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.


Congratulations LTS Graduates

Congratulations to the LTS graduates, who celebrated finishing their MA program last Saturday! Here is a picture from graduation of CASLS GTFs Kathryn Carpenter and Christopher Daradics with LTS faculty and CASLS director Julie Sykes.

Topic of the Week: Peer Review: The First Step Toward Meaningful Self-Assessment

by Stephanie Knight, CASLS Language Technology Specialist

It is unlikely that learners will be able to engage in adequate self-assessment without first evaluating the work of others. Such evaluations are particularly useful in developing skills in both Presentational Writing and Presentational Speaking. While these forms of communication are unidirectional, they do engender interaction. For example, Fulcher (1998) discusses Widdowson’s (1983) discourse model of communicative competence and performance by explaining that readers are confronted with the task of deciphering the illocutionary intent of writers; essentially there is a type of internal discourse in which the receivers of a message question and interact with texts in order to (hopefully) understand the intended messages of their authors.

It is logical then that learners who are writers get feedback from other readers and that learners who are speakers get feedback from their audiences when learning and perfecting said crafts. Brown (2005) points out that one valid approach to teaching writing is to have learners engage in evaluation of their peers. After all, she discusses, educators (examiners and teachers) are often trained to evaluate learners by working with annotated texts in order to ensure the appropriate interpretation of such evaluative tools as rubrics. It would be logical to extend that training to learners.

In Brown’s small-scale study of how training in peer review parlayed into effective learner self-evaluation, some important characteristics of effective peer review were crystalized. These characteristics are explained below.

Train learners to annotate texts: This training may certainly focus on syntactic variables, but it should also focus on annotating characteristics within a text related to meaning making (e.g., discourse markers, supporting details, and voice). It is also important during this training to break down the academic vocabulary (terms such as “modal” or “passive voice”) that learners will need to negotiate with when making annotations.

Consider learners’ proficiency levels: It is difficult for learners at low proficiency levels to annotate texts that they do not understand. Brown (ibid.) recommends that learners be paired or grouped by proficiency level so that they are able to fully engage in the text(s) that are being evaluated. If the makeup within a classroom prevents such a grouping, a possible solution would be to have learners annotate one characteristic of a text in lieu of the text in its entirety.

Group learners according to relative strengths and weaknesses: Brown (ibid.) discusses an exit interview in which one study participant indicated that it was difficult transfer skills from engaging in peer review to self-evaluation because she was not paired with someone whose strengths and weaknesses were reflected in her own work. While ideal groupings are impossible to achieve at the beginning of an academic term, educators are encouraged to be intentional when creating groups once they get to know each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Teaching a person to do for his or her self is much more beneficial than doing for him or her. In kind, our job as educators is not only to give feedback to learners, but to also to empower learners to evaluate themselves. Training learners in effective peer review is the first step to emboldening learners to do just that.


Brown, A. (2005). Self-assessment of writing in independent language learning programs: The value of annotated samples. Assessing Writing. 10. 174-191.

Fulcher, G. (1998). Widdowson’s model of communicative competence and the testing of reading: An exploratory study. System. 26. 281-302.

Activity of the Week

  • Peer Review for a Video Project

    by Stephanie Knight, CASLS Language Technology Specialist

    This activity was created for Intermediate High language learners enrolled in an online class.

    Learning Objectives:  Students will be able to

    • Recognize supporting details
    • Provide feedback to a peer regarding supporting details

    Modes: Presentational Speaking

    Materials Needed: Student-created promotional videos, Handout, Rubric


    1. Learners must create a promotional video for an upcoming festival in their towns, taking care to include enough supporting details so that anyone viewing the video is able to make a plan to attend the festival.
    2. Learners will review the work created by at least one other person in the class. It is important that the work be comprehensible to the reviewer; take care to ensure that learners are grouped according to proficiency level.
    3. Peer reviewers will look for evidence regarding the detailed and descriptive nature of the videos created by their peers. In order to do so, they will use the handout. If you have not done so before, it is important to model appropriate evaluation of a similar text for learners.
    4. To wrap up their evaluations, learners will use a rubric for presentational communication to evaluate the work of their peers. They must make sure to justify each score that they grant with specific evidence from the videos that they reviewed. If you have not already done so, it is important to take time to help learners to understand the expectations put forth by the rubric; break apart any academic language and provide examples of student-created material that would score well.

    Notes: This activity was originally created for an online class but could easily be adapted to face-to-face contexts. For examples, learners could upload their videos to Google Drive or a course management system such as Blackboard or Canvas.

CASLS Spotlight: Resources from the Language Teaching Specialization Program

In addition to the employment crossover between the Language Teaching Specialization (LTS) MA program and CASLS, like CASLS, LTS provides resources for current language teachers and the teaching and learning community in general. In the local community, LTS collaborates with Lane Community College to offer LTS students internships that help LCC develop their curriculum on digital literacy. In addition, LTS supports Mandarin language learning by providing a Chinese language and culture club at Edison Elementary. LTS also provides career training ( where teachers and future teachers can interact with sample interviews and employment-related situations, and can analyze and practice what makes a strong language teaching candidate. This service is open to all language teachers.

These initiatives go hand in hand with the mission of CASLS to promote teacher professional development, K-12 world language learning, and connections across higher education institutions.

Language Corner

Series on Implementing the Common Core with English Learners

Source: Aligned Back to Quick Links

Here is a series on implementing the Common Core with English Learners:

Installments include the following:
The Shifts and ELLs:
Criteria for Curricular Materials Labeled as Appropriate for ELLs:
CCSS-Aligned Materials for ELL Students:
What to Do When Curricular Materials for ELLs are Not Available:

Assessment Ideas

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Here are two blog posts about assessment by practicing teachers who use the TPRS/CI method:

In this post, Erica Peplinkski talks about what she considers to be authentic assessment:

In this post, Annabelle Alled talks about what she does for formative assessment:

Online Resources for Learning about Labor Day

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

Larry Ferlazzo has revised and updated his curated collection of online resources dealing with Labor Day, which will be observed on September 5 this year:

News in Levels: World News for English Learners

Source: News in Levels Back to Quick Links

News in Levels offers articles about world events at different levels of difficulty, with video recordings, writing prompts and chat rooms, and a Skype area to talk about world events with others. This resource is available at

Read a review of this resource at

Olympic and Paralympic Games Resources

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio ended yesterday evening with the closing ceremony. The Paralympic Games will run September 7 to 18. Here are some more resources for your classroom:

Visit the Paralympic Games website, which is available in Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French, at for highlights and trending stories.

Larry Ferlazzo’s curated list at includes these highlights:

Here is Chinese vocabulary for the summer Olympics:

7 fun facts about translation at the 2016 Olympic Games:

An overview of the first week, from a German perspective:

An interview (in English) with Olympic fencer Maximilian Hartung of Germany:

Resources curated by the National Education Association:

Science and the Olympics:

Resources from the Olympic Museum website are available in English and French:

A collection of resources curated by TeacherVision:

Activity ideas from Education World:

Using authentic resources about the Olympics in a Spanish class:

Readlang: App for Translating and Practicing Languages on the Web

Source: Readlang Back to Quick Links

The Readlang app translates content on the Internet and creates flashcards of translated words for review. It currently works with over 40 languages. Check it out and see if it works effectively with your target language(s) at

Ideas for the Beginning of the School Year

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Here are more ideas and resources for the beginning of the school year:

5 first-day activities for language students:

Ideas for arranging and decorating a classroom:

Advice for getting to know your students:

Back-to-school stories for young English and Spanish learners:

If you encourage students to take target-language names, here is advice for French teachers:

If you’re thinking of using interactive notebooks, here are some helpful tips for getting started:

Presenting information about your class on the first day:

A well-scaffolded first-day homework assignment for novice learners in the target language (really!):

Diane Neubauer shares what posters she has in her Chinese classroom and how she uses them throughout the year:

Six opening and closing routines for new teachers:

A Spanish teacher’s description of the first two weeks of her Spanish 1 class:

Another Spanish teacher’s description of her first day of class, in the target language:

Allison Wienhold explains why she doesn’t start the new school year in her advanced classes with a review unit:

Classroom decoration and arrangement ideas:

Inspiration for decluttering your classroom as you arrange it:

Activity idea for the first day of school: What is your hope?

An FLTEACH listserv user recently asked for advice from his fellow teachers: how can teachers establish a respectful, safe classroom at the beginning of the year? Read his query and teachers’ thoughtful and helpful responses here: Click on “Next” by “By Topic” to see the responses.

New Resource for Educators of Young English Learners

Source: ¡Colorín Colorado! Back to Quick Links


A new section of ¡Colorín Colorado! focuses on the early education of English language learners in preschool and kindergarten. Resources include a webcast, classroom strategies, parent tips, research and policy recommendations, and recommended books and websites.

The new section is available at

Professional Development

New Season of Tea with BVP

Source: Tea with BVP Back to Quick Links


Season 2 of Tea with BVP, a weekly online call-in radio show by applied linguist Bill VanPatten along with Angelika Kraemer and Walter Hopkins, will start on August 25. The show always airs on Thursdays at 3 PM Easter Time.

Learn more about Tea with BVP at
Listen to episodes from Season 1 at

2016 Annual Conference for Community-Based Heritage Language Schools

Source: American University Back to Quick Links

2016 Annual Conference for Community-Based Heritage Language Schools: Promoting Collaboration and Advocacy Among Educators, Families, and Researchers
September 30-October 1, 2016
American University, Washington, DC

This annual conference brings together teachers, administrators, and parents involved in community-based language schools, along with language researchers and educators in other bilingual programs, to learn about and address issues related to heritage language education in community-based schools.

Visit the conference website for full details:

La Cosecha Dual Language Conference

Source: Dual Language Education of New Mexico Back to Quick Links


La Cosecha Dual Language Conference
November 9-12, 2016
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Embracing our Roots — Fortaleciendo nuestra comunidad bilingüe

La Cosecha 2016 will bring together educators, parents, researchers and practitioners supporting dual language enrichment programs from across the U.S. La Cosecha offers you the unique opportunity to share best practices and resources, current theory and practice, build networks, and fuel our community's efforts to build a better future for our children as we “harvest” the best of our multilingual and multicultural communities.

La Cosecha began in 1996 with 80 teacher volunteers who recognized a need to network and share identified best practices within the dual language community. La Cosecha 2016 will bring together over 2,500 participants from throughout the U.S., representing two-way immersion, one-way developmental bilingual, and one-way heritage language immersion programs.

Learn more at the conference website:

Subscriber Profile

Larry Ferlazzo Login
Email: Back to Top
Language: ESL/Bilingual
Content Area: ANY
Level: ANY
State: California
Group: Intercom

InterCom articles do not necessarily reflect the view of CASLS, and the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement.
For subscription information or to edit your InterCom profile:
Send questions about InterCom to

InterCom made possible through support from:
U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI funding for National Language Resource Centers.
Copyright © 2016 Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS)