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: Branching Out with an Ecological Language Curriculum

Christopher Daradics is a graduate student of linguistics at the University of Oregon.

"Something you feel will find its own form." Jack Kerouac

At the end of our month together spent looking at language learning outside of the classroom the big question on my mind is, how exactly can we help an individual go from being a student in a classroom to being a language learner in the wild?

I believe some compelling answers to this question come from Ecology which is, fundamentally, the study of processes in context. For us the process in question is language learning, and the contexts are the language classroom and the world at large.

As a masters student in the UO’s LTS program I have developed an ecological language learning framework to raise student awareness and to build the skills, habits, and outlook necessary for students to embrace lifelong language learning. I think this ecological approach to language learning can help us better understand the difficulty students face in making the transition and it also illuminates some specific steps students and teachers can take to help students work towards engagement and autonomy. The ecological framework gives students a structured and detailed process for transitioning out from the guided instruction of a classroom towards the independent exploration of an
intrepid and cosmopolitan language learner. The model has three parts: branching (outward, world facing activities), rooting (reflection/analysis) and trunking (planning and self-evaluation).

Branching activities encourage students to engage in the world around them. Branching shows students that anywhere can be ground for an authentic experience, linguistic or otherwise. Within the ecological framework, the branching activities generate authentic language material "leaves" which in turn become the "soil" for rooting activities. Rooting activities are thoughtful, introspective, and analytical activities that help learners better understand the forms, functions, and uses that were at play when they collected their language material during the branching activities.

As teachers we desire that our students leave our watch better able stand and function on their own. Trunking, in the ecological model, allows students to begin taking on more of the evaluation and planning they will need as they mature and integrate with their environment. Trunking then is the scaffolded transition of responsibility which allows students to support, plan for, and stabilize their own growth.

Think of a tree firmly rooted and flourishing. Perhaps it’s along the bank of a river. Think of all that makes the branches reach up towards the sun; think of what makes the roots burrow down deep into their grounding soil; and think about what makes the trunk able to stabilize and support the branching and rooting processes. Trees start with a pattern for their kind, much in the same way that students in our classroom are provided with a pattern of how to learn a language by our instruction, but as they mature into adults they find their way into a life of their own making.

"Something [our students] feel will find its own form." What are the feelings of your target language and how can your students branch, root, and trunk into those feelings such that they find their own form?

See the Activity of the Week for an ecological activity adapted for the classroom.

Activity of the Week

  • Ecological Model Adapted for the Classroom

    by Christopher Daradics

    Materials: “Exploration #1” + Ecological Model Handout

    1) Have a look at our activity prompt, Exploration #1.
    2) Find the Sample Activity Card on the Ecological Model sheet (upper right corner). This card highlights how Exploration #1 fits into the Ecological model.

    1) Do Exploration #1 with students in their L1—to minimize selective filtering based on language competency.
    2) Students will work in pairs (or small groups) and take turns trying to figure out in the target language what entries are on each other’s lists.

    Some options:
    The students can take turns switching being “askers” and “answerers”.
    The “askers” can use gesture, but the “answerers” cannot.
    As helpful adjectives come up in conversation Ss can annotate their lists for future use.
    Debrief of the activity can include a discussion of in/effective communicative strategies.

    Consider creating assignments that allow students to choose their own combinations of “Branching” and “Rooting” activities. If this is too open, restrict student options to create the outcomes you are interested in. If we are looking to increase agency, then it only makes sense to give students a sense of how they can more reflectively participate in the world, and in their own target language development.

CASLS Spotlight: CASLS Programmer Attends Apple WorldWide Developer Conference

Each year, the Apple Worldwide Develpers Conference (WWDC) brings together the developer community to learn about the future of Apple operating systems. CASLS Educational Software Programmer Carl Burnstein was fortunate enough to be selected as an attendees for this year’s conference in San Francisco.

“The guest speakers were inspirational,” says Carl. “Haben Girma, the first blind and deaf woman to graduate from Harvard law school, talked about how important accessibility is for everyone. Ajit Narayanan, another guest speaker, developed two language apps for autistic children using a visual language. Children drag and drop pictures, and the app puts together a sentence to help them communicate. The new version called Free Speech has multilingual capabilities.”

Carl also connected with colleagues across the country and learned about upcoming advancements in Apple technologies directly from Apple experts. Carl asked specific questions to Apple engineers during one-on-one appointments.

Carl is the lead developer behind CASLS’ educational technology tools that rely on iOS operating systems. He designed the popular LFO to Go app to accompany LinguaFolio Online so that students can capture their language use in real time using their mobile devices.

Special thanks to the University of Oregon Innovation Partnership Services for sponsoring Carl’s attendance at this year’s WWDC.

Language Corner

Teaching Global Competence Using the 2016 Presidential Election

Source: Asia Society Back to Quick Links


Immigration, Xenophobia, and Racism
Teaching Global Competence Using the 2016 Presidential Election
by Apoorvaa Joshi

…There have been numerous pieces written recently on introducing children to the coded (and explicit) racism and prejudice in the stump speeches of Donald Trump and other candidates. And the messaging from some of the presidential candidates is having a powerful, negative impact on the children of immigrants, or children who are immigrants themselves.

Given the rampant misinformation and high emotional tensions that run through this topic, we may instinctually keep quiet on the issues, wanting to maintain a safe and orderly space for young people, or to avoid giving more attention to vitriolic speech. But as educators, there are some important ways in which you can empower students to use the current rise of xenophobia and intolerance in the US and abroad to inspire global competence. Doing this will, in turn, help develop your students into young leaders who can engage with the current political discourse in a way that is meaningful and authentic to their own lives and contexts. Indeed, the four domains of global competence can act as a guide for you to help students to investigate their world, weigh perspectives, communicate across audiences, and finally take action on issues of global significance like immigration and xenophobia.

Read the full article at

Video Interview with Dr. Alba Ortiz on Special Education and ELLs

Source: Colorín Colorado Back to Quick Links


Dr. Alba Ortiz is one of the leading experts on questions of special education for English language learners. In this in-depth interview with Colorín Colorado, Dr. Ortiz discusses challenges related to special education identification, ideas for making ELL families an integral part of all decisions related to students, and best practices for instruction. This interview will be part of Colorín Colorado’s upcoming new resource section on special education and ELLs, created in partnership with the National Education Association.

The videos are available at

Support Immigrant Heritage Month in the USA

Source: TESOL Blog Back to Quick Links


Judie Haynes writes, “June is Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States. Due to the current political climate, interest in celebrating diversity in the United States has sparked the #IAmAnImmigrant campaign. It honors the individual struggles of our families or ancestors when they immigrated to the United States, and allows Americans to share this common heritage.”

Read more about the campaign and some available resources at

Seven Silent Short Films for Language Teaching

Source: Kieran Donaghy Back to Quick Links


Kieran Donaghy writes, “As many short films are artistic, they have limited appeal in the commercial marketplace and are funded from diverse sources. To make them easier to sell worldwide, they often contain little or no dialogue, which makes comprehension much easier. As a result, they offer intensely ‘filmic’ experiences, using images and movement, sequence and duration, sound and music to tell their stories. These silent films are perfect for the language classroom as they can be used with any level – the teacher just needs to adapt the difficulty of the task to match the level of the students. Here are the seven short films which I have found work best in the language classroom.”

Read his list and access the films at

Twelve Helpful Habits for Learning New Languages

Source: Games for Language Back to Quick Links


Here are some helpful hints for you and your students to make learning a new language part of your lifestyle outside of class:

Simple Interpersonal Exercises

Source: Teach them English Back to Quick Links

Here are two quick, no-prep activities you can do in a few extra minutes of class to get your student talking and listening to each other:

And here are a few more:

Dice Cards: Activities for Interpersonal Communication

Source: tekhnologic Back to Quick Links


Here is an activity that gets students talking in groups; once the prep work is done, the activity can be used over and over with different prompts:

Are You Teaching Your ELLs These 8 Literacies?

Source: TESOL Back to Quick Links


Robert Sheppard writes, “Those of us who aren’t in adult ed most often think of literacy as a noncount noun. But in adult ed, we’ve long since moved beyond literal literacy (from littera, the Latin for letter, meaning “able to read”), and we now think of literacies, countable and plural, as life skills essential to survival in a particular place. Because these skills are so essential to life in a new country, many adult ESOL programs choose to incorporate these nonlanguage skills into ESOL curricula. In this post, I’m going to give a quick rundown of some literacies you might want to consider addressing in your adult English classes.”

Read the full post at

New Black Box Episode: Throwback ThurSLA

Source: YouTube Back to Quick Links


Black Box episodes are video casts in which practicing teachers unpack scholarly articles about language teaching and learning for other practicing teachers.
In the latest episode, Throwback ThurSLA, five different teacher unpack five seminal articles from several decades ago. You can view the episode on YouTube at

View other Black Box episodes at

Professional Development

WIDA 2016 National Conference

Source: WIDA Back to Quick Links


WIDA’s annual conference provides PreK through grade 12 educators of language learners opportunities for professional learning, idea sharing, relationship building, and strategic collaboration. The 2016 national conference will take place October 12-15 in Philadelphia.

For more information, visit the conference website at

Learn more about WIDA at

How to Prepare for an ESL Job Interview

Source: Colorín Colorado Back to Quick Links


Susan Lafond writes, “If you are looking for a new ESL or bilingual teaching position, there are a number of things you can do to help prepare for the interview. This article outlines general information that will help you get started, as well as areas of your own experience that may be helpful to focus on, learn more about, or highlight in the interview.”

Read the article and access some recommended resources at


Book: Performative Teaching Learning Research

Source: Schibri-Verlag Back to Quick Links


Performatives Lehren Lernen Forschen – Performative Teaching Learning Research
Edited by Susanne Even and Manfred Schewe
Published by Schibri-Verlag

When I first heard the phrase “performative teaching and learning” I was reminded of a quote from Wittgenstein that “a new word is like a fresh seed thrown on the ground of the discussion.” These are the opening words of an article in this volume of the SCENARIO book series, whose goal it is to advance the intercultural dialogue within drama and theatre pedagogy. The six contributions to this anthology, in both English and German, explore performative teaching, learning, and research from multiple perspectives: general education, foreign language didactics, as well as drama and theatre pedagogy. Since the word “performative” features in many languages, we advocate its use – particularly in intercultural contexts – to characterize approaches to teaching, learning, and research that emerge from the dynamic interplay of pedagogy and the performing arts.

Visit the publisher’s website at

New Policy Statement on Dual Language Learning

Source: JNCL-NCLIS Back to Quick Links


The US Departments of Health and Human Services and Education released a 32-page policy statement week before last promoting the learning and development of dual language learners through policies and practices that accurately reflect the growing diversity and multilingualism of the early childhood population. The statement defines the dual language learner and details DLL demographics and the legal and scientific foundations of the statement, ultimately describing challenges and recommendations for states, early childhood programs, and language revitalization programs in tribal communities. Overall, the brief urged the cooperation of states, tribes, communities and early childhood programs to embrace diversity and address the specific needs of each child. Read the full policy statement at

Book: Working Memory and Second Language Learning

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Working Memory and Second Language Learning Towards an Integrated Approach
By Zhisheng (Edward) Wen
Published by Multilingual Matters

This book introduces an approach to understanding and measuring working memory components and functions in second language learning, processing and development. It presents comprehensive, thorough and updated reviews of relevant literatures from cognitive sciences and applied linguistics. Drawing on multidisciplinary research, the book advocates a conceptual framework for integrating working memory theories with second language acquisition theories. An innovative theoretical model is also presented, which illuminates research studies investigating the distinctive roles of phonological and executive working memory as they relate to specific L2 learning domains, skills and processes. Theoretical and methodological implications of this integrative perspective are further elaborated and discussed within the specific realms of L2 task-based performance and language aptitude research.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism

Source: Georgetown University Press Back to Quick Links


The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism
Edited by Lourdes Ortega, Andrea E. Tyler, Hae In Park, and Mariko Uno
Published by Georgetown University Press

When humans learn languages, are they also learning how to create shared meaning? In The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism, a cadre of international experts say yes and offer cutting-edge research in usage-based linguistics to explore how language acquisition, in particular multilingual language acquisition, works.

Each chapter presents an original study that supports the view that language learning is initiated through local and meaningful communication with others. Over an accumulated history of such usage, people gradually create more abstract, interactive schematic representations, or a mental grammar. This process of acquiring language is the same for infants and adults and across varied contexts, such as the family, the classroom, the laboratory, a hospital, or a public encounter. Employing diverse methodologies to study this process, the contributors here work with target languages, including Cantonese, English, French, French Sign Language, German, Hebrew, Malay, Mandarin, Spanish, and Swedish, and offer a much-needed exploration of this growing area of linguistic research.

Visit the publisher’s website at

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)