my designated field of software, but in a variety of areas that I had little or no exposure to prior to joining CASLS.”

The most rewarding project Scott has worked on is Ecopod, the Global Scholars Hall mobile application game, which has opened up new opportunities for programming. Ecopod integrates students’ living experiences with language learning and encourages critical thinking about the role of language and culture in students’ daily lives.

Scott’s favorite part of working at CASLS is the people. He says, “The caliber of my fellow CASLS members reigns well above any other single group of people I have ever worked with.”

Outside of CASLS, Scott enjoys repairing electronics and upgrading and repairing his new home in the country.

Language Corner

Make an Infographic Syllabus

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Do your students actually read your syllabus? Consider presenting it in the form of an infographic. Here are two blog posts, one from last year and one recent, from teachers who have made infographic syllabuses.

Make an Interactive Infograph Syllabus
My infographic syllabus!

Taking Learning Out of the Classroom

Source: TESOL Back to Quick Links


TESOL’s 2015 Teacher of the Year Sherry Blok has just written a two-part series about how you can take your English-learning students out of the classroom and into the local community for learning.

Read Part 1 here:
Read Part 2 here:

Creating Classroom Communities in ESL/EFL

Source: TESOL Back to Quick Links


This article by Dr. Kristen Lindahl, PhD in linguistics with a specialization in L2 teacher education, discusses the importance of creating a “discourse community” within your ESL classroom.

Read the article at

Maker Spaces: What Can They Do for ELL Students?

Source: Education Week Back to Quick Links


Peter DeWitt shares his experience having his ELL students create video games using Scratch and the effect it had on their confidence, language abilities, and cognitive development.

Access this article at

Learning Stations in High School

Source: FLTEACH Back to Quick Links

Recently an FLTEACH listserv user described the way she uses learning stations in a high school setting and asked for more ideas. Read the thread by going to and then clicking on “Next” by “By Topic.”

Using Realia

Source: British Council Back to Quick Links


Realia are real-life objects that you can use in your classroom to improve your students’ learning. Read Rachael Roberts’ suggestions for how you can use realia in your classroom in this recent article:

Understanding Errors in Foreign Language Writing

Source: The Language Gym Back to Quick Links


Dr. Gianfranco Conti, Spanish and French teacher and blogger, shares an adaptation of a chapter from his doctoral thesis about errors in second language writing from a cognitive psychology perspective. The post is available here:

TED-Ed Lesson: The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain

Source: TED-Ed Back to Quick Links


Here is a recently-created TED-Ed lesson about the benefits of a bilingual brain, by Mia Nacamulli. Watch a video and then work through supporting materials at

U.S. Department of Education Releases Fourth Chapter of English Learner Tool Kit for State and Local Agencies

Source: NCELA Back to Quick Links


Tools and Resources for Providing English Learners Equal Access to Core Curricular and Extracurricular Programs, the fourth chapter of the English Learner (EL) Tool Kit, has been published online by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), U.S. Department of Education (the Department). It is available at The Tool Kit is intended to help state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) in meeting their obligations to ELs. It should be read in conjunction with the joint Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on “English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents” ( from the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), published in January 2015, which outlines SEAs’ and LEAs’ legal obligations to ELs under civil rights laws and other federal requirements. More Tool Kit chapters will be made available in the coming months on the OELA English Learner Tool Kit web page at, and will be announced on the NCELA website at

Professional Development

New Black Box Podcast: Compelling Input

Source: senorfernie Back to Quick Links


Albert Fernandez, an elementary and middle school Spanish teacher and blogger, brings us the latest installment of the Black Box podcast series. Mr. Fernandez unpacks a 2013 article by Stephen Krashen, “The Compelling (Not Just Interesting) Input Hypothesis.”

Learn some background about Dr. Krashen’s original hypotheses and then learn more in-depth about a refinement of those early ideas, the importance of compelling input, at

The Black Box is a collection of video podcasts and other media resources designed to address the great disconnect in world language teaching: the lack of effective communication between researchers investigating how people learn language and the teachers working to help those people develop communicative language skills.

You can learn more about the series and access all of the episodes created so far at

Request for Proposals to Host CALICO 2018

Source: CALICO-L Back to Quick Links

From the CALICO-L listserv:

While CALICO is still on your mind, we would like to invite proposals from institutions to host CALICO's annual conference in 2018.

CALICO conferences typically bring together 300-400 faculty, developers, vendors, and policy makers from across the United States and 10-15 other countries. Contributors present the latest advances and findings in the use of technology for foreign language teaching, learning, and research. The five-day conference includes three days of hands-on workshops and two days of individual presentations, keynote speakers, commercial vendor exhibits, and a technology showcase. Holding a CALICO conference enables the host institution to showcase its campus and facilities to leaders in the field of computer-assisted language learning.

CALICO 2016 will be held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and 2017 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

If you are interested in hosting CALICO 2018, please complete the attached form and return it to Esther Horn ( Questions can also be addressed to Esther.

The deadline for proposals is August 15th and a decision will be made by the executive board at their September meeting.

Horn, E. Request for Proposals to Host CALICO 2018. CALICO-L listserv (CALICO-L@LISTSERV.CALICO.ORG, 30 Jun 2015).

National Association for Multicultural Education 2015 Conference

Source: NAME Back to Quick Links


NAME’s 25th Annual International Conference
Past Achievements, Present Successes, Future Aspirations: 25 Years of NAME
October 1-4, 2015 (pre-conference events on Sept. 30)
New Orleans

Keynote speakers include Cornel Pewewardy, Geneva Gay, Sonia Nieto, and Estela Matriano

Visit the conference website at


Book: Re-examining Language Testing

Source: Routledge Back to Quick Links


Re-examining Language Testing: A Philosophical and Social Inquiry
By Glenn Fulcher
Published by Rutledge Tayler & Francis Group

Re-examining Language Testing explores ideas that form the foundations of language testing and assessment. The discussion is framed within the philosophical and social beliefs that have forged the practices endemic in language education and policy today.

From historical and cultural perspectives, Glenn Fulcher considers the evolution of language assessment, and contrasting claims made about the nature of language and human communication, how we acquire knowledge of language abilities, and the ethics of test use.

The book investigates why societies use tests, and the values that have driven changes in practice over time. The discussion is presented within an argument that an Enlightenment inspired view of human nature and advancement is most suited to a progressive, tolerant, and principled theory of language testing and validation.

Covering key topics such as measurement, validity, accountability and values, Re-examining Language Testing provides a unique and innovative analysis of the ideas and social forces that shape the practice of language testing. It is targeted at advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students of Applied Linguistics and Education. Professionals working in language testing and language teachers will also find this book invaluable.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Monograph: Researching Language Learner Interactions Online: From Social Media to MOOCs

Source: CALICO Back to Quick Links


Researching Language Learner Interactions Online: From Social Media to MOOCs
Edited by Edward Dixon and Michael Thomas
CALICO Monograph Series, Volume 13

This volume presents timely research on second language learning in online environments from social media to MOOCs.

For purchasing options visit the CALICO website:

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