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Language enhancing the achievement of Pasifika (LEAP): Media gallery

Effective teaching relationships

Research shows that the teacher's interest, respect and care for the student is an important factor in student achievement in school.



A large part of being an effective teacher in our school is not about the learning that you have about the place of culture or language, or not about the knowledge you have about Pasifika communities and how they work and things like that. It’s actually being open to establishing relationships with the students, and with the families. Not being afraid of that process, and really being able to seek help when you need it. And ask questions and say, “I don’t understand why this is happening, can someone explain it or help me understand.”

I’m always really eager to get the Samoan students to teach me new words. They sort of laugh when I try to use them in the class and stuff, but I think more so it’s forming a closer relationship, rather then just an academic relationship.

Teacher and student relationship to me should be number one, I think that it is very important, that teachers should be able to know and able to identify needs of Pasifika students. Right at the start, they should be able to do that, and all the other things can fall through, into that background. Because the student needs to have that warmth, that relationship, and if the teacher can get that, then they can create other things like environment, the classroom environment, and all that sort of stuff. But I reckon that student and teacher relationship should be the number one thing.

Language domains

Bilingual people are able to use their different languages in different places, with different people and for different purposes.



I’m a Samoan.  I speak my Samoan language at home.  My parents ask me a lot of questions in Samoan, and I tell them in my own language.  At school I use Samoan language and English sometimes, and at church sometimes I use English, but lots of times I use Samoan language.

I speak in Samoan, because my older parents, we always speak in Samoan because they don’t understand.

Most of the time I speak English with my family, but then once I come to school I also speak English but not that much, just speaking Samoan, because most of my friends are all Samoan.

Well, I’ve taught for 20 years, for example, I’ve never ever had a student before I came here, who could comfortably converse in Samoan with me, they always seem to think that when they speak Samoan to me we’re different.  And these are the same students in my Sunday school, who’ll sit and chat in Samoan.  Then when you go to school, somehow they tend to think that speaking their language is different, it’s not normal.  So they have these two different identities –the one at school, and one for Sunday school and one for home.

Parents and bilingual learning

Parents are pleased with new approaches to bilingual learning. They see the advantages that children get from using both their languages.



For so long parents have been told that they should speak English at home, if they want their children to achieve academically, then they need to be promoting English in the home. Children need to leave their culture and part of who they are at the school gates, and merge into a palagi world when they come into school.

That was the old, conservative thinking. When I was in school we were being taught like that.

They’ve heard those messages for so long, and when someone has actually explicitly said no that’s wrong, at school we don’t believe those things.

Mele is a Tongan teacher aide. She regrets making her own children speak English only when they were growing up.

I think it’s something that I grew up with, from my own background, some kind of attitude that if you know how to speak English you are here. You are top of everybody else.  And I think that is one of the things that helped me to try and stop my children speak the mother tongue because they need to be able to speak English.  It is some kind of very old attitude among our Pacific Island people.  Until I came to the classroom  at first I was not knowing the right thing, but I’ve been here, I spent most of my learning time here, and then I started to see how comfortable the children are in learning in their own language.  Like, if I explain something to them they don’t understand, I use the mother tongue then they settle down. I just want our people to change their attitude.

I will give you an example of my own kids when we moved down here they were three and four.  They were bilinguals when we went down to Dunedin but they lost their language.  But they were very successful going through the system and people were jealous of me saying “Look, at your kids” and I’d say, “yeah, you’re fine, but you know what my kids are saying to me? Dad, we miss our first language.”  And then they came back to me and said, “I don’t want my kids to go with the same thing we went through.  I want my kids to go to a bilingual unit.”

Secondary curriculum and vocabulary

Academic language, and particularly academic vocabulary, is a high priority for bilingual students, across all curriculum areas.



Academic language within this school is a big emphasis, and obviously increasing the amount of academic words that the learner has is one of our main priorities.  

So what society were we looking at?


Tokelau. Ok, so on your handout, you have a grid? Yeah? Yep? And you have on that grid Describing change, explaining reasons, and explaining impacts.   So what I want you to do with those key words is put them under the correct heading.

I find that a lot of the students do know the words, but they actually don’t know how to use them to a large extent.  That’s why in class, in the lesson today, I always ask “Do you use these words in other curriculum areas?” because the words you use to describe in say Social studies could be different to how you use them in English or science and things like that. 

How do we use them in Maths, Ioane?

For maths we convert, like fractions and all that.

Yes, very good

And we transform some of the stuff


And we alter

We alter? We alter the numbers? The amounts? Good.  I know for a fact you have a lot of reasons, changes, and impacts already in your book.  Ok, so you’re just going to work together in a group, and pull all of your ideas onto one piece of paper.

The students have made vocabulary links across curriculum areas, and now they’ll work in groups saying them, writing the words and using them in meaningful contexts. 

I have actually tried to put more emphasis on group work, especially this year.  Often the routines that I have set up in the class in terms of group work they know they have a leader, or they have certain roles that each person in the group has to perform.   And usually they’re just management roles, like one person who makes sure that they’re on task, and the other person makes sure that the main points are clear, and are we following instructions.  And that enables them to own the activity.  And they just gain confidence in it as well.  

Students discussing work

What’s your body consisting of?


Yep, and how do you bring all those together?  In a…


Paragraph. So that’s your main points.  So you’ve got change, you’ve got your reasons,..Good 

The teacher helps the students again, to integrate their learning across the curriculum. 

Have we seen one of these before? What’s it called?

Essay planner

Good, essay writing frame, ok.  Where have we seen these before?

In English

In English, yep? In employment studies, do you use them in employment studies?  Why do you think we need to use writing frames?

To help us with our essays.

To help us with our essay writing? Yep

With our structure

With our structure, good 

Well they have more confidence, in the classroom, they know that within group activities they can communicate their answers well, and often their writing is very, very good at the same time.

Being bilingual

Research shows that there are clear educational advantages in bilingual learning, but using a Pasifika language has sometimes been considered a liability.



I enjoy this school because there’s heaps of Pacific Island students here that I can relate to.  There’s heaps of Pacific Island teachers which can help you.  In maths, there’s a maths teacher who's Tongan, a science teacher. We can go to them for help and they’ll explain to us in the language that we will understand. All the Tongan students are together, the teacher writes a question on the board in English, and we write it in our books and we’ll translate it in Tongan, we’ll work out the problem in Tongan and speak to each other, and from there, one person will shout out the answer in English and give it to the teacher.

(Yeah? And in what other subjects do we use these words?

In maths)

I used to always have problems with my maths, and so, my aunty’s a teacher here at Tangaroa, and we’ll go home and she’ll help me with my maths, talk to me in Tongan, and show me the right way. It’s important to me so that I can explain it to my younger siblings, so that I understand it in my language and so that I can elaborate more in English, ‘cause I can understand both. 

I like speaking two languages.  I think it’s good, because some people, I don’t think they have this experience of speaking in two languages. I feel lucky, ‘cause I can speak in two languages.

Pasifika Education Plan |  Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Strategies for success |  Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Working with students |  Effective teaching for Pasifika students – Stories |  Pasifika and e-Learning |  Pasifika giftedness |  Engaging with Pasifika parents, families, and communities