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.

Topic of the Week: Learner-Directed Language and the Digital World

By Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

In addition to the physical world around us, the multiplicity of discourse communities in the digital world afford learners a seemingly infinite number of opportunities to engage with multilingual content. One student might be interested in the Instagram and Twitter accounts about their favorite designer or another might enjoy participation in a fan fiction community about their favorite comic book character or TV show. Regardless of the choices they make, interaction with these spaces affords contact with the language of the community and enables practice and learning.  While much of the language used in digital spaces is unique to the space or community, much can also be applied in other interactional contexts as well. For example, an avid reader of a sports blog will undoubtedly learn relevant vocabulary and cultural expressions for talking about sports with a friend while studying abroad. 

By drawing on these experiences, and helping learners build the skills to engage with them critically, instructors can expand the language horizons of their learners and enable a positive impact of their use. One way, though certainly not a panacea, is through the use of thinking routines (For more on thinking routines and the Culture of Thinking see

As learners practice the thinking routine of observation, analysis, and extension, they build skills necessary to engage with language during their out-of-class time as well. Take, for example, this week’s Activity of the Week. While it can be used in formal instructional contexts, the skills learned (especially the types of questions learners ask themselves) can be applied by the learners in any other digital domains with which they might be familiar. As learners begin to observe more, analyze their environment, and expand their participatory experiences, they will become better at decoding and synthesizing how language is used, online and offline.

Activity of the Week

  • Thinking Routines: Observe, Analyze, Extend

    The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to learn and practice a thinking routine that they can use inside and outside of the classroom. The thinking routine is: Observe. Analyze. Extend. This routine promotes a contextualized approach to meaning making. Practicing this routine will help students wade deeper into self-directed participation with the target language and culture. It provides a reliable sequence of actions which can be easily adapted to structure participation in new and uncertain citations.

    Learning Objectives: Students will be able to…

    • Use the thinking routine Observe, Analyze, Extend to participate in an online forum.
    • Comment on posts in an online forum.
    • Share a personal status on an online forum.

    Mode: Interpersonal 

    Materials Needed: Student access to Instagram posts in the target language (e.g. Spanish Google search “Instagram en Español”, Option 1 or Option 2 of the handout


    1          Set the Stage: Explain to learners that their goal for the day is to learn how to use the thinking routine Observe, Analyze, Extend. It is important to communicate to students that by practicing this routine on their own they will become better at using the target language on the fly in situations both in and out of the classroom. Also, share with your class that the idea is to start by practicing the routine in a low stakes environment (like online) and then begin to apply it in more challenging contexts down the road, like participating at a social function. Introduce the worksheet and demonstrate how to fold it into fourths so that one Observe, Analyze, Extend sequence appears in each quadrant.

    2          Observe: Have students work individually or in groups to find an appropriate Instagram post in the target language. Under the “Observe” heading in one quadrant on the worksheet, have students list the things they see in their post, both in the subject matter of the photo and in the text of the post and comments. Remind them that the point of this first stage is simply to record their observations, and not to interpret what they see.

    Key questions to ponder:

    • What objects do I see in the photo (e.g. people, cats, food)?
    • What words are used in this post?
    • What words are used in the comments?
    • How much communication is happening between these people?
    • What is the context where the communication is playing out?

    3          Analyze: Ask learners to discuss their observations as a class and record the most interesting findings in the same quadrant of their worksheet as before.

    Key questions to ponder:

    • What does this communication mean (to me)?
    • Can I read the emotional tone of this interaction?
    • Can I describe the level of formality being used?
    • What are the most significant words in the post and comments?
    • Does the photo change how words might be interpreted?           
    • Does anything seem out of place, inappropriate, or off topic?
    • If so, can you explain why?

    4          Extend: Once the post is observed and analyzed it is time to personally engage. Give students time to consider and plan their interaction with the post they have been working with. In the same quadrant as before, have them record a description of their chosen action under the “Extend” heading on the worksheet.

    Key questions to ponder:

    • What do I want to do with the information I gained from my observation and analysis?
    • Do I have enough information to participate on the forum in the way I would like? If not, can I describe my difficulty?
    • If I wanted to participate in this forum, how might I start?
    • If I wanted to participate in this interaction more fully, what would I need to be able to do better?

    Reminder: Remind students that they can practice this routine on their own to become better at using the target language on the fly, in situations both inside and outside of the classroom.


    Have learners self-select to work individually or in pairs to compose and submit their own posts and comments using their notes or other available resources.

CASLS Spotlight: A Visit to COERLL

Last week, Julie Sykes, CASLS Director, was invited to give a talk at the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL), a sister Language Resource Center at the University of Texas – Austin. Her talk was entitled Digital Tools, Digital Games, and Communication: Rethinking Foreign Language Learning in Terms of Human Interaction and focused on many of CASLS’ projects around technology and Interlanguage pragmatics. She also spent some time working with the COERLL team. Dr. Sykes notes, “It was a great chance to meet with a team doing amazing work around open educational resources. I am grateful for the invitation and enjoyed collaborating with Carl [Blyth, COERLL’s Director] and other members of the COERLL team. The graduate students I got to meet with at UT-Austin were also inspiring to talk with.” For more information on Julie’s talk and COERLL visit:

Language Corner

Activity Idea: Micro Role Play

Source: TeachingGamesEFL Back to Quick Links


Mike Astbury shares some role-playing cards for English learners and suggestions for how to focus on particular structures while using the role plays in this short post:

Games for English Learners

Source: MultiBriefs Back to Quick Links

Sheilamary Koch describes several games that she finds helpful for English learners (Jenga, Guess Who, and What's Missing?) in this short article:

Peer Review Informed by Students

Source: Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care Back to Quick Links


Adam Loretto, Sara DeMartino, and Amanda Godley share a two-part series with great information and ideas for using peer review in your class, based on feedback from high school students about their experiences with peer review.

First, read what high school students have to say about peer review:

Next, read how you can apply their perspectives to your application of peer review in the classroom:

Brain Break: Apple, Banana, Orange

Source: Teaching Spanish w/ Comprehensible Input Back to Quick Links


Brain breaks get your students calling on fresh cognitive resources so that they can re-charge for more demanding tasks. Here's a simple brain break that can be done with very novice learners and that gets everyone moving:

Activity: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back Activity for Weekend Discussions in the TL

Source: La Clase de la Señora Dentlinger Back to Quick Links


Elizabeth Dentlinger shares a low-prep activity that's good for establishing rapport with students, especially after a long weekend or vacation when people want to share what they did. The teacher describes what he or she did, and students who did the same thing take two steps forward, while those who didn't take a step backward. She writes, "The student furthest ahead had the spring break most like mine and the student closest to the starting line had the least like mine!" 

For a full activity description and some reflection, go to

Lead with Languages Scholarships for Concordia Language Villages

Source: Lead with Languages Back to Quick Links


Concordia Language Villages is once again awarding twenty-five $1,000 Lead with Languages Scholarships to be put toward attending a two-week or four-week summer youth immersion program at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota this summer.

Programs are available in 15 languages, including:
Arabic, Chinese, Danish, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish & Swedish.

To enter the competition, participants ages 7-18 must submit a video of up to 30 seconds that answers the question: “Why is learning [insert the specific language you are interested in] important to me?”

Selection of the most compelling videos will be paired with demonstration of financial need. Applicants must be registered and pay a deposit for a 2018 two-week or four-week summer youth session. All applications will be considered. 2017 Lead with Languages Scholarship recipients are not eligible for the 2018 competition. 

The deadline to submit your application is April 25, 2018.

For full details go to

Create Interactive Sorting Activities in the Smithsonian Learning Lab

Source: Smithsonian Learning Lab Back to Quick Links


Smithsonian Learning Lab is an interactive website for the discovery and creative use of the Smithsonian's digital collections and tools – more than a million images, videos, texts, audio recordings, and activities. The Learning Lab is rich with multimedia resources and tools to aid users in customizing the content for personalized learning experiences. It is also a community of experts and users, both within the Smithsonian and across the world, who collaborate, create, and share with each other new resources for learning.

Tess Porter, Education Support Specialist at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, writes, "Sorting activities are not only a simple—and interactive—way to engage students with resources, the acts of sorting and classifying also develop skills essential to analytic thinking and problem solving. For young students, sorting teaches how to differentiate, notice patterns, and make connections between resources. As students get older, sorting with more complex resources and ideas helps deepen their relational thinking and problem solving skills so that they can more easily apply previously learned concepts to new situations. At all ages, sorting activities also provide valuable opportunities for class discussion.

"Using the Learning Lab’s Sorting Tool is a simple way to create these types of activities right within the platform. The tool enables the creation of an interactive activity where students can sort resources into several categories (for example, animal habitats, coniferous vs. deciduous trees, etc.) or in linear order with labeled endpoints (for example, 1950 to 2000, largest to smallest, etc.). These activities can be completed by students independently, in small groups, or as a full class—it’s up to you!"

Read the full article about sorting activities and access them at

Learn more about the Smithsonian Learning Lab at

Ideas for Road Signs and Car Parts

Source: FLTEACH Back to Quick Links

An FLTEACH listserv user recently asked for ideas for her lessons concerning road signs and parts of a car. Read her query at Then click on "Next" by "By Topic" to see other listserv users' ideas and resources.

Earth Day Resources

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22 this year. Here are some resources you can use in your language classes:

The official Earth Day webpage is available at Explore different issues at

Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers reviews three resources: Google's Explore Climate Change tours, a game called My Garbology about sorting garbage, and an Earth Day activities page from Storyboard That:

Here are some resources curated a few years ago by SANS:

Edutopia also has a recently-updated curated collection of online resources at

For English learners, here are some helpful words and activities from, and here are some ideas from the New York Times' Learning Network:

Here are two collections of English and Spanish resources on Pinterest: and

Here are some songs, games, and tech resources from the Fun for Spanish Teachers site:

Using Instagram to Foster Learners’ Autonomy for Intercultural Learning

Source: FLTMag Back to Quick Links

In this week's Activity of the Week ( Christopher Daradics describes how students can look at Instagram posts to practice a thinking routine. In an article last month, Fabrizio Fornara describes a sequence of activities centered around Instagram posts and hashtags that foster learner autonomy for cultural and intercultural learning:

Professional Development

CARLA Summer Institute: ​Culture as Core in the Second Language Classroom

Source: CARLA Back to Quick Links


​The ​Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)​, our sister LRC ​at the University of Minnesota​, provides high-quality professional development opportunities for language teachers ​through its annual summer institute program. Now in its 23rd year, the program offers thirteen institutes on a wide range of topics that are all designed to link research and theory with practical applications for the classroom. Check out Culture as Core––one of CARLA's perennially popular summer institutes:

Culture as Core in the Second Language Classroom
July 9–13, 2018
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

Participants will gain a deep understanding of how language-culture-identity informs their teaching and will learn how to integrate culture and language learning in their classrooms. After this institute, teachers will be able to:

  • Bring everyday culture into language instruction;
  • Apply common frameworks of culture and culture learning;
  • Create integrated language-and-culture learning objectives and lessons;
  • Practice using authentic materials for teaching culture;
  • Assess culture learning; and
  • Use textbooks for culture learning and unlearning.

Presenters: Martha Bigelow (University of Minnesota) and Kaishan Kong (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)

​Find out more about Culture as Core:

Check out the full line-up of 2018 CARLA summer institutes:

  • Transitioning to Teaching Language Online (TTLO) (online course) • June 11–July 1, 2018
  • Using the Web for Communicative Language Learning and Professional Development (online course) • July 9-August 12, 2018
  • Language and Culture in Sync: Teaching Linguistic Politeness and Intercultural Awareness (online course) • July 9-27, 2018
  • Developing Assessments for the Second Language Classroom • July 9-13, 2018
  • Teaching Heritage Languages and Learners • July 9-13, 2018
  • Culture as the Core in the Second Language Classroom • July 9-13, 2018
  • Using Technology in Second Language Teaching • July 16-20, 2018
  • Creativity in the Language Classroom • July 16-20, 2018
  • Teaching Language Through the Lens of Social Justice • July 16-20, 2018
  • Immersion 101: An Introduction to Immersion Teaching • July 16-20, 2018
  • Using Authentic Materials to Develop 21st Century Literacies • July 23-27, 2018
  • Content-Based Language Instruction and Curriculum Development • July 23-27, 2018
  • Growing Learner Language: A Hands-On Approach to Developing the Language Learners Produce • July 23-27, 2018

Find out more about the 2018 CARLA summer institute program: The early bird registration deadline is May 25.

Call for Papers: Undergraduate Conference: Intersection of Linguistics, Language, and Culture 2018

Source: National Science Foundation Back to Quick Links


NSF REU Site Intersection of Linguistics, Language, and Culture 2018
First Annual Conference
June 29, 2018
Brooklyn, New York

High school and undergraduate students who work with a faculty mentor are invited to submit an abstract to present a poster on a research project on any aspects of linguistics or speech-language-hearing-communication sciences at the first ILLC conference. (Recent graduates who are not enrolled in graduate school may also submit, as long as the topic was started during their undergraduate studies.)

The program will feature:

  • Oral presentations by the current 14 NSF-REU Site Fellows. Topics include Aphasia; Language Acquisition, Processing and Variation; Multilingualism; Phonology; Speech Perception and Syntax, on a variety of languages including African American English, American Sign Language, Cantonese, Haitian Creole, Hawaiian Creole, Hebrew, Mixteco, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish.
  • A screening of the documentary film Talking Black in America (

Deadline for Abstract Submission: Wednesday May 30, 2018

View the full call for abstracts at

Summer Professional Development from the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy

Source: CERCLL Back to Quick Links


Our sister LRC the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy will offer two summer series in 2018– a workshop series, Literacy in the Wild: Getting Foreign Language Learners out of the Classroom and into the World (June 4-8), and a summer institute, Reading Globally: Critical Issues in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents (June 25-27). Participants can register for any combination of the workshops/institute–or for all of them–and will receive a certificate for 6 hours AZ CE per workshop day.

Learn more about both professional development opportunities at

University of Colorado Boulder Book Club

Source: University of Colorado Boulder Back to Quick Links

The University of Colorado Boulder's Certificate in Language Teaching with Technology facilitates a book club for language teachers. The book club is an informal group composed of educators interested in reading and discussing various books related to language teaching or education in general. Members of the group select a new book every 6 weeks or so. The discussions are conducted on a private Facebook group over the course of 6 weeks and we conclude each book with a Twitter Chat. 

The May 2018 selection is Differentiated Instruction, A guide for World Language Teachers by Deborah Blaz. Discussion will begin May 1.

Learn more and sign up to participate at

Podcasts for Language Teachers

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

If you're looking for podcasts about language teaching, here are two that you can try out.
Ashley Uyaguari's new podcast series, Inspired Proficiency, features interviews with different exciting classroom teachers and tried-and-tested classroom activities. Access the podcasts at

Becky Morales' Language Latte podcasts look at research and talk with teachers all over the world about methods, materials, and tips. Access these podcasts at


Report: Unlocking Learning II: Math as a Lever for English Learner Equity

Source: The Education Trust - West Back to Quick Links


Second in a series exploring English learner equity in California schools, a new report from The Education Trust—West highlights how students learning English are faring in math classrooms across the state. Unlocking Learning II: Math as a Lever for English Learner Equity provides real-world examples of schools and districts closing gaps for California’s English learners.

The report outlines four research-supported promising practices:

  • Honoring students’ backgrounds,
  • Providing access to rigorous courses,
  • Integrating English language development, and
  • Professional learning for teachers.

Based on an in-depth analysis of what has worked well in high-performing schools, Unlocking Learning II offers specific practice and policy recommendations at the school, district, and state level for how to best integrate math education with English language development and unlock the potential of California’s English learners.

Access this report at

Book: The ELL Teacher's Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students

Source: Wiley Back to Quick Links


The ELL Teacher's Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students
By Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski
Published by Wiley

The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox is a practical, valuable resource to be used by teachers of English Language Learners, in teacher education credential programs, and by staff development professionals and coaches. It provides hundreds of innovative and research-based instructional strategies you can use to support all levels of English Language Learners. 

Written by proven authors in the field, the book is divided into two main sections: Reading/Writing and Speaking/Listening. Each of those sections includes “Top Ten” favorites and between 40 and 70 strategies that can be used as part of multiple lessons and across content areas. 

Visit the publisher's website at

Book: The Reconstruction of Sense in the Foreign Language Classroom

Source: Peter Lang Back to Quick Links


The Reconstruction of Sense in the Foreign Language Classroom: An Introduction to Reconstructive Foreign Language Research
By Bernd Tesch
Published by Peter Lang

This book is an introduction to reconstructive foreign language research using the documentary method. It contains an intensive reflection on social practices and the role of language awareness within the context of the instructional interaction in the foreign language classroom. The narrative interview can independently be used for research on language and professional biographies as well as professional dispositions, and attitudes of foreign language teachers provide valuable insights into biographical formations. Similarly, it can be deployed for research on the foreign language learner, too. The working steps of the documentary method are being illustrated on the basis of concrete examples so that the book can be used by researchers as well as by students as a methodological introduction.

Visit the publisher's website at

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