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: Interaction Around the Game: A Look at Attendant Discourse Communities

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

When considering the integration of games in the language classroom, associated attendant discourse communities – the communities of players who analyze, debate, and create based on their gameplay experience – can add depth and complexity to classroom activities.  Furthermore, the offer a window into a variety of social communities relevant to everyday global behaviors. This week, we explore three ways attendant discourse communities can be explored in the language learning classroom.

  1. Fan Fiction: A social practice in which all elements of a story, show, game, or book are expanded and repurposed through creative expression.  Fans from all walks of life create stories, share them with a peer community, and comment upon one another’s work to make the stories better.  Fan Fiction around games can be very useful to explore context, narrative, rhetoric, and writing practices of different cultures.  Classroom activities can include reading others’ stories, analyzing commentary, and, at the intermediate and advanced levels, creating and submitting one’s own stories. Fan fiction examples can be found at or by searching for fan fiction in the target language.
  2. Machinima: A remixing practice in which visual elements of a games are often combined with alternative sounds, voices, and animations. For some examples see This digital remixing is posted online and shared among a community of peers. This peer-to-peer process provides excellent opportunities for learners to explore and analyze authentic cultural processes and narratives. Classroom activities can include watching machinima projects and analyzing language, cultural practices, and commentary. In addition, learners can be encouraged to create their own machinima excerpts.
  3. Strategy Forums: Information about the majority of popular digital games can be found in strategy forums online. These strategy discussions are ideal contexts to look at advanced language skills such as hypothesizing, critiquing, and discussing abstract concepts.  It is always good to explore the game strategy sites when implementing digital games. Learners can be encouraged to analyze pragmatic practices or contribute to the sites as they are interested and able.

More information on attendant discourse communities and language learning can be found in:

Thorne, S. L., Black, R, Sykes, J.(2009). Second Language Use, Socialization, and Learning in Internet Interest Communities and Online Games. Modern Language Journal, 93, 802-821.

Activity of the Week

  • “Survival is Insufficient”: Building Everyday Vocabulary Through This War of Mine Gameplay

    The purpose of this activity is to engage novice university (and possibly high school) learners in schemata building for new vocabulary that pertains to their everyday lives. In order to complete this activity, learners work in teams to play Day 1 of This War of Mine. As they play, they will build vocabulary lists of words that they are able to understand given context and group collaboration. After they build the lists, they will categorize the words by what they need to survive versus what they need to feel well and fulfilled.

    This War of Mine is an engaging game, and it is ideal for use in the language classroom. However, given the language used and the adult themes incorporated into gameplay, the game should only be used with mature audiences. It is especially important that teachers review the game before using it and secure approval from parents, guardians, and school administration.


    Learners will be able to:

    • acquire new vocabulary related to one’s everyday life via context and collaboration.
    • build schemata to promote long-term vocabulary retention.
    • comprehend vocabulary dealing with everyday life.
    • categorize and discuss new vocabulary.

    Modes: Interpretive Reading, Presentational Writing

    Resources: Vocabulary Interaction Sheet, This War of Mine app or computer game


    1.      Prime learners for targeted vocabulary acquisition by brainstorming words that they might need to discuss their everyday lives. Learners should offer any words that they know in the target language, but much of the brainstorm will happen in the first language. If the learners struggle to offer a robust collection of words, the teacher may choose to ask them the following questions to guide their thinking:

    • What tangible things do you need to live?
    • What intangible things do you need to live?
    • How do you get enjoyment and fulfillment out of life?

    As you record this brainstorming session on the board, learners should record it as well on Part A of the Vocabulary Interaction Sheet.

    2.     The brainstormed words (and any additional words that the teacher would like learners to focus on) will provide the students with targeted vocabulary words to find through gameplay in This War of Mine. Learners will search for these words by playing Day 1 (roughly 15 minutes) of the game in groups of 3-4 members. As they play, they will document the meaning of the targeted words and any other words that they discover by completing Part B of the Vocabulary Interaction Sheet.

    3.     After learners have completed Part B, regroup as a class to share what words were discovered. Instruct learners to add words to the Vocabulary Interaction Sheet as is needed.

    4.     Next, learners will work individually for roughly 10 minutes to categorize words in Part C of the Vocabulary Interaction Sheet. The categories that they use will be ‘Necessary for Survival’ and ‘Necessary for Wellness and Fulfillment’.

    5.     To close the activity, lead a class discussion regarding the categorization of the words that learners completed. Do your best in this discussion to challenge learner thinking. For example, if learners state that a bed is needed for wellness and fulfillment, argue that it is necessary for survival since sleep is necessary for survival. Given the proficiency level of the learners, much of this conversation and its associated schemata building will occur in the first language. However, encourage learners to use the target language as much as possible.

CASLS Spotlight: CASLS at ACTFL: Transformative Approaches to Language Education

During this year’s ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo, CASLS announced an exciting new partnership with Pearson Education. The partnership is a first step in a long-term strategic plan toward the development of an online immersive environment for Spanish learners, in which learners build knowledge of language, culture, and pragmatics through a digital game.

To celebrate the new partnership, CASLS and Pearson hosted a game arcade in the exhibit hall where teachers were able to play Ecopod, Ingress, Plague Inc, Sim City BuildIt, and This War of Mine and receive classroom activities to accompany the games. Throughout the year, we’ll release activities for novice, intermediate, and advanced learners related to these games on our Games2Teach website.

Three teachers won our social media contest by sharing a photo of themselves at ACTFL and tagging the photo with the hashtag #iloveCASLS. These teachers will receive a free subscription to LinguaFolio Online for their classes this year.

CASLS Director Dr. Julie Sykes was nominated to chair the Language Resource Center Coordinating Council, as current chair Dr. Elaine Tarone retires in 2016. Dr. Tarone served as the chair for more than two decades.

CASLS Associate Director Mandy Gettler received recognition for serving as editorial director for the Pacific Northwest Council for Languages for more than ten years. She served from 2003-2013.

Congratulations to Edward Zarrow, a Latin teacher from Westwood High School in Westwood, Massachusetts, who received the 2015 ACTFL Teacher of the Year Award.

Thanks to all of those who stopped by our booth to visit and learn more about the programs and services we offer to language educators. We were delighted to meet you and hope to see you next year!

Language Corner

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Source: StoryCorps Back to Quick Links


This Thanksgiving weekend, StoryCorps will work with teachers and high school students across the country to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.

Open to everyone, The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a national assignment to engage people of all ages in the act of listening. The pilot project is specially designed for students ages 13 and over and as part of a social studies, history, civics, government, journalism, or political science class, or as an extracurricular activity. All that is needed to participate is a smartphone and the StoryCorps mobile app. High school students will be asked to interview a grandparent or other elder during the holiday weekend using the app.

To find out how you and your students can be involved, go to

Teaching Elementary-Age ELs the Hidden Curriculum

Source: TESOL Blog Back to Quick Links


Former elementary ESL teacher and trainer Judie Hayes writes, “What is the hidden curriculum? This term encompasses various characteristics of schooling that “everybody knows.” It usually consists of a wide variety of social skills, such as interactions with peers and teachers, and includes the fundamental values and beliefs of a school community. This hidden curriculum needs to be learned by ELs in order for them to succeed socially and academically in school.”

Read the full article with examples of the hidden curriculum and how you can help your young English learners with it here:

Checklist: Adapt, Incorporate, or Ditch a Textbook Activity?

Source: Musicuentos Back to Quick Links


Your InterCom Editor is on her way home from the 2015 ACTFL Convention. Textbook companies promote their curriculum in the exposition hall between sessions in which presenters urge teachers to teach without textbooks. What is a teacher to do? Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell has a nice checklist that you can use to evaluate textbook activities on a case-by-case basis: can you adapt the activity to your class? Can you use it as-is? Or should you ditch it entirely?

Access the checklist and a wikispace where teachers can share their recommendations with particular activities in particular textbooks at

Blog Post: There Is No Best Method

Source: frenchteacher Back to Quick Links

Is there one best method that all language teachers should use? No, argues this blogger - teachers will have best results using a method that they feel passionate about. Read her research and reasoning here:

Process-driven Instruction and Writing

Source: The Language Gym Back to Quick Links


Gianfranco Conti writes,

“Say you are the coach of a team of novice football players. You wouldn’t throw them into a very difficult match straight away, without the necessary training. Right? Surely you would make sure they received lots of practice in all the most crucial aspects of the game from the most basic skills (e.g. passing, drilling, tackling and shooting) to the most complex ones (e.g. defensive and offensive tactics). This is common sense, and it should apply to language teaching, too. Yet, many of us, from the very early days of A Level or IB, ask students to write cognitively and linguistically demanding discursive essays of some length, without teaching them all of the skills necessary to accomplish that challenging task effectively.”

Read on to learn more about how focusing on the process of writing can strengthen students’ writing skills:

Professional Development

Online SOPA/ELLOPA Training in 2016

Source: CAL Back to Quick Links


CAL now offers periodic online instructor-mediated courses that teach participants how to administer and rate oral language proficiency for students in grades K-8 using the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment (SOPA) and the Early Language Listening and Oral Proficiency Assessment (ELLOPA).

Courses are offered when a minimum number of participants are interested in purchasing the course. Each course has a two month registration window. Participants have access to the course 24/7 and may work at their own pace with guidance from an experienced SOPA/ELLOPA trainer.

View the 2016 course schedule and learn more about the courses here:

New Media Consortium Seeks Examples of Language Innovation in Higher Education

Source: NMC Back to Quick Links


The New Media Consortium — the producer of the NMC Horizon Report series — is seeking examples of innovation across the language education field in higher education. Of particular interest are programs, projects, services, and products that leverage enabling technology in ways that not only bolster language proficiency and improve teaching practices, but also heighten cultural and contextual awareness within language learners. If you submit a project, it may be included in a special NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, “Innovating Language Education,” set to be published in Winter 2016.

Learn more and submit your project at

Webinar: Building Community in a Highly Successful Inner-City STARTALK Program

Source: NNELL Back to Quick Links


The National Network for Early Language Learning has an upcoming session in its Professional Development Webinar series:
Building Community in a Highly Successful Inner-City STARTALK Program
December 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm (ET)

In her article, "Building Community in a Highly Successful Inner-City STARTALK Program", Ann Ferriter states, “We listened intently to programmatic suggestions from key stakeholders resulting in one very successful project last summer.”

Join Dr. Kelly Davidson Devall as she asks Ferriter to elaborate on the success of the program and what she has in planned for future programs!

Get more information and register at

24th Annual National Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Summer Conference

Source: ATDLE Back to Quick Links


The Association of Two-Way & Dual Language Education is happy to announce that registration to the 24th National Two-Way Conference in Sacramento is open. The conference will take place June 27-29, 2016.

Learn more and register at

Path 2 Proficiency: Blogging Platform Based on TELL Framework

Source: Path 2 Proficiency Back to Quick Links


Your InterCom editor spends hours each week reading teachers’ blog posts, seeking out posts that exemplify best practice and will be helpful for other practicing teachers. Now, here is a new source of excellent blog posts: the Path 2 Proficiency (P2P) website. P2P serves as a platform for teachers to share their ideas for and reflections on language teaching and learning. Each post addresses a domain within the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning (TELL) framework, and posts are searchable by TELL domain or author.

The first entry, posted a week and a half ago, is by Spanish teacher Rosalyn Rhodes and deals with the many ways that she uses the walls of her classroom to facilitate her students’ learning:

Visit the Path 2 Proficiency website to read the latest posts, browse all posts, and subscribe by email to receive notification of new posts:
Learn more about the TELL framework at

National Dual Language Forum

Source: CAL Back to Quick Links


As part its long-standing leadership in support of bilingual, dual language and two-way immersion education, the Center for Applied Linguistics has established the National Dual Language Forum (NDLF).

CAL’s Board of Trustees has directed CAL, as part of its mission enhancement activities, to establish the NDLF to foster collaboration and dialogue among the many organizations and stakeholders that support dual language education.

In the coming months, CAL will establish an inaugural steering committee and plan an annual meeting to be held at its headquarters in Washington DC with members able to participate by electronic means to ensure maximum participation by members. CAL will publish findings from the forum on the NDLF website.

The first step is the launch of the NDLF website, sponsored by CAL in partnership with Santillana USA. The NDLF website is designed to serve as a portal to a wide array of resources designed to help educators understand the essential components of bilingual and dual language education and how to implement high-quality, effective programs.

As CAL launches the new NDLF website, they have begun to add information and resources helpful to anyone interested in promoting dual language education. CAL has provided links to various organizations who are leaders in the field of language education.

CAL will continue to enhance the NDLF website in the coming months, so check back often for updates.

The new website is available at


Book: Beliefs, Agency and Identity in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching

Source: Palgrave Macmillan Back to Quick Links


Beliefs, Agency and Identity in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
By Paula Kalaja, Ana Maria F. Barcelos, Mari Aro, and Maria Ruohotie-Lyhty
Published by Palgrave Macmillan

Beliefs, Agency and Identity in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching explores the phenomena of believing (or giving personal meanings), acting, and identifying (or identity construction), and the interconnectedness of these phenomena in the learning and teaching of English and other foreign languages. The authors to take turns in reporting recent studies that are truly longitudinal in their research design, carried out from novel theoretical starting points and with innovation in data collection and analysis. The book contributes to a greater understanding of how learners go about learning and teachers about teaching foreign languages.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: The Dynamic Interplay between Context and the Language Learner

Source: Palgrave Macmillan Back to Quick Links


The Dynamic Interplay between Context and the Language Learner
Edited by Jim King
Published by Palgrave Macmillan

Traditionally dominant approaches in applied linguistics have tended to emphasize cognitive aspects of second language acquisition, and have placed the language learner as being largely independent from the context. This volume offers a timely challenge to this notion by bringing together a state-of-the-art collection of chapters which acknowledge that learner characteristics and behavior are in fact dynamic and can be influenced by a multitude of competing temporal and situational factors. An international team of scholars (based in Austria, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) specializing in a range of language learning-related disciplines contribute cutting edge conceptual papers and data-based studies, making this book essential reading for graduate students, researchers and second language practitioners with an interest in psychological and social aspects of language learning.

Visit the publisher’s website at

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