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: Seven Tips for Implementing Cross-Curricular Units in the World Language Classroom

by Stephanie Knight, CASLS Language Technology Specialist

I, like many of my language teaching brethren, went into teaching Spanish because I loved Spanish. I loved studying the etymology of words and was so excited by grammar that I practically squealed when talking about it. In many ways, I was fascinated by Spanish because I found it fascinating. Unfortunately, that circularity of reasoning was not always embraced by my students. They needed something else to see the relevance of learning a world language. This need was particularly evident with my students who had no intention of ever living or working outside of their current neighborhoods.

Luckily, I was placed in a middle school that was seeking approval to be an International Baccalaureate World School my first year of teaching. Concurrency of learning is demanded by the International Baccalaureate, and after attending my first training, I began to realize all of the many ways that using a cross-curricular lens to think about my language teaching would positively impact my learners. I engaged in the intentional planning of units with cross-curricular links, and reflecting on this experience has led me to articulate seven tips for educators seeking to imbed cross-curricular connections into the classroom.

  1. Begin planning by thinking of a concept that allows students to make interdisciplinary connections.

Concept-based learning is enduring and helps learners to make connections outside of the classroom. The concept of identity serves as a great example. While I found most of my high school freshman to be less than enthusiastic about learning adjectives in Spanish, I found them all to find relevance in using adjectives to explore perceptions and how perceptions impact one’s identity. That the learners were studying genetic traits in biology further compounded the relevance of using descriptive language.

  1. If you are unsure of how to pick a concept or about how subjects connect, work with a team of educators from other disciplines.

The best planning session I ever did for cross-curricular units unintentionally involved a math teacher and a science teacher. I was working in the school library and struggled to articulate how my content related to any concepts. I wondered out loud about the connections, and they asked me to share what content we were covering and why that content was important to know beyond its alignment to state standards. Immediately, they began to see connections to their own subject areas and helped me to articulate mine.

  1. Design an end of unit assessment that is authentic and allows learners to explore the concept that they created.

To allow learners to fully consider a concept and draw cross-curricular connections, educators must design authentic assessments that allow for functional language use and proficiency building. Multiple choice tests and form-focused assessments do not adequately allow the learner to make the enduring connections that are indicative of long-term learning.

  1. Identify the various learning targets incorporated within an assessment and use those to engage in backwards design.

The first time that I tried to embed concepts and cross-curricular learning into my course, I helped learners to explore them with intention for a week or so and eventually reverted back to my older practices. Thus, even though my learners were engaging in functional language use, the importance and validity of that use began to be less clear. In order to avoid such a situation, one must articulate the learning targets that are related to the targeted concept in the final unit assessment and engage in intentional backwards design so that learners practice those targets in the appropriate context throughout the course. Just as with selecting concepts, when selecting these targets, it is beneficial to work with educators from other subject areas to understand how the targets relate to the content of their courses.

  1. Provide for a class-wide experience in which learners can develop a connection with the concept or concepts at play so that they may begin to make connections to other subject areas.

Concepts allow learners to create personal and cross-curricular connections with classroom content. However, all concepts were not created equal in this respect. You may find that some learners are not as well-connected with a concept as you would like them to be at the unit’s inception. In order to prime these learners for thinking regarding cross-curricular connections, create some sort of shared experience for your entire class that can serve as a springboard for subsequent classroom tasks. This experience could be playing a digital game together, reviewing data sets, or the review of a source text that has the potential to spark cognitive dissonance and inquiry within learners.

  1. Use the L1 to empower the L2.

Learners need to observe, evaluate, and practice the L2 in realistic contexts in order to build their language proficiencies. However, particularly for novice learners, setting aside intentional class time to explore the concepts and cross-curricular connections in the L1 is recommended. The time lost working in the L2 is well worth the increased understanding and motivation that arises in learners after giving them time to process in the language that most adequately allows for that processing to occur.

  1. Give yourself time to think and to plan.

Clearly, a great deal of thinking goes into planning cross-curricular units. Educators must be intentional in protecting this thinking time. This time may occur during regularly-scheduled planning time, over the weekends, or during school breaks. I personally found the summer to be the best time to engage in most of this thinking time and set aside two days a week to think and plan. Other colleagues have found success by engaging in the time at specified points throughout the school year.

Good luck to all wonderful educators working hard to implement cross-curricular learning in the classroom. Your efforts are well worth it!

Activity of the Week

  • Social Justice in Latin America and the United States: Cross-Curricular Learning

    This week, we depart from our normal activity to include an overview of a cross-curricular project that involves the world language classroom. The activity featured below was developed by a team of teachers at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee through the support of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University in collaboration with the Center for Applied Second Language Studies.

    Project team: Shelly Wilkinson (Mathematics SL/HL and Algebra II), Paul Troy (History of the Americas SL/HL), Emarie Elliott (Spanish SL/HL), and Adrian Bahan (We the People)

    Social Justice in Latin America and the United States: Cross-Curricular Learning

    Setting the Scene: Understand Social Justice Issues in Latin America

    Step 1: All learners involved in the project begin by experiencing an “Entry Event”. This event is a viewing of the film Favela Rising (, a documentary that follows a former drug trafficker who unites his community against local drug-related violence. After viewing the movie, the learners will be treated to a speaker from Vanderbilt University that is an expert in social justice issues in Brazil.

    Step 2: In mathematics courses (Mathematics SL and Mathematics HL), learners will engage in statistical analysis of the data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project  (LAPOP) ( in order to identify social justice issues that merit more in-depth investigation. This investigation will be supplemented by gameplay of Parable of the Polygons (, a blog/game featured on CASLS’s Games2Teach blog (

    Concurrent Learning Practices Across Disciplines

    After completing Steps 1 and 2, learners will work on the following activities in their courses concurrently.

    History of the Americas: Learners will explore civil rights issues throughout the Americas, paying special attention to analysis of primary and secondary sources. This exploration will lead learners to consider how historic trends with Civil Rights Issues in the Americas are connected to the modern world.

    Spanish: Learners will use target-language sources to engage in simple analysis of the LAPOP data. They will read NCASE publications in Spanish to further explore the social justice issues that they have selected and will use the information that they find to craft texts (speeches, letters, and brochures) to inspire change regarding the issues at hand.

    We the People: Learners will create a survey that is similar to the LAPOP survey to give to learners at Hillsboro High School.

    Algebra II: Learners will advise the creation of the aforementioned survey and will engage in preliminary analysis of the data that the learners collect.

    Final Presentations

    In order to tie all of the courses together, learners will form teams according to social justice issue chosen and will work to create an artifact that raises community awareness (learners may create a social media campaign, write a song, or engage in any number of activities). They will then present their creations at a public event held at Vanderbilt University.

    Notes: While most learners involved in the project are in at least three of the classes listed above, not all of them are. Given this reality, the activities crafted in each class were designed to create meaningful connections among subject areas but are not overly dependent on one another.

CASLS Spotlight: Farewell to the First Oregon Summer Program Cohort

CASLS just said goodbye to our first cohort of the Oregon Summer Program (OSP) with a farewell party held on Friday, September 23.

The Oregon Summer Program is a four-week program designed to help students from Japanese universities learn about topics related to sustainability and health and explore American university life while connecting with the culture and people of Oregon.

East Asia Programs Director Li-Hsien Yang provides daily academic, organizational, curricular and life support for the students during their time here, and Digital Technologies Associate Ben Pearson creates and leads place-based curriculum for the program, with activities involving Ingress, Chrono Ops, and EcoPod: Quake Response. Renée Marshall, International Programs Specialist, offers English language support with focused ESL lessons at the beginning of each week to help students practice the language and vocabulary they will be using during that week. During the fourth week students also complete four days of volunteer work for local organizations.

Please join us in wishing the OSP students best of luck in their future endeavors! For more information about the Oregon Summer Program visit the website.


Language Corner

WordSwing: Resources for Learning Chinese

Source: WordSwing Back to Quick Links


WordSwing is a suite of online tools to help people learn Chinese. Most of the tools are targeted at intermediate learners, although they also include a tone trainer appropriate for beginners.

The latest tool is Escape, an online choose-your-own-adventure or text adventure game. Learn more about Escape here: Read one teacher’s experience using it with her AP Chinese class here:

Visit the WordSwing website at You will need to join for free to access the different tools.

Website Dedicated to Djibouti and Surrounding Region

Source: Bab-El-Mandeb Back to Quick Links

Here is a French-language website dedicated to Djibouti and the surrounding area:

Poster with Twelve Ways to Say Goodbye in Spanish

Source: La página del español Back to Quick Links


Here is a printable poster with twelve different ways to take leave in Spanish:

Resources for Hispanic Heritage Month

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Hispanic Heritage Month runs September 15 through October 15. Here are some resources you can use:

The official Hispanic Heritage Month website has information about the history of the month, a calendar of events happening in different places, curricular materials for different grade levels, and more. Available at

Here are some authentic child-friend games from Spanish Playground:

Here is a collection of curated online resources on the Mis Clases Locas website:

From Spanish Mama, here is a printable set of cards that teach countries, capitals, maps, country shapes, and some quick facts about countries in the Spanish-speaking world:

COERLL’s Heritage Spanish project has information about several upcoming events (, details on the Spanglish Day Creative Writing Contest (National Spanglish Day is October 1) (, and an online Heritage Spanish Café where you can post to other heritage Spanish teachers (

Photos for Spanish Class Activities

Source: Spanish Playground Back to Quick Links


Jenny on the Spanish Playground website has put together a collection of photos from Spanish-speaking countries, along with captions, questions about them, suggestions for different ways to use photos (especially for interpretive activities), and a link to a Facebook page with even more photos and captions.

View this post here:

EFL Teaching Recipes: Website Resource for Teachers

Source: EFL Teaching Recipes Back to Quick Links

EFL Teaching recipes is a place where English language teachers can share tips, tricks, and ideas with other EFL teachers. The site is quite active and the ideas are practical. Visit EFL Teaching Recipes at

Zero-Prep Activities You Can Use Any Time

Source: Busy Teacher Back to Quick Links

Here are ten no-prep activities that you can do with your students when you have a little extra time in class:

National Security Language Initiative for Youth

Source: NSLI Back to Quick Links


The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent high school graduates to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs.

The application deadline for 2017-18 programs is October 27, 2016.

Learn more at

Don Doehla’s Website: Resources for Project-Based Language Learning

Source: Project-Based Language-Learning Back to Quick Links


Don Doehla is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches French in a California high school. Follow his website for helpful posts about project-based language learning.

Mr. Doehla’s website is available at

Professional Development

Workshop: Developing and Assessing Interpersonal Communication

Source: Kutztown University Back to Quick Links


Developing and Assessing Interpersonal Communication
October 10, 2016
Kutztown University
Kutztown, Pennsylvania
Presented by Dawn Samples

In the language classroom, the goal is for both the teacher and the learners to use the target language 90% or more of the time. How can student use of language be supported at each level (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced)? This workshop provides ideas for developing, practicing, and assessing student-to-student conversations (or text message exchanges) and emphasizes what it takes to move from the Novice range of performance to the Intermediate range – and from the Intermediate range toward the Advanced range. Learn strategies to maintain learners’ use of the target language and build their confidence to interact with native speakers.

For more details go to
Register at

Call for Proposals: CALICO 2017

Source: CALICO Back to Quick Links


The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium will hold its 2017 conference May 16-20. May 16, 17, and 20 will include hands-on workshops, and May 17-19 will include the opening keynote, individual presentations, exhibits, a technology showcase, and poster presentations.

There are four types of proposals which may be submitted for review for the conference: hands-on workshop (half day, full day or two day), individual presentation (30 mins), panel presentation (75 mins), Technology Showcase presentation, and Poster presentation. The workshops, as the name implies, take place, usually, in labs and consist of teaching some hands-on skill to attendees, such as a web/mobile/other application for languages, lesson development using technology for a classroom, or introducing a piece of software to users. Individual presentations will take place during the two full days of the main conference. These presentations should address quantitative/qualitative studies of language technology, application of technology for classroom use or any of a range of language technology uses/applications for language acquisition. Panel presentations should involve multiple presenters offering multiple views of a specific topic and the longer time allows for a more in-depth coverage than in the individual session. Technology Showcase presentations typically take place the first night of the main conference in a more informal setting -- all presenters in a large room presenting simultaneously (no projection) while attendees may approach to discuss topics individually -- and for a longer amount of time, usually 2 hours. Presentations which are more demonstration-based work well as Showcase presentations. Poster presentations have so far been scheduled during the Showcase time and follow the same format. The theme of the conference is "Multilingualism and Digital Literacies", however you do not need to address the theme directly.

Proposal Submission Deadline: October 31st

View the full call for proposals at

Call for Session/Workshop Proposals: 2017 Ohio Foreign Language Association Conference

Source: OFLA Back to Quick Links


The 2017 Ohio Foreign Language Association Conference will take place March 30-April 1 in Columbus. Proposals for sessions and workshops are being solicited; the deadline for submission is October 14, 2016.

Submit a proposal at

Call for Proposals: American Association of Teachers of Japanese Annual Spring Conference

Source: AATJ Back to Quick Links


The 2017 Annual Spring Conference will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS).

Proposals are invited for individual papers and panels. A proposal must be in one of the following areas/categories: (1) pedagogy, (2) literature, (3) linguistics, (4) second language acquisition, (5) language and technology, or (6) special interest group topics.

The submission deadline for all proposals is 9 p.m. Eastern time, Monday, October 31, 2016.

View the full call for proposals at

Call for Papers: Annual Southeastern Association of Teachers of Japanese Conference

Source: SEATJ Back to Quick Links


The 31st Annual Southeastern Association of Teachers of Japanese (SEATJ) Conference will be held at Middle Tennessee State University on February 4-5, 2017.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute presentations on topics related to Japanese language and teaching (language pedagogy, instructional technology, integrating culture into the classroom, classroom activities, second language acquisition, Japanese linguistics, Japanese literature and film, heritage language learners, K-12 issues in teaching Japanese and other related topics). Presentations can be in either English or Japanese. The organizers welcome abstract submissions from all levels of Japanese teachers.

The deadline for abstract submission is November 10, 2016.

View the full call for papers and submit an abstract at

Midwest Association of Language Learning Technology 2016 Conference

Source: MWALLT Back to Quick Links


Midwest Association of Language Learning Technology (MWALLT) 2016 Conference
Saturday, October 8
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Visit the conference website to register:
For a schedule of sessions, go to

California Language Teachers Association World Language Jamboree

Source: CLTA Back to Quick Links


CLTA World Language Jamboree
Saturday, October 1, 2016
8:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Esperanza High School
1830 N. Kellogg Dr.,
Anaheim, California 92807

This year’s mini-conference features presentations by teachers from Southern California and beyond. Come join your colleagues for a day that is sure to be refreshing, rewarding, and stimulating. There will be five sessions of one hour – three before lunch and two after lunch. For each time slot you will be able to choose from ten different topics.

For full details go to


August 2016 Issue of International Journal of Kurdish Studies

Source: IJoKS Back to Quick Links


The August 2016 issue of the International Journal of Kurdish Studies is available at In this issue:

Syntactic devices expressing focus in English and Kurdish: A comparative study
Arazoo Rashid Othaman  
Adjectives in Kurdish language: Comparison between dialects
Hasan Karacan & Hewa Salam Khalid  
The dimensions of God in selected poems of Kareem Dashti
Hawzhin Sliwa Essa  
A Kurdish Folio on the Marriage
Mustafa Dehqan

The editors are calling for articles for forthcoming issues. See the publication guidelines at

New Expert Guide: Best Practices for Teaching Vocabulary

Source: Canadian Modern Language Review Back to Quick Links

As we noted in InterCom this last May (, The Canadian Modern Language Review has introduced a new online feature – Expert Guides – where experts in the field of second language (L2) teaching and learning answer common questions aimed at helping teachers better understand their students. These bilingual expert guides are open access and free to read.

The latest guide deals with vocabulary:

What Do We Know about the Best Practices for Teaching Vocabulary? / Le point sur les pratiques exemplaires en enseignement du vocabulaire
Marlise Horst, Concordia University

Access this guide at

Book: Advanced Proficiency and Exceptional Ability in Second Languages

Source: De Gruyter Back to Quick Links


Advanced Proficiency and Exceptional Ability in Second Languages
Edited by Kenneth Hyltenstam
Published by de Gruyter Mouton

While the literature on second language acquisition and use is overwhelmingly rich with respect to initial and intermediate stages of development, present knowledge of levels of ultimate attainment that are equal or close to that of native speakers has so far not been presented in a coherent manner. This is what the present volume aims to achieve. In addition to chapters that summarize what is currently known about the grammatical, lexical, and discourse features that continue to exhibit instability at the most advanced levels of second language development, the volume presents overviews of the incipient research on two unique learner populations, polyglots and employees in international call centers. Polyglots, defined as language users who are proficient in six or more second languages, may be considered second language learners par excellence. Call center employees in economically less developed parts of the world are intriguing in how they cope with the high language proficiency requirements of their job. In conclusion, this book is relevant for all readers - both professionals and students - interested in the development of second language theory. For language teachers, the book provides insights that are profitable in classrooms for advanced learners.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Language Maintenance and Shift

Source: Cambridge University Press Back to Quick Links


Language Maintenance and Shift
By Anne Pauwels
Published by Cambridge University Press

What motivates some linguistic minorities to maintain their language? Why do others shift away from it rather quickly? Are there specific conditions - environmental or personal - influencing these dynamics? What can families and communities do to pass on their 'threatened' language to the next generation? These and related questions are investigated in detail in Language Maintenance and Shift. In this fascinating book, Anne Pauwels analyses the patterns of language use exhibited by individuals and groups living in multilingual societies, and explores their efforts to maintain their heritage or minority language. She explores the various methods used to analyze language maintenance, from linguistic demography to linguistic biography, and offers guidance on how to research the language patterns and practices of linguistic minorities around the world.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Dyslexia in First and Foreign Language Learning

Source: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Back to Quick Links


Dyslexia in First and Foreign Language Learning: A Cross-Linguistic Approach
By Monika Łodej
Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

According to International Educational Statistics (2008), there are total of 654.9 million school-age children in the world. If dyslexia affects 10–15% of these youth (Fletcher et al. 2007), this translates to approximately 65–98 million students with difficulties in reading and writing. The EU strategic plan for education (2010) recognizes the need for EU citizens to speak a foreign language. As such, foreign language courses are introduced on an obligatory basis at the primary level of education. Dyslexic students are not exempt from this regulation, and, thus, are confronted with different language systems that must be mastered. The difficulty here escalates if the systems differ significantly in their levels of orthographic transparency.

Reading and writing are operationalized by the same biological functions that are defined by the universal perspective. However, language systems differ in terms of their transparency; for example, English and French are considered opaque scripts, whereas Spanish and Italian are described as transparent orthographies. These differences are discussed in this book as part of the language specific perspective, which can, in turn, raise questions such as: “Is a dyslexic student equally impaired in any language they study?” and “Is the type of difficulty primarily dependent on the language system or is it rather a dyslexia syndrome?” This volume provides answers through a synthesis of research on reading difficulties in first and foreign languages and existing taxonomies of dyslexia sub-types.

Visit the publisher’s website at

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