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: Functional Language

Alyssa Villarreal is the President of Advance Learning and World Language Coordinator for Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to her district duties, she has worked as the Foreign Language methods instructor for the University of Memphis. She is currently serving as President of the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NADSFL) and was named the 2012 NADSFL Supervisor of the Year.

As language educators we can all agree on our mission, we want to develop culturally appropriate communicators in languages other than English. Each day we take steps toward this outcome. We lead students through activities that help develop the modes of communication. In these activities, we ultimately guide student language development with two main concepts. One, we must be focused on learning functional language and second language used has to be perceived as meaningful to the learner.

Functional Language is essential to learning a second language. The brain must perceive new information as important in order for uptake, i.e. storage, to occur. Learning functional chunks of language make retention incrementally more likely to be stored in the brain. Several years ago in Shelby County Schools we decided to repurpose vocabulary lists from individual words to sentence frames. How classes chose to fill in the frame was up to the class to decide. Almost immediately we saw changes in student performances. Students were able to use the language they were learning more quickly and with greater fluency. Functions, like asking and answering questions or stating needs were occurring earlier than we’d ever seen it before. Students trying to create with the language was also occurring earlier. The improved quality of student performances earlier in the year would mean that meeting/exceeding our proficiency targets could also happen earlier. Using functions to guide instruction has bought about many meaningful improvements to the learning process. The biggest of these changes has been in student motivation.

Students are engaging in the language learning process more willingly because the functional chunks of language are meaningful. We still provide the context within which students produce language; the functions however make it easier to convey meaningful information. Meaningfulness is not only important to the students but also to the brain.  Each day we learn things that either reinforce or create a new connection in the brain. At night however, the brain goes through a pruning process where it deletes the connections that are not perceived as meaningful. Meaningfulness is critical to learning. If what we teach is not seen as meaningful then we will find ourselves re-teaching the same information over and over again because there was not sufficient context. Context helps build meaningfulness by providing a real world reason for using the language being learned. Involve your students in creating the context that would be meaningful to them. Only when students are engaged in such a manner will they create long lasting connections.

Activity of the Week

  • Curriculum Examples from Shelby County Schools

    In this week's Topic of the Week, Alyssa Villarreal, World Languages Coordinator for Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, writes about the use of lexical chunks or sentences frames in curriculum rather than lists of single vocabulary words. To see what this looks like, we recommend the following links:

    The Shelby County Schools World Languages program has its own website, available at http://scsworldlanguages.weebly.com/. You can get an overview of the programs approach to language learning here.

    As an example of a course, you can access Level One documents relevant to any language here: http://scsworldlanguages.weebly.com/level-one.html. The curriculum framwork is summarized in this document, and the course expectations are summarized here.

    For a specific example of a unit, here is a link to the Unit Two plan. Note that the second column on each page is labeled "Language Chunks & Vocabulary." In this column you will see examples of sentence frames such "I go to ... with ..." and class-specified guides such as "actions" and "places" to fill in the frames.

    Examples of additional materials, such as separate Latin materials and elementary and middle school curricula, are available at http://www.scsk12.org/ci/world?PID=244.

     

     

CASLS Spotlight: CASLS' Language Technology Specialist Comes to Oregon

Stephanie Knight, CASLS Language Technology Specialist, who works remotely for CASLS in Nashvile, TN, came to Oregon to visit Portland Public Schools and the CASLS' office January 9-January 13. During her stay Stephanie met with PPS and other potential partners about the Bridging Project, a one-year long hybrid course for students with high levels of proficiency, especially heritage and immersion program students. PPS is currently piloting the Chinese version of the course for this 2016/2017 school year. For the 2017/2018 school year, Spanish and Russian versions of the course will also be available. 

Language Corner

15-Second Vocabulary Video Challenge

Source: New York Times Back to Quick Links

From https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/learning/student-contest-15-second-vocabulary-video-challenge.html

The New York Times’s Learning Network has been publishing a Word of the Day every school day since 2009. They have an annual Vocabulary Video Contest in which students aged 13-19 are invited to create a short (15-second) video that defines or teaches any of the words in the collection. This contest is for all students, not just English language learners, but English learners may excel at it. The deadline to enter is February 28, 2017.

For full details go to https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/learning/student-contest-15-second-vocabulary-video-challenge.html

Interactive Student Notebooks Set Up

Source: Lugar para pensar Back to Quick Links

From https://lugarparapensar.wordpress.com

If you’re interested in starting interactive (paper) notebooks with your students, or you’ve tried but struggled with the details, here’s a helpful blog post by Spanish teacher Andrea Brown about how she implements them: https://lugarparapensar.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/interactive-student-notebooks-set-up/

A Closer Look at Corrective Feedback in Action

Source: ELT Research Bites Back to Quick Links

From http://www.eltresearchbites.com

Matthew Noble summarizes a 2015 article by D. S. Fagan, “Managing language errors in real-time: A microanalysis of teacher practices,” in a recent blog post. From his introduction: “Despite the profusion of studies concerning the role of corrective feedback in instructed SLA (think of the typical six-item lists of ‘common CF techniques’, descriptions of idealized decision-making processes teachers should attempt, and ongoing ‘debate’ over which types of techniques are better, etc.) there is relatively little research that directly investigates the nuanced, often subtle multitasking that skilled teachers employ in real-time when managing learners’ language errors in authentic classroom contexts. This study by Drew S. Fagan, Ed.D does just that, using conversation analysis tools to examine error management practices that surface in 26 hours of footage of an experienced teacher’s class. It spotlights two key practices which systematically imbue classroom corrective feedback episodes with engaging positivity.”

Read the summary at http://www.eltresearchbites.com/201701-a-closer-look-at-corrective-feedback-in-action/

Eliminate Assessment Fog

Source: Edutopia Back to Quick Links

From https://www.edutopia.org/article/eliminate-assessment-fog-john-mccarthy

Eliminate Assessment Fog
To get a clear picture of student achievement from assessments, don’t give or take away points for things that aren’t related to the core content.
By John McCarthy
January 10, 2017

Lorna Earl, author of Assessment as Learning, says differentiation is “making sure that the right students get the right learning tasks at the right time. Once you have a sense of what each student holds as ‘given’ or ‘known’ and what he or she needs in order to learn, differentiation is no longer an option. It’s an obvious response.”

This definition reflects how important assessment is. At a fundamental level, we are differentiating when we act on accurate data to adapt instructional plans for a large group or to personalize for individuals and small groups. Because such planning takes time, it becomes critical that the assessments used in planning be free of logistical factors that create a fog around what learners truly know and do not know.

The alternative is a growing feeling of frustration and helplessness about our impact on learners’ academic growth when we focus on data that may not provide an accurate view of those learners. Here are some common examples of assessment fog and their solutions.

Read the full article, which deals with issues such as points off for mechanics, extra credit for non-academic activities, and penalizing late work, at https://www.edutopia.org/article/eliminate-assessment-fog-john-mccarthy

Resources for Struggling Immersion Learners

Source: CARLA Back to Quick Links

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition has assembled an online book about struggle immersion learners. Topics include the suitability of immersion programs for disabled learners and best practices.

Access this resource at http://carla.umn.edu/immersion/sl/index.html

Instructions for Students to Turn Internet Resources into Listening Activities

Source: Dynamite ELT Back to Quick Links

From https://dynamiteelt.wordpress.com

Here is a great, concise series of steps that students can use to turn authentic material on the Internet (for example, podcasts or YouTube videos) into helpful listening activities: https://dynamiteelt.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/how-to-use-the-internet-to-improve-your-listening-skills/

YouGlish: Find Words in YouTube Videos

Source: YouGlish Back to Quick Links

YouGlish is a handy online tool for hearing a word pronounced and used in context. Simply type a word or phrase in the search box, and the tool will find YouTube videos containing the word, jumping to the spot in the video where it is used.

Access this tool at http://youglish.com/

Your Students Can Make Online Personality Quizzes

Source: Creative Language Class Back to Quick Links

From http://www.creativelanguageclass.com

Several months ago your InterCom editor and others on a language teaching team tried making online quizzes in our target language; we created and shared quizzes like “What’s your best color?” and “What animal are you like?” Megan Smith of the Creative Language Class blog has a similar idea. Read how she uses the quizzes for reading and writing tasks here: http://www.creativelanguageclass.com/a-quiz-they-will-want-to-take/

5-Minute Brain Breaks for the World Language Classroom

Source: Secondary Spanish Space Back to Quick Links

From http://www.secondaryspanishspace.com

Here’s a great collection of active, short, communication-focused language activities for when your students are having trouble maintaining their focus: http://www.secondaryspanishspace.com/2017/01/5-minute-brain-breaks-for-world.html

Here’s a recent Edutopia article emphasizing the need for brain breaks: https://www.edutopia.org/article/tyranny-of-on-task-andrew-miller

ACICS Suffers Loss of Accreditation

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links

From http://languagemagazine.com/?p=126373

“The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as a nationally-recognized accreditation agency. This decision will affect nearly 16,000 international students studying English language and other subjects.

“ACICS previously accredited around 250 institutions in the U.S., among them 130 ESL and higher education institutes that recruit international students. Problems arose with institutions such as the now-defunct Northwestern Polytechnic University in California, which was accredited by the ACICS, that was exposed as a visa mil[l] last year. NPU was found to be inflating students’ grades in order to ensure that they didn’t fail and lose their visas. ACICS was informed of these practices by a whistle-blower, yet continued to accredit the institution.”

Read the full article at http://languagemagazine.com/?p=126373

Professional Development

Call for Papers: Pronunciation in Second Language Learning & Teaching 9th Annual Conference

Source: University of Utah Back to Quick Links

From http://speechlab.utah.edu/PSLLT2017.php#collapse-1

The University of Utah invites proposals for oral and poster presentations on all topics related to naturalistic pronunciation acquisition and classroom pronunciation learning – any aspect of pronunciation research, teaching and learning. The organizers also invite evidence-based “teaching tip” proposals. Teaching tips will be presented in a Round Robin format, with a small group gathered around the presenter. Every seven minutes, a bell rings and the audience moves to another teaching tip presentation.

The online abstract submission site will open on January 9, 2017, and the deadline for submissions is April 7, 2017.

View the full call for papers at http://speechlab.utah.edu/PSLLT2017.php#collapse-1

Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics

Source: Georgetown University Back to Quick Links

From https://gurt.georgetown.edu/GURT%202017#_ga=1.56298603.1169081316.1482950741

The Georgetown University Round Table (GURT) on Languages and Linguistics was first held in 1949 and has been held every year since, covering a wide range of topics differing from year to year. As in previous years, GURT 2017 will be embellished by Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival, all being well, and lead to a volume of papers published by Georgetown University Press.

GURT 2017 will focus on variable properties in language, all kinds, and particularly on how they are acquired. It will be held on 10-­12 March 2017 and will consider the full range of variable properties, how they are acquired by young children or adults, and how they may change across generations of speakers. A primary goal of GURT 2017 is to foster interaction and potential collaboration among researchers investigating language from the perspective of different subfields and using a range of methodologies. The conference aims to make progress toward a biologically coherent account of the full range of variation, bridging the silos that keep sociolinguists from interacting with students of syntactic variation, and keep historical linguists apart from phoneticians working on variability. A primary goal of GURT 2017 is thus to change the dialog, and to provide opportunities for experienced scholars to mentor young scholars, including graduate students and postdocs, working on variation, encouraging them to work across domains.

Visit the conference website at https://gurt.georgetown.edu/GURT%202017#_ga=1.56298603.1169081316.1482950741

Call for Papers: 10th Annual SLA Students Symposium

Source: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Back to Quick Links

From https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/2017-sla-student-symposium/

2017 SLA Graduate Student Symposium is titled Second Language Teaching and Learning: Diversity and Advocacy, and will be held on April 21 and 22, 2017, at the University of Minnesota. The organizers seek to give student researchers and educators the opportunity to present new and future studies that address current issues in SLA. This event will be of interest to a wide spectrum of students interested in language teaching and learning, research, education, and their attendant social, psychological, and linguistic implications. All students are welcome to present their work and meet distinguished researchers in their field at this free, student-run symposium.

Call Deadline: 31-Jan-2017

View the full call for papers at https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/2017-sla-student-symposium/

Webinar: Five Ideas for Freshening Up Your WL Classroom in 2017

Source: Global Language Project Back to Quick Links

Five Ideas for Freshening Up Your WL Classroom in 2017
January 24

Set your professional New Years’ resolution goals in motion with the ignite webinar presented by teacher leaders from across the New York area. Presenters will be sharing tips on how to make the world language classroom more engaging and effective for student learning. Topics include service learning, staying in the target language, and more.

For full details and to sign up, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/webinar-five-ideas-for-freshening-up-your-wl-classroom-in-2017-tickets-30863334063

2017 Year Planner for Conferences and Professional Development

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links

Language Magazine has compiled an extensive calendar in the form of a virtual magazine, listing conferences and other professional development opportunities throughout 2017. It is available at http://languagemagazine.com/?p=126359

Publications

Book: Bilingualism and Minority Languages in Europe

Source: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Back to Quick Links

From http://www.cambridgescholars.com/bilingualism-and-minority-languages-in-europe

Bilingualism and Minority Languages in Europe: Current Trends and Developments
Edited by Fraser Lauchlan and Maria del Carmen Parafita Couto
Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

This collection considers such issues as the cognitive, linguistic and emotional benefits of speaking two languages, the perceptions, attitudes and issues relating to identity in minority language areas, and the number of grammatical aspects amongst those who speak these minority languages. The premise of the book is based on the fact that these minority languages have, in the past, been in danger of becoming obsolete, mainly because of negative attitudes regarding the benefits of speaking languages that are considered irrelevant internationally. However, in recent times, the benefits of speaking two languages, including where one is a minority language, have been recognized in ways that were not previously understood. Perhaps because of this, alongside the introduction of legislation in some areas in Europe that has been designed to support the preservation of some of these languages, there has been a re-emergence of many minority languages throughout the continent. Questions remain whether this has led to the languages becoming more widely spoken and whether there are specific benefits that can be gained from speaking them. Exploring these questions has led to an increasing amount of research being undertaken on various aspects of bilingualism in minority language areas in Europe. The book contributes to this debate and underlines the relevance and significance of bilingualism in the specific context where European minority languages are still spoken.

Visit the publisher’s website at http://www.cambridgescholars.com/bilingualism-and-minority-languages-in-europe

Book: Bilingualism and Minority Languages in Europe

Source: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Back to Quick Links

From http://www.cambridgescholars.com/bilingualism-and-minority-languages-in-europe

Bilingualism and Minority Languages in Europe: Current Trends and Developments
Edited by Fraser Lauchlan and Maria del Carmen Parafita Couto
Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

This collection considers such issues as the cognitive, linguistic and emotional benefits of speaking two languages, the perceptions, attitudes and issues relating to identity in minority language areas, and the number of grammatical aspects amongst those who speak these minority languages. The premise of the book is based on the fact that these minority languages have, in the past, been in danger of becoming obsolete, mainly because of negative attitudes regarding the benefits of speaking languages that are considered irrelevant internationally. However, in recent times, the benefits of speaking two languages, including where one is a minority language, have been recognized in ways that were not previously understood. Perhaps because of this, alongside the introduction of legislation in some areas in Europe that has been designed to support the preservation of some of these languages, there has been a re-emergence of many minority languages throughout the continent. Questions remain whether this has led to the languages becoming more widely spoken and whether there are specific benefits that can be gained from speaking them. Exploring these questions has led to an increasing amount of research being undertaken on various aspects of bilingualism in minority language areas in Europe. The book contributes to this debate and underlines the relevance and significance of bilingualism in the specific context where European minority languages are still spoken.

Visit the publisher’s website at http://www.cambridgescholars.com/bilingualism-and-minority-languages-in-europe

Book: English Language Teaching as a Second Career

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links

From http://www.multilingual-matters.com/display.asp?isb=9781783096923

English Language Teaching as a Second Career
By Sarah J. Shin
Published by Multilingual Matters

This book explores the experiences of men and women who train to teach ESL as a second career. Drawing from in-depth interviews and observations of 30 students (aged 45 to 73) in a TESOL graduate program, this book provides portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers. It describes the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, the successes and challenges they face, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements. A welcome addition to the growing literature on teacher development, this book will be an important resource for teacher trainers and anyone working in TESOL.

Visit the publisher’s website at http://www.multilingual-matters.com/display.asp?isb=9781783096923

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