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.


InterCom in December

Our December InterCom theme is learner agency. This week Stephanie Knight explores the quest for promoting learner autonomy in an environment of top-down instructional mandates.  Next week guest contributor Laura K. Sexton discusses three components of motivation that can drive our students’ learning. Following that, Christopher Daradics will discuss ways that classroom teachers can support students who are interested in autonomous language learning.

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Topic of the Week: Everything is not always awesome: The Lego Movie, our approach to education, and learner autonomy

by Stephanie Knight, CASLS Language Technology Specialist

As The Lego Movie opens, viewers experience life that is decidedly in the box. Lego figurines swarm in unison according to the instructions that they are provided with and happily work the day away while singing that “Everything is Awesome.” While there is a certain bliss to the scene-every figurine seems genuinely pleased with compliance- the fact that each individual is simply a soldier in a regimented army that is largely void of autonomy is clear. In fact, it is only when one of these unwitting soldiers goes off course that the action of the movie begins.

While it is very unlikely that the creators of The Lego Movie developed the work as an allegorical representation of education in the United States, much can be gleaned from the movie’s content regarding our current system as it relates to learner autonomy. In many ways, this system inadvertently produces soldiers for an army of instruction followers; federal mandates become state mandates, state mandates become district mandates, district mandates become administrator mandates, administrator mandates become teacher mandates, and teacher mandates become student mandates. While these mandates are well-intentioned, their top-down nature oftentimes minimizes the potential impact of the learner voice. This reality is particularly troubling because in a world in which low-cost technological tools make broad levels of communication and exploration possible, we have the potential to promote and encourage meaningful learner autonomy at a very high level.

To engage in the promotion of such autonomy, we must first understand what this promotion is. It is not simply scripting a few possible assessment tasks and allowing students to pick one according to their interests. While such an approach is potentially useful for learning autonomy, it is also potentially superficial: Students are still working with the box that we provide them. If we want them to work outside of that box, we must empower them with the skills and strategies that are necessary to prove mastery of learning targets in situations in which we do not script how they must prove that mastery. In this vein, we as educators must recontextualize our role from imparters of content to guides that support the acquisition and application of content.

Engaging in this paradigm shift, however meaningful, is not easy. For one, in order to promote learner autonomy successfully, we must empower our students to be reflective and to engage in personal goal setting (for more information about the power of goal setting and reflection in the world language context, please see Moeller, Thieler, and Wu (2012)). Not only will such an allocation of class time result in learners possibly stepping outside of our own comfort zones when developing their approaches to learning, but such reflective time is difficult to fit in when we are expected to cover a sometimes overwhelming amount of content. Indeed, when we are faced with a regimented set of circumstances in which we are forced to prove our teaching, it can be difficult to not impose a similarly regimented approach on our students’ learning. Still, if my work with educators around the country is any indication, I know that we are well-positioned to resist this temptation. Just as Wiggins’ (1989, 2011) work on authentic assessment suggests, making such shift not only prepares learners for success within our classrooms, but also prepares them to successfully and positively impact the rest of the world.


Lord, P., & Miller, C. (2014). The Lego Movie (Motion Picture). United States: Warner Home Video.

Moeller, A.J., Theiler, J. M., & Wu, C.. (2012) Goal Setting and Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Study. The Modern Language Journal, 96 (ii), 153-169.

Wiggins, G. (1989). A true test: Toward more authentic and equitable assessment. The  Phi Delta Kappan, 70(9), 703-713.

Wiggins, G. (2011). Moving to modern assessments. The Phi Delta Kappan, 92(7), 63.

Activity of the Week

  • Using Hanabi to Promote Learner Autonomy by Discerning Word Stress and Intonation


    In this activity, learners will practice using word stress and prominence by playing the analog game Hanabi. Learners will each have a hand of cards facing outwards and will work together to create the best fireworks display by giving each other hints on the cards in their hands and whether or not to play a card. Each learner has an equal role to play in the success of the group based on the quality of the hints they are giving, so the game implicitly promotes learner autonomy. Each group of learners will compete to get the highest score, the purpose being to help learners take initiative in using their language to succeed. The teacher will encourage learners to continue noticing and practicing word stress and intonation by sharing real world examples of how this language feature is used.


    Learners will be able to…

    • Identify and analyze word stress and intonation.
    • Utilize word stress and intonation to give useful information.
    • Connect in-class exercise to real world experience.


    Interpersonal Communication, Interpretive Listening, Presentational Speaking


    Copies of Hanabi (2-5 players), Sample script for teacher, Rules for Hanabi


    Download the instructions for the sequence of activities here.

CASLS Spotlight: CASLS Welcomes New Student Employees

CASLS would like to welcome our newest student hires to the team.

Katherine Wylie was hired in Spring 2016 as a Writing Assistant for the Oregon InternationalInternship Program (OIIP).  Students from China and Taiwan participate in a 5-month internship in local elementary schools in Eugene and Springfield. They also enroll in a class at the UO where they explore intercultural communication, teaching pedagogy, advanced English pragmatics and U.S. culture. Each week students submit a journal entry on an assigned topic. Katherine reads and provides feedback on the students’ journal entries. She gives them each detailed feedback along with a graded rubric for them to review and internalize in order to help them improve their written English communication. Katherine is from Orange County, California and is a Summit scholarship recipient here at the University of Oregon (UO) where she studies Journalism with an emphasis in public relations. “I enjoy working at CASLS because I appreciate the unique opportunity to see real improvement in the writing conventions of each student I work with,” says Katherine on why she enjoys working for CASLS on OIIP. “It is extremely gratifying to be able to see, first-hand, the difference my help is making for these incredibly hard-working students.” After graduation she plans to seek employment as a copy editor.

Iryna Zagoruyko is a graduate employee (GE) at CASLS and a full-time LTS (Language Teaching Specialization) masters program student at the University of Oregon (UO). Iryna works on the Russian version of CASLS’ Bridging Project, a year-long hybrid course centered on exploring student identities. This project encourages students with high levels of proficiency, especially heritage students and those who graduate from immersion programs, to continue language study at the college level has become increasingly more challenging. “I really enjoy working on this project. I come from Ukraine, and have Russian and Ukrainian as my native language. I have been teaching Russian at the UO for two years. Among my students are heritage learners of Russian. My experience of a teacher working with those heritage learners really helps me with my work at CASLS,” says Iryna.  She continues, “CASLS is a great environment where people support and value each other. It's a big honor for me to work in such a highly-valued and highly-recognized National Foreign Language Resource Centers as CASLS. I truly believe that our work will improve teaching and learning of world languages. I want to say a special thanks to my mentor, Stephanie Knight [CASLS' Language Technology Specialist], who supports me greatly with my project.” Iryna plans to work in the language teaching field when she finishes her (third!) masters degree. She recently gave birth to her daughter, Ariella, who is now 1.5 months old.

Negina Pirzad has joined the CASLS team to work as a script writer for a project that helps refugees in Germany learn the German language. She completed a double Bachelor of Arts degree this June from UO in International Studies and Journalism with a minor in Arabic Studies. Throughout her time in college, Negina worked for various campus efforts including the Yamada Language Center for four years as a Language Lab Assistant, the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence as a Writing Tutor, and the Emerald newspaper as an Opinion Columnist. Negina looks forward to integrating her passion for writing, cultural awareness, linguistics and technology during her time with CASLS, and believes her ethnic Afghan background and knowledge of the Arabic language and the Muslim world in general will help her effectively contribute to the innovative project at hand. "I'm lucky to be working with such an admirable and knowledgeable group of people! I work closest with Kathrin Kaiser [CASLS' Instructional Designer] and she is so encouraging. I'm learning so much from her!"

Language Corner

Carnegie Council International Student/Teacher Essay Contest and Student Photo Contest

Source: Carnegie Council Back to Quick Links


The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs announces two international contests, both with submission deadlines of December 31, 2016.

The Council’s eighth annual International Essay Contest is open to teachers and students (high school through graduate) anywhere in the world.

ESSAY TOPIC: Is nationalism an asset or hindrance in today's globalized world?

Nationalism as used here is a broad term and can be viewed in terms of patriotism, economic nationalism, national identity that holds a diverse country together, nativism, a movement that ideologically separates a nation from a supranational organization, or any other logical way you think fit, as long as you define it clearly.

For full details go to

The topic for the Council’s fourth annual Student Photography Contest (open to students age 13 and older) has the topic “Urbanization” for this year.

While urbanization might mean a path out of poverty and easier access to education for many, it can also increase income inequality and contribute to climate change. Please submit photos that depict urbanization and city life, showing either the advantages or the drawbacks.

For full details go to

The Reasons and Mechanics behind Unannounced Assessments

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

Unannounced assessments are a standard piece of the TPRS method. However, in this blog post Cynthia Hitz provides many reasons for using them in any language classroom - they measure students’ actual proficiency at a given time in a way that conventional pre-announced tests don’t.

Read the blog post at

Sites for Learning and Teaching About the Day of The Virgin of Guadalupe

Source: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… Back to Quick Links

Larry Ferlazzo writes, “December 12th is a Mexican National Holiday, and an important day for many Mexican-Americans — The Day Of The Virgin Of Guadalupe.” He has compiled an annotated list of online resources about this holiday, meant for English language learners but also appropriate for Spanish learners, available here:

Searching for Open Authentic Resources Online

Source: COERLL Back to Quick Links

From our sister LRC, the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning:

“Authentic resources are essential for language teaching and when they are open – by carrying a Creative Commons or other open license, as opposed to a copyright – they present even more opportunities. On a practical level, if anything you do with copyrighted material ever leaves the walls of your classroom, you could potentially get in legal trouble. But in addition to that, if you ever share the lessons you create using authentic resources with colleagues, your use of openly licensed materials will allow them to make their own modifications and copies of your work.”

Read on for advice on finding open authentic resources:

Language Objectives: The Key to Effective Content Area Instruction for English Learners

Source: Colorín Colorado Back to Quick Links


In this article, Jennifer Himmel of the Center for Applied Linguistics provides an overview of how to use language objectives in content-area instruction for English learners and offers classroom-based examples from different grade and subject levels. Her overview includes:

•    what a language objective is
•    steps that teachers can take to create language objectives
•    how to implement language objectives in a general education classroom
•    how to align objectives to content and language standards
•    ideas and resources on how to support teachers as they become familiar with this practice.

Read the article at

Ways A Mainstream Teacher Can Support an ELL Newcomer in Class

Source: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… Back to Quick Links


In this post, Larry Ferlazzo answers this common question: “How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?” Short answer: provide emotional, academic, and social support.

Read the post at

50 Holiday Activities for English Learners

Source: EFL Classroom 2.0 Back to Quick Links

Here is a list of 50 holiday- and winter-related activities that your English language learners can do:

Research Summary: Collaborative Revision in the Writing Classroom

Source: ELT Research Bites Back to Quick Links


Anthony Schmidt reviews a 2015 article by A. M. Hanjani, “Collaborative revision in L2 writing: Learners’ reflections.” The takeaway: “Overall, the students that participated found collaborative revision to be favorable. From the interviews, Hanjani discovered two important and specific findings. One was pedagogical in nature: students felt collaborative revision “made the correction process easier” (p. 301). Students were able to use each other to help understand and address the teacher’s comments on their work. Other students felt that peer revision helped them with their general language skills, including accuracy and awareness of errors. Besides pedagogical benefits, there were affective ones as well. The collaborative revision process helped improve self-confidence in their work. They also felt less stressed about revision, as they had a partner to help them.

“Notwithstanding these benefits, there were certainly some challenges. Some students felt that this revision process may ameliorate errors on an assignment, but does not help in the long term. Some had issues with addresses certain errors, even with peer help. And still others had disagreements with partner’s suggestions.”

Read the full summary at

New ACTFL Statement on the Role of Language Learning in Valuing Diversity and Promoting Unity

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links

On November 22, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages released the following statement:

Recognizing the current contentious climate in the U.S., the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) believes it is uniquely positioned to help bridge the ideological gaps that divide our nation. We stand with our more than 13,000 members in asserting strongly that diversity and intercultural competence are qualities that must be embraced in the U.S. and throughout the world.

On the heels of a hugely successful annual convention that brought together more than 8,500 language educators, students, and representatives from industry and government, we find strength in knowing that our community is energized and ready to lead.

ACTFL is committed to its core mission: providing vision, leadership, and support for quality teaching and learning of languages. Our members, their students, and the language community at-large remain our top priority. We will continue to support educators and ensure that language learners become linguistically and culturally competent to succeed in the global economy and develop the ability to interact respectfully with others both here in the U.S. and around the world.

We remain hopeful for a future where cultural and linguistic diversity is viewed as an invaluable asset that enriches the lives of all.

Access this statement on ACTFL’s website at

Professional Development

Connecting Preservice Teachers to the World Through Global Literacy Projects

Source: Education Week Back to Quick Links


Connecting Preservice Teachers to the World Through Global Literacy Projects
by Jennifer Williams
November 30, 2016

Every day in university preservice teacher programs across the world, the future of education is being formed and molded. Able to recite standards of instruction by number and code and proficient in identifying the qualities of instructional design, aspiring educators work diligently to perfect sample lesson plans for classrooms that, for them, are soon-to-be a reality. For these students, their university experiences are not only events bringing them closer to their careers, but they are defining moments that will shape their mindsets and pedagogical belief systems as they move forward as educators of our global world. By bridging higher education classrooms with K-12 classrooms, we can work to establish foundational understandings of global education for teachers in training and help to shift lessons from abstract simulations to authentic learning and teaching experiences.

This semester in my "Language Arts in the Elementary Years" courses at Saint Leo University in Florida, my students and I sought ways to connect meaningfully to world classrooms in our study of literacy and instructional practice. Here, I share three of these strategies.

Read the full article at

Online Platform: World Language Center

Source: World Language Center Back to Quick Links


The World Language Center network seeks to bring together motivated world language teachers to create a supportive, encouraging and knowledgeable network of peers sharing experience around the topics most important to them. Explore this online networking platform at

2017 Project-Based Learning Series from NFLRC

Source: NFLRC Back to Quick Links


The National Foreign Language Resource Center is offering three opportunities for learning about project-based language learning in 2017.

First is an online symposium, The Power of Project-Based Language Learning, to take place January 11-12.

“On January 11-12, 2017, the Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) Symposium will bring together language educators, policymakers, researchers, and innovators for conversations regarding the potential of PBLL to enhance and transform language education. This unique, FREE online event will provide attendees with a broad overview of PBLL, engaging interactions with world language teachers who have implemented PBLL in their classrooms, and the chance to network with professionals who are passionate about this topic. The symposium format makes it easy to integrate into busy schedules. Four interactive sessions are distributed across two days (i.e., two sessions per day).”

For more information go to

Second is an online institute, “Fundamentals of Project-Based Language Learning,” to take place January 25, February 1, February 8, February 15, and February 22.

“Embark on a journey of discovery in which you will learn more about the elements of high quality, rigorous Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL). During this year’s online institute, you’ll explore PBLL’s connections with experiential learning, career pathways, 21st Century Skills, performance-based assessment, and your own instructional context. You will also connect with colleagues who have a common interest in quality PBLL implementation as experts in the field guide you through the creation of a project blueprint. “

For more information go to

Third is an intensive summer institute, “Pathways to PBLL,” to take place August 2-9 in Hawai’i.

“Join us in exploring the use of project-based language learning (PBLL) as a framework for crafting compelling environments and experiences for language learners. During the NFLRC 2017 Intensive Summer Institute held at the National Foreign Language Resource Center in Hawai‘i, inservice K–16 world language educators will learn how to orchestrate rich, experiential language learning opportunities that draw on a diverse array of disciplines and career pathways. After participating in an abbreviated, face-to-face, project-based language learning experience, each participant will design a well-scaffolded project for use in their own language classes.”

For more information go to


Book: Second Language Pronunciation Assessment

Source: zenodo Back to Quick Links


Second Language Pronunciation Assessment
By Talia Isaacs and Pavel Trofimovich

This book is open access under a CC BY license. It spans the areas of assessment, second language acquisition (SLA) and pronunciation and examines topical issues and challenges that relate to formal and informal assessments of second language (L2) speech in classroom, research and real-world contexts. It showcases insights from assessing other skills (e.g. listening and writing) and highlights perspectives from research in speech sciences, SLA, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics, including lingua franca communication, with concrete implications for pronunciation assessment. This collection will help to establish commonalities across research areas and facilitate greater consensus about key issues, terminology and best practice in L2 pronunciation research and assessment. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, this book will appeal to a mixed audience of researchers, graduate students, teacher-educators and exam board staff with varying levels of expertise in pronunciation and assessment and wide-ranging interests in applied linguistics.

Access this book at

Book: Becoming and Being an Applied Linguist

Source: John Benjamins Publishing Company Back to Quick Links


Becoming and Being an Applied Linguist: The life histories of some applied linguists
Edited by Rod Ellis
Published by John Benjamins Publishing Company

Becoming and Being an Applied Linguist contains narrative accounts of the lives of thirteen well-established applied linguists. Their professional autobiographies document the development of some of the key areas of applied linguistics – second, language acquisition, motivation, grammar, vocabulary, testing, second language writing, second language classroom research, practitioner research, English as a lingua franca, teacher cognition, and computer-assisted language learning. The book tells how these applied linguists grew into their areas of specialization. It will be of interest to any would-be applied linguist. The book also provides a readable overview of the whole field that will be of value to students of applied linguistics.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Cross-linguistic Transfer in Reading in Multilingual Contexts

Source: John Benjamins Publishing Company Back to Quick Links


Cross-linguistic Transfer in Reading in Multilingual Contexts
Edited by Elena Zaretsky and Mila Schwartz
Published by John Benjamins Publishing Company

This book represents concurrent attempts of multiple researchers to address the issue of cross-linguistic transfer in literacy. It includes broad spectrum of languages and reflects a new generation of conceptualizations of cross-linguistic transfer, offering a different level of complexity by studying children who are trilingual and even learning a fourth language.

The collection of papers in this volume tried to capture the dynamic developmental changes in cross-linguistic transfer that include such factors as age of acquisition, typological proximity of L1 and L2 (and L3, L4), intensity of exposure to language and reading in ambient and newly acquired language(s), quality of input and home literacy. More stringent methodological considerations allowed to isolate specific constructs that suggest either primary levels of children’s metalinguistic abilities (phonological awareness that can be applied cross-linguistically) or a more language-specific constructs (morphological awareness) that relies on various factors, including typological proximity, language proficiency and task demands.

Visit the publisher’s website at

November 2016 Issue of TESL-EJ

Source: TESL-EJ Back to Quick Links

The November 2016 issue of TESL-EJ is available online at In this issue:

Feature Articles:

•    Lilian Ya-Hui Chang, ‘Good’ Language Teachers: Divergent Perspectives
•    Matthew Coomber, Promoting Self-Directed Revision in EFL Writing Classes
•    N. Eleni Pappamihiel & C. Allen Lynn, Adaptations for English Language Learners: Differentiating Between Linguistic and Instructional Accommodations
•    Barry Lee Reynolds, The Effects of Target Word Properties on the Incidental Acquisition of Vocabulary Through Reading
•    Nilüfer Bekleyen & Figen Selimoğlu, Learner Behaviors and Perceptions of Autonomous Language Learning

On the Internet:

•    David Winet, Mobile Instant Messaging In the ESL Writing Class


•    Ecopod: Survival; Reviewed by Kathryn J. Carpenter
•    Christopher Stillwell Ed. (2015), Language Teaching Insights from Other Fields: Psychology, Business, Brain Science and More; Reviewed by Jeanne Hindpdf
•    Linda Grant (Ed.) (2014), Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching; Reviewed by Rita M. Van Dyke-Kao

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