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Language and school

The language used in classrooms and by teachers has special characteristics that are not found in everyday speech.

Effective teachers learn to observe the classroom language environment and make changes in it to provide the best curriculum learning and language learning environment for their students. 

Academic language is the new language all students have to be taught at school so that they succeed in learning, particularly in such learning tasks as reading curriculum material, discussing it, and writing about it. To develop students’ academic language effectively, teachers need to know how to talk about language and how to teach vocabulary and language skills.

Interaction between students is a powerful source of language learning. Teachers can organise the interactions in their classes to provide favourable conditions for bilingual Pasifika students. This includes maximising opportunities for them to use their Pasifika languages in their learning.

How do we use language in school?

Effective learning environments for all students ensure that:

  • there is a focus on important features of language
  • students process language forms and meaning
  • students know what they are doing and why.

Effective learning environments for bilingual students also enable those students to use both their languages in increasingly complex ways.

Who talks in class?

There is a chance that minority students, or those whose home language is not the medium of instruction, will be marginalised and silenced in the classroom. This can happen in New Zealand to Pasifika learners, as well as to other students, unless teachers are very alert to the subtle processes that can make students feel excluded from what is going on at school.

Nakhid (2003) talked in depth to five New Zealand teachers and 12 students about their perceptions of schooling. The Pasifika students she interviewed talked about how:

  • they felt different from the non-Pasifika students, who were confident about speaking up in the class and talked easily to the teacher 
  • they felt that they were not as articulate as the non-Pasifika students, and did not feel able to respond to the teacher in the same way as the non-Pasifika students
  • they felt as if the teachers and non-Pasifika students made it seem that they worked harder and were faster learners than Pasifika students. This came about because of the way their requests for further information or for clarification about the lesson were responded to.

The students Nakhid interviewed had some perceptions that were quite different from the teachers’ perceptions. One example was that the teachers believed that the students valued specific individual attention and one-to-one opportunities with them. In fact, the students expressed considerable discomfort about classroom practices that singled them out and “exposed them to the class as ‘less capable’ students” (Nakhid, 2003, page 218).

Jones (1991) found a similar situation. The Pasifika girls she worked with thought there was no point in engaging in talk and discussion with teachers. They also felt that there was something about the way Pākehā girls related to schooling that was different and more successful, in spite of the fact that both they and the Pākehā girls spoke English and worked hard. The teachers in Jones’ study wanted to get the Pasifika students to engage in learning behaviour that would help them to be more successful in the long run. They would say, for example, “You need to work this out for yourself.” Unfortunately, the teachers didn’t manage to establish a successful dialogue with the students to find a common understanding.

You can hear some teachers’ views on effective teaching relationships in the video Effective teaching relationships.

Patterns of interaction and discourse

How can it be that Pasifika students who have had all or most of their schooling in New Zealand don’t feel comfortable with classroom interactions? One possible answer lies in the effects of a European tradition that began nearly 2500 years ago. For example, consider this exchange.

Parent: What’s that over there?

Child: Dak.

Parent: Yes, it’s a duck, isn’t it? Do you think it’s going to swim across the pond to eat our bread?

Child: Bwet.

Parent: Our old bread.

This common European question and answer session has links with the method of teaching that Socrates developed, of extracting knowledge from students through skillful questioning. Parents use it and, when babies are too young to speak, the parents provide the answers as well as the questions. This has been called the IRF pattern of Initiation, Response, Feedback. Sometimes the feedback is an evaluation (for example, "Good" or "No") and sometimes the teacher may elaborate on the student’s response, as the parent does in the example above. It’s not surprising that some children of Pākehā backgrounds feel comfortable when the teacher does the same thing that their parents and other caregivers have done.

Some children are also used to interrogating adults at length. For example:

Child: Why isn’t that train going?

Parent: It’s waiting for the other one to go past.

Child: What other one? Where’s the other train?

Parent: You can’t see it. It’s further up the line. The signal is red, and that tells the driver not to go yet.

Child: Who makes the signal red?

Pākehā children, especially those in middle-class families, are generally encouraged to ask questions like this, but in other cultural groups it may be impolite or unacceptable for anyone to question in such a direct and persistent manner, and this may apply especially to children.

For instance, some examples of important approaches used by other social groups:

  • Children are trained in different types of oral performance.
  • Children are encouraged to observe quietly and to copy.
  • Children are directly instructed.
  • Children are talked to mainly by older children.

All these methods, and others, allow children to learn to speak, interact, and solve problems in the manner of their community. However, the patterns of interaction described above are often the norm in New Zealand classrooms. It’s easy to see why students might feel excluded if they haven’t been brought up to engage in this type of interaction.

Exploring your practice

Who talks in class

Find out who contributes most and least in your whole-class sessions and in small groups by observing your class interactions for a day. You may need help to carry out this activity.

  • Put a tick next to a student’s name on your class roll each time they speak in a whole-class session.
  • Put a cross next to the name each time a student speaks to you one-to-one or in a small group about curriculum content.
  • Identify those who spoke most and those who spoke least. Do those who spoke most have anything in common? Do those who spoke least?

Try out some techniques for ensuring that all students participate equally. See the associated material  Encouraging oral participation (below) for some suggested techniques and teachers’ comments. Notice whether those who participated least often were able to participate more often when you tried these two techniques. You may then like to present them and discuss them with your syndicate, department, or school during professional discussions among the staff.

Encouraging oral participation

The following techniques are good ways to encourage everyone to speak. 

Taking turns around the group so that everyone speaks 
This works best for topics where everyone can easily express an opinion or feeling, or contribute an experience. However, it does have the effect of putting students on the spot, and it’s important to choose topics carefully so there really is no barrier to everyone having something they’re willing to contribute. In addition, the atmosphere must be supportive, and the rules are that nobody mocks or contradicts anyone else. All answers are accepted with interest.

Preparation using the IPG (Individual Pair Group) technique
Preparation alters the way students perform tasks. IPG provides one way to help students prepare to speak publicly in the class. 

Begin by asking a question or setting a problem of some kind. Get your class to work in three stages. First, each individual writes down or thinks of something relating to the question. (It does not necessarily have to be an answer.) Next, pairs of students discuss what they have each prepared. Finally, the pairs join to form groups of four to six students. The groups discuss the topic further and then appoint a spokesperson to report to the whole class. This is very similar to Think, Pair, Share (TPS).

Over the course of a week, each student in the class should have the same number of turns at being the spokesperson. You might have to establish a turn-taking system to ensure this.

To equalise the talking roles, one teacher gives each student three ‘talking chips’. Each time a student speaks, they put one chip in the centre. When their three chips are in the centre, that student has no more speaking turns until all of the students in the group have put all three of their chips in the centre.

Nominate a friend
The students each nominate a friend whom they know has something to contribute. This technique depends on there being good relationships in the class. If your class is a cohesive learning community, students who do not like to volunteer to speak may be happy to do so if asked to by their friends.

Have a management role
Reciprocal teaching of reading develops students’ ability to lead and take part in an exploratory discussion about a text. In this activity, the students have roles that rotate. The roles include:

  • predicting
  • questioning
  • summarising
  • clarifying.

"Be an expert"
Each student has responsibility for particular parts or aspects of the content matter the students are working with. This means the whole group depends on that person to inform them about part of what they need to know. Jigsaw learning, where students are given different pieces of information to work with, uses this approach. 

A caring and inclusive classroom environment

Many studies show that it is very important for teachers to foster caring and inclusive learning environments, especially when there are students from diverse backgrounds. Without this attention to caring relationships, students are sometimes marginalised in class, subjected to racist attacks, or bullied by peers.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8 discusses the classroom as a learning community:

The quality of the classroom ‘climate’ is crucial to the students’ emotional and social well-being and to the progress that they make. Students need to feel that they are part of a warm and supportive classroom environment where it is safe and appropriate to take risks in their learning. 
(Page 195.)

Such an environment is created by peers as well as teachers, and establishing it is part of curriculum learning, for example in the learning areas of social studies, and health and physical education.

Exploring your practice

A caring and inclusive classroom environment

You might like to find out how well all your students feel supported by you and their classmates. 

Over the course of a week, your students could work in small groups with a grid like the one below, filling in the types of support and giving examples. They could think about what support they would like and what support they could give to other people. If you want to support bilingual students in using both their languages in your classroom, it would be a good idea for the class to think about how languages are involved in supporting others. Ask the students:

  •  how they feel when they use their first language in learning
  •  how they would feel if they could not use their first language for learning
  •  whether they support and encourage other students in using their first language and if so, how?

Helping each other in our school

 Ways we can support one another  Who is involved?
 Our teacher  Other students in the class  Other students in the school  The whole school community
 What supports us in our learning?  Kind of support  For example, when the teacher notices that we’re having trouble and comes to help.      
 Example  For example, Miss Baker asked Michaela if she wanted to see an example of how the report should be written.      
 What do we do to support others?  Kind of support        
 What could provide better support?  Kind of support        
 How could it be done?  Kind of support        

If your bilingual students say they would like more support, try out some new approaches, such as a cooperative learning approach. You could also try some of the many other approaches to establishing caring learning environments suggested in Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis.

Using cooperative learning

One way of fostering an inclusive environment in which students support one another’s learning is to use the cooperative learning approach.

The cooperative learning approach emphasises the development of:

  • positive interdependence between group members
  • interpersonal skills
  • effective face-to-face oral communication
  • individual accountability
  • both group and individual processing and reflection.

Engaging in cooperative learning activities can help students to:

  • understand that their teacher cares about them and about their learning, and wants them to do their best
  • understand that the teacher wants to see their work and give feedback on it
  • be motivated to work with other students
  • be willing to help and be helped by other students.

Academic achievement has been positively correlated with effective use of the cooperative learning approach and with students’ awareness that the teacher is providing support. Students’ motivation is also strongly positively correlated with an awareness that the teacher cares about them and their learning.

Jigsaw learning is a form of cooperative learning that is ideal for enabling bilingual students to support each other, using their Pasifika languages.

If you are not already familiar with the cooperative learning approach, try this investigation. Find a colleague who would like to undertake this investigation too. You will both benefit from the discussion and planning and you will be able to discuss your results. Use the cooperative learning approach as the basis for some planned curriculum learning. It can be useful to place a mix of students in randomly selected groups for each activity so that they may gain experience in working with a variety of groups.

Make sure:

  • there are individual and shared learning outcomes for each group
  • it is likely that all group members can succeed in meeting their learning outcomes
  • the groups share materials
  • the groups divide the work among themselves.

Observe and record:

  • how far all students participated equally
  • any differences between the processes the groups used
  • how much interactive speaking and relevant reading and writing the students engaged in
  • how well the groups and individuals achieved their learning outcomes.

Affirming Pasifika languages in the mainstream

  • It’s important for teachers to become familiar with the range of Pasifika materials available.
  • Organise and add to the Pasifika materials in your school.
  • Give your Pasifika students easy access to these materials.
  • Introduce learning practices that will help your Pasifika students use and set goals for their Pasifika language(s).
  • Help your students to integrate their Pasifika language, English, and curriculum learning.

It is both interesting and valuable for teachers and all students to be part of a learning environment where more than one language is used. A good understanding of how language works supports all students’ curriculum learning. Students who know only English will learn a lot about language and how it works by participating in a classroom where several languages are used. It may also give them the confidence and interest to learn other languages when they have the chance.

Exploring your practice

Affirming Pasifika languages

Part 1

For this investigation, work with as many colleagues as possible, including the librarian or teacher with library responsibility. 

  • Find ways of collecting and using materials in Pasifika languages, and do this regularly so that you become familiar with using these materials.
  • Find ways of becoming more familiar with the content of Pasifika material in the school so that you can give students information about it.

Some sources of information include: 

  • student reading materials in Pasifika languages and the teachers’ notes that accompany them 
  • the Pasifika songbooks and accompanying CDs in primary schools
  • publishing company staff
  • your students and other students in the school
  • bilingual and ESOL staff
  • family and community members.

Part 2

Some ways of using Pasifika language materials in your school are listed below. Try some of these things out in your classroom, taking note of how the students use their languages, and have a follow-up session with your colleagues to discuss what you observed.

 Giving your students easy access to their L1

  • Have plenty of printed and audio materials in the students’ first languages in the classroom (CDs, Pasifika song resources, and books, newspapers, and magazines in Pasifika languages). 
  • Display the material well and classify it to help students select what they want.
  • Ask the school librarian or teacher with library responsibility to help you ensure that all the school’s Pasifika material at appropriate levels is accessible to your students.
  • Use ICT resources, including websites, to help students access more L1 materials.
  • Encourage older Pasifika students in your school to write material for younger students.
  • Arrange for Pasifika staff or people in the community to bring in L1 materials and help you organise them.
  • Arrange for Pasifika staff or people in the community to speak to your students or record short tapes for them.
  • Arrange for other listening material in the students’ L1s to be recorded and available for use.

 Helping your students use their L1

  • Ask the students to take home L1 material and read it to members of their family or tell them about it. 
  • Encourage the students to refer to any L1 material that is directly relevant to their curriculum learning and to share what they discover with the rest of the class.
  • Provide them with L1 dictionaries and other reference supports.
  • Ask them to get family members to explain or discuss L1 material with them.
  • Arrange for Pasifika staff or people in the community to respond to students’ questions about L1 material. They could do this by recording questions digitally, writing them on paper, or emailing them.

Helping your students to integrate their learning

When it serves an authentic learning purpose, encourage your students to:

  • compare L1 material and English language material on the same topic
  • engage in  information transfer activities based on texts in English and in their L1 
  • produce visual work (such as charts, diagrams, or poetry) in bilingual versions
  • translate material from their L1 into English for the rest of the class
  • translate and/or proofread simple material (like captions for pictures) from English into the L1 for younger bilingual Pasifika students in the school
  • build up bilingual lists of key vocabulary from their curriculum learning
  • talk to their peers about their skills and knowledge in their L1 and L2.

Look through some L1 texts, and find an item that relates to some of the curriculum learning your class is going to cover. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the text – your Pasifika students can still work with it.

Ask all the students, Pasifika and non-Pasifika, to look at this material as part of their work on the topic and include some reference to it in their responses. The Pasifika students may be able to use it as a basis for bilingual discussions and produce bilingual written or spoken responses. Other students can respond to the visual material and recognise or predict the meanings of some words. They can also make observations about similarities or differences between the Pasifika material and materials in English.

Observe how your students:

  • make use of the Pasifika material
  • talk about it
  • write about it.

With both bilingual Pasifika students and the other students, discuss how using the Pasifika material has affected their learning.

What is academic language?

  • The language used in classrooms – termed "academic language" – is different from everyday language and takes significantly longer to learn.
  • Academic language is more abstract, more formal, and has more specific vocabulary than everyday language. It is also much less common.
  • All students need to learn academic language, but bilingual students face particular challenges when learning it in their second language.
  • Particular patterns of classroom talk (for example, the way to ask questions in class) may also be relatively unfamiliar to bilingual Pasifika (and other bilingual) students.
  • Teachers need to be aware of these language differences and teach them explicitly to bilingual students (indeed, to all students), rather than just assuming they will "naturally" pick them up.

Exploring your practice

What is academic language? 

Choose a section from a book that you plan to use with learners for curriculum-related purposes. Examine the section and find specific examples of academic language. Note these down, and then rewrite the section in ordinary, conversational English.

Ask your class to do the same thing. Divide the class into groups and get them to examine the section of text for meaning. What structures, sentences, concepts, or words do they understand or not understand?

Note what the students identify, and use it as a basis for future teaching of specific academic language or for teaching about the characteristics of academic language. Ask them to rewrite the section of text, as they understand it, in ordinary English – as if they were explaining what it says to a friend or relative. Compare and contrast this with your own rewritten section to identify your students’ needs in this area.

How much exploratory talk goes on in your classroom? Ask a colleague to observe how you ask questions in class, to whom, and how often. (Alternatively, audio- or videotape your own lesson and listen afterwards to the talk that occurs in the lesson.)

Questions to consider could include:

  • Which students are most often "called upon" to speak?
  • Are bilingual students and new learners of English included in the conversations and, if so, to what degree?
  • To what extent do you allow for exploratory talk among students?
  • In which contexts does exploratory talk occur (if it does)?

Having undertaken this kind of analysis, examine and discuss the patterns that currently exist in your classroom and consider how these might need to be changed to foster more exploratory talk, particularly for bilingual students.

Refer to the sections on classroom conversations (pages 94–95), expanding students’ vocabulary (pages 126–127), and meeting many needs (pages 127–130) in Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8 for ideas based on good practice. Chapter 2 of Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9 to 13  has information and ideas for secondary school teachers about teaching academic vocabulary. Trial one or more new patterns that you think would be appropriate for your class.

What do my students need to know?

Characteristics of language

Our knowledge and use of language, or languages, continues to grow throughout our lives. This is particularly evident when we encounter different contexts, or  language domains, and must learn to use our language(s) appropriately in these varied contexts.

Education is obviously a key language context, requiring students to develop an understanding of the specific language registers and specialist vocabulary associated with each subject, as well as a wide variety of related ways of using the language modes (for example, for transactional writing, descriptive writing, reading, and public speaking).

It normally takes about 2 years for a child’s conversational ability or surface fluency in an L2 to develop, yet it takes between 5 and 8 years or even longer for the academic skills required to cope with classroom language and curriculum content to develop fully. This is called the  second language learning delay. Bilingual Pasifika students can have highly developed conversational skills in English, yet still perform poorly in school if their academic language skills remain underdeveloped.

Not all teachers are aware of this phenomenon. Some may assume that if a bilingual student has good conversational English, they will also be able to easily handle the curriculum content in mainstream classrooms in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If these students do not succeed in acquiring academic English, they find it much harder to achieve well at school. This has been the pattern for many bilingual Pasifika students in mainstream New Zealand schools, and perhaps explains why Pasifika and other bilingual students are disproportionately represented below the National Standards for literacy.

The reasons why it takes so long to learn the academic register of a language such as English, and why is it particularly difficult for bilingual or L2 students are because academic language:

  • is more formal than conversational language
  • tends to use more passive constructions than conversational language (for example, ”It has been argued by X …” rather than “X argues that …”)
  • is often less contextualised and so provides fewer supports (such as illustrations) to help the listener understand or interpret messages
  • is more abstract – that is, it has significantly more words that refer to abstract ideas than conversational language, which tends to be more concrete (see the box below)
  • has more difficult (and less common) vocabulary than conversational language (see the box).

How many words should my students know?

How many English words do your bilingual students need to be able to understand and use in order to make good academic progress? It depends on what they need the words for.

First, for general everyday life and interaction with schoolmates, the students need to be able to use between 1000 and 2000 different words. Second, they need to develop and expand their  academic vocabulary

A focus on academic vocabulary is needed at all school levels. Even materials written for students at levels 1 and 2 of the curriculum, and materials produced by students in curriculum exemplars at these levels, include a substantial vocabulary of more academic and uncommon words. You can also look at the words in your own materials and those that your students produce to build up a picture of their current and required vocabulary.

Which words do students need to know?

The vocabulary that students need to use in academic work, particularly in reading and writing, is different from what they may use for everyday interactions. For everyday interactions, a student at any level can probably get by with about 2000 words. This group of words is often referred to as  high-frequency vocabulary

Studies of vocabulary have shown that a basic 2000-word vocabulary of high-frequency items accounts for about 80 per cent of the words in an academic text. This seems like a substantial coverage of the vocabulary needed for reading, but actually, for easy reading, students need to know at least 95 per cent of the words in a text.

What are the additional learning goals for vocabulary?

At all levels, students need to extend their basic vocabulary and learn the words that are useful for academic work and likely to appear across the range of academic texts they need to learn to read and create.

The  Academic Word List (AWL) is a well-recognised list of academic words. In all, this list comprises 570 word families. A "word family" is a group of words that share a common base or root word. Some examples of the most frequent base words (with extended "families") are "concept", "analyse", "data", and "research", while some examples of the least frequent are "forthcoming", "adjacent", and "collapse". The words in Coxhead’s list can account for as much as 10 per cent of the remaining words in a text. The most frequent of her words in the AWL occur, on average, once every 4.3 pages of adult academic text.

The words in the AWL are likely to be more than one syllable long and to be abstract rather than concrete. We need them to express: abstract concepts, such as "ideology", "capacity", and "phenomenon"; descriptions, such as "ethnic" and "compatible"; processes, such as "decline"; and aspects of academic tasks, such as "define", "demonstrate", and "contrast".

Half of all high-frequency words and two-thirds of all academic and technical words are derived from Latin, French (through Latin), or Greek. This indicates the importance of learning the meanings of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Learning these basic elements makes it easier to learn new words.

The remaining vocabulary-learning challenges for students are the relatively small number of subject-specific or  technical words, and the small number of low-frequency words. While these words may appear a number of times within one text, they are not likely to appear in other texts for a long time. Think of a word like "behemoth" as an example of  low-frequency vocabulary. Some of your students (even very young ones) will know a number of very low-frequency words because of their experiences and interests.

Secondary teachers who have access to Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13 (Ministry of Education, 2004) can refer to Chapter 2 for information about teaching academic and other vocabulary in secondary schools. Primary school teachers are referred to the section on expanding students’ vocabulary on pages 126–127 of Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8 (Ministry of Education, 2006).

How to analyse the vocabulary levels

You can do this analysis by using the  Web VP site. (‘VP’ stands for "Vocabulary Profile"). All you have to do is:

  • copy some text you want to analyse
  • paste it into the box on the website, replacing the text that’s already there
  • click on the DO IT button
  • wait briefly for your analysis results to pop up.

Your students may enjoy doing this themselves.

The words will show up in four different colours, according to how difficult or uncommon they are. The program will tell you how many word "types"  the text contains, and how many times each occurs, based on the following four frequency levels:

  1. The list of the most frequent 1000 word families
  2. The list of the second 1000 word families
  3. The Academic Word List
  4. The words that do not appear in any of the preceding lists.

Exploring your practice

How many words should my students know?

Some vocabulary researchers have compiled word lists from the words identified by students as unfamiliar. Identifying such words can be a very valuable activity for you and your students.

  • Choose an occasion when your students need to read a curriculum-related text.
  • Ask them to underline all the words they don’t know the meaning of, as well as the ones they find difficult or are not sure about.
  • Use the  Web VP (vocabulary profile) site to compare the students’ selection of items against an analysis of word levels. 
  • Where do your students’ difficulties lie? Are they mainly with words at a particular level, or from a particular list?
  • To what degree do all your students share the difficulties? Do they fall into any identifiable groups with common difficulties?

Another way to assess the level of words students are having difficulty with is by using a test, such as Paul Nation’s  vocabulary levels tests. Students can take the tests themselves, and many older students will enjoy setting vocabulary learning goals with you, based on their results from using these web-based tools.

Check out your understanding of concepts related to vocabulary, on the site  Learning vocabulary in another language: A test of teachers’ knowledge.

ESOL Online has a number of useful professional readings on vocabulary as well as word lists and vocabulary teaching activities.

Materials for vocabulary analysis

1. From the level 1 writing exemplar, Stories along the River

So we can remember people who die and thing that happened by the Waikato river a long time ago. So people don't forget things that happened at places. 

Telling Story 
people write story so the person who read them can remember about the waikato river and what people used to do on the river. 

People can find important places to go to and find there and so we do not get lost. It could lead you to something that belongs in the Waikato river. It might be a taniwha. 

You can sing about the waikato River. You make up songs to do with the River to tell other people about Special Places, and why they are special. 

photos tell you about the olden days at the Waikato river so We can see the changes of the river and the places along the river 

2. From the level 5 social studies exemplar, Water Woes

In third-world or developing countries such as Ethiopia, Cambodia and Jordan, there are often many issues over gaining and maintaining access to safe water and sanitation. However there are some successes. Some of the issues that restrict people's access are harmful chemicals from factories, financial issues, the location and landscape of where people live, and last of all, people using most of the water in a river before it gets down to villages lower down so that the lower villages have none left …

The location and landscape of where people live can be a big issue of how much water someone gets. The amount of rainfall and fresh water available may determine how much daily safe water they get, as there are not many pipes, taps, pumps or wells that people can look to for help. In Cambodia, if a village is not near fresh water, it is almost impossible for the women to fetch fresh water. Although there is not much poorer countries can do to change nature, Jordan is thinking of building a canal to the ocean to get more water, and also building pipes from lakes in Israel, with financial assistance from Israel …

3. From the level 5 social studies exemplar, Parihaka, Past and Present

A: My whanau return to Parihaka regularly for the kohi mate on 18–19 of the month. People come by the busload to remember and help us young ones learn what occurred in the past. The grief of losing our land in 1881 is like an open wound which continues to weep. On 5 November each year when Pakeha celebrate Guy Fawkes, we remember our tupuna who lost their lives and their land at Parihaka.

B: My family have leased this land since 1935. We have had a long term lease but our rentals have gone up a lot lately. We have worked hard to make this land productive. This is where my family belongs. How is the government going to sort out this mess? This is my home, but Te Ati Awa say it is still their land. These issues go on and on and need to be settled for New Zealand to move into the future.

C: My ancestor Te Whiti has long been called a peacemaker. When the English constabulary started storming Parihaka, he knew that he and his people were greatly outnumbered. It was a wise move that he took in getting the adults to lay down their arms and encourage his people, even the tamariki, to welcome and offer hospitality to the invaders. But despite that, Te Whiti and Tohu were taken prisoner and spent 18 months being taken from gaol to gaol in the South Island. The anguish on the faces of the people in the photos we saw remind us of the grief of Parihaka and why Māori continue to fight for justice over land and seabed issues.

4. All words used in student texts in level 1 and level 2 social studies curriculum exemplars (not including people's names)

Level 1: Spoken 
(two exemplars) 
Level 1: Written 
(four exemplars) 
Level 2: Spoken 
(two exemplars) 
Level 2: Written 
(three exemplars) 
a am after ages and at bark born bowl called came catch climbs coconut dad dancing do does drinking drum eating family fish fishtrap for from fruit got grandmother great-grandfather hammer has he his I in is it keep kept know like list listens lunch lunchbox make me mum music my New Zealand not of on our out of parents people photos pick plastic playing pound roots school ship so socks stuff tape recorder that the them they tree to toes uses war warm was we well were when while who with a about after ago all along am and any apron are at baker bakes be because belongs book bread bumpy busy by can changes children clothes come cookies could cut dad die do don't each other enough family find flowers food for forget fun gardener get glue go grass happened hat have have to he help helped her his house I important in is it ka pai keep lead learn like like listening little live long look after lost love make make up maps me meet might moko monuments mum my need not of office old olden days on or other our people pepe person photos pies place poem production properly put on read related remember river safe says school see she sing so something somewhere else songs sort of special staffs (stuff) story survive taniwha teacher teaches teina tell telling that the their them there they thing this time to together tuakana used to very waiata Waikato River watching water we wear whaea whānau what when who why with without work would wouldn't write you yukky a aboriginal about according all ancestors and art bag barbecue beautiful because began being big brochures but can careful carvings cave change chopping down come cool (=good) cough council Cox's Bay day did dig do drawing drawings Dreamtime drop everyone flax for from get go Grey Lynn hands he heaps helping hole hot how hundred hungry I important in in case is it kowhai legends letterbox like live lots mail make making me men model my native neighbours newspaper nice nicer of off on other paint pass on people person photos pink places planting plants put putting rather red respect rock sacred said Saturday see shook should show sign smooth sneeze so some started stories stuff teach tell thank you that the their then there they think to told tour tourist tree trees truck Uluru use usually want wanted was weedy what where why women working world would writing yes youngsters yucky a affect also am and another Arabic are around arrival as at awesome basics because before behind being boys bring built bullocks bush busier by can can't cars cart change Christchurch city class come community computer could culture cut down dad Darfield did don't drive easier engines entertainment ever farmers farms fast faster feel fly food for forward from front future gidday go got grew had haere mai he hello help hongi horse how I in influenced is it job just kaumatua less like living lots machinery magnets main make making malo e lelei manuhiri many Māori means meet month more motor movies Mr much mum my new not numbers of often old on once one onto or paddocks passed peace people per petrol plough pollution powhiri print remember replies roads room 21 rows rugby say saying shopping sing skiing skills slowly so special sport stand started starting stuff supplies takes talk taught teach tena koe tena koutou katoa thanks that the their then there they this through to today together town traction tutira mai nga iwi uncle us used vehicles visit walking was way we welcomes went West Coast what when when wildlife will winter with Yemen you

Measuring readability

Extracts for analysis

A is an academic text for school students working up to level 2 of the national curriculum

Kinleith Forest is a very busy place. During the day, forestry workers hack and saw noisily. Big trees crash to the ground. And logging trucks thunder along wide roads through the forest. At the same time, other workers are busy planting new trees. But when the sun goes down, things are just as busy. It is then that the night animals wake up. One of these is the long-tailed bat. I'm a scientist who studies long-tailed bats. There aren't many of these bats around. We're worried that they might all die out. To help save these bats we need to … [100 words]
(Moore, 2002, pages 20–21.)

B is intended for up to level 4 of the curriculum

Ferns are usually very easy to identify from their leaves. Known as fronds, fern leaves tend to be very long. They're often divided into leaflets that are attached along a central stalk. Each leaflet is sometimes divided into even smaller leaflets. … In their leaves ferns harness the energy in sunlight to make simple sugars from carbon dioxide and water. Well, that's hardly big news in the plant world, but let's look more closely at the back of those fern leaves. There we often find sporangia, which are reproductive organs. In fact sporangia are so interesting that they deserve their own article. [100 words]
(Alchin, 2002, pages 10–11.)

C is intended for students in years 9 and 10

Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and health at all ages because it helps the body to absorb ingested calcium and to deposit calcium, with phosphate, into the skeleton. One natural source of vitamin D is exposure to sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency occurs in many regions of the world, including the northern European countries, northern Canada, and the Arctic. People who stay inside a lot (for example, elderly people) may also suffer from it.

Any calcium supplements should also contain vitamin D to ensure maximum absorption.

What is the influence of physical activity?

Young bones respond more to physical … [100 words]
(Osteoporosis New Zealand, 2001, pages 35–36.)

D is an academic text for university students and graduate teachers

Orientation refers to how learners view a task, the nature of the goals they form in order to perform it and the operations they use to carry it out. The particular orientation learners adopt determines the kind of activity that results. In part, how they orient to the task will reflect their previous experiences not just with similar tasks but with the kind of activity they associate with the particular setting in which they are communicating. In this way, how learners orientate to a task is socio-historically determined. Hall describes how the linguistic resources participants bring to an interaction and… [100 words]

(Ellis, 2003, page 187)

Ideas and tools for reading, writing, and speaking

Purposes and patterns in written language

Written language, like oral language, fulfils different purposes. Those purposes (like wanting to tell people what happened) arise over and over again. Some language features and text structures are particularly associated with expressing specific purposes and occur repeatedly. These repetitions are referred to as generic patterning, and the distinctive patterns that can be recognised in written texts are referred to as  genres or  text types.

What makes sentences hard for learners?

  • You can compare the reading difficulty of texts on the basis of word and sentence length.
  • Longer sentences are usually more complex than shorter sentences.
  • Teachers and students can pinpoint challenges within sentences and understand them better by breaking up and joining sentences, and by analysing the groups of words in sentences and the relationships between them.

As academic studies become more advanced, the language usually becomes more complex. The increased complexity includes the following changes:

  • The words are longer and more abstract. 
  • The sentences are longer.
  • The sentences are more complex in structure.
  • The sentences contain a larger number of basic ideas or propositions.

Other factors that can also make texts hard to read include:

  • the unfamiliarity of the content or topic
  • complexity in the way the text is structured as a whole
  • the amount of supporting material
  • the layout and size of the print.

Using knowledge of text structures and features

Whatever the genre or combination of genres used in a particular text, you can be sure that making its features and structure explicit to your students will help them in their comprehension and recall of the text. However, teachers of bilingual students need to be aware that their students may bring a knowledge of generic patterning from their L1 that differs from the patterns that are common in English. This is particularly important for bilingual Pasifika students whose main contact with English genres is through school.

You can assist bilingual Pasifika students in their learning about new and unfamiliar text types by ensuring that you:

  • build on their existing literacy learning in both English and their L1, and encourage them to read a lot in both languages
  • ensure that the English you ask them to read is at the right level – not too hard and not too easy – and encourage them to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something
  • find many opportunities to develop their knowledge of English and the culture that underlies it
  • have them read authentic texts at their age level that challenge them cognitively.

The Ministry of Education’s Selections series for new learners of English in Years 7–13 includes a variety of curriculum-related texts at easy reading levels, and the teachers’ notes that accompany them provide a clear analysis of the language features and text structures, along with suggestions for using the texts to teach these features and structures to English language learners.

Finding information in complex texts

Teachers often present a succession of texts over a series of lessons. The texts may be closely aligned in topic or theme, but they may include a range of text types: for example, one text may be a description, another may be a narrative, while another may offer an explanation. A teacher may also introduce two or more texts at the same time, for example when their students are learning to recognise and use similarities and differences in text content or structure.

Many of the materials students work with embed texts containing information or curriculum content in other text types, in order to engage their audience. You might, for example, find a description embedded in a narrative.

Students also meet two or more texts at the same time whenever a page or a section of a text they are reading contains thematically related mini-texts with different purposes, features, and structures. The boundaries between these mini-texts are often clearly marked by frames or boxes. Often one or more of the mini-texts may be a visual text such as a diagram, a flow chart, or a graph. When items of information are chunked separately in this way, the reader needs to know how to find the connections between them.

Texts in different media

The material on a printed page, then, may be complex, and print is not the only kind of written language that students need to work with. They also meet a wide variety of other sources of information in curriculum learning – for example, videos, DVDs, computer software, and hypertext on the Internet.

Navigation through such  multiply linked texts can be quite challenging, with or without graphics. This is particularly so for  EAL students, who are unlikely to have a full command of the Academic Word List and the  technical words essential in particular content areas. It’s also difficult for a reader who doesn’t know how text types are typically organised.

Scaffolding students’ writing

  • All students, and especially EAL students, benefit from learning activities that scaffold their production of written text.
  • Activities that provide for oral rehearsal can do this by giving students a chance to try out ideas, grammatical structures, and vocabulary.
  • Writing frames based on genre or text structure help students produce well organised texts.

Preparing students for writing: oral rehearsal

Speaking activities play a very important role in preparing students for writing. Most teachers will be familiar with brainstorming, concept mapping, and so on. These are very good ways to generate vocabulary and key ideas for writing. The associated materials, The "Say It" activity – example and  How "Say It" supports students, outline the "Say It" technique, which scaffolds students’ oral rehearsal of ideas and language.

PMI (Plus Minus Interesting)

In the PMI brainstorming technique, students’ ideas are categorised as being: Plus – in support of an idea; Minus – against an idea; and Interesting – other interesting points that come up. This is good preparation for writing an  argument.


Students who are preparing to write a report on a topic can use cubing to think about the topic from six different perspectives:

  1. Describe it. Physically describe the topic. What does it look like? What is its colour, shape, texture, and size? Identify its parts.
  2. Compare it. How is the topic similar to other topics/things? How is it different?
  3. Associate it. What other topic or thing does the topic make you think of?
  4. Analyse it. Look at the parts. How are they related? How are they put together?
  5. Apply it. What can you do with the topic? What uses does it have?
  6. Argue. Argue for or against it.

Students can do this orally, in a group context, by throwing a dice and having each person perform one of the six perspectives.

Using self-questioning scales

A self-questioning scale acts as a checklist for content. This tool shares some characteristics with the technique, familiar to most primary school teachers, of having the students ask themselves questions beginning with "4 Ws and an H" (who, what, when, where, and how?). Self-questioning scales also make use of text structure.

When they are reading a text, students can use a self-questioning scale to check that they have located the information they need. They can also use the scale when they do their own writing, to check that they’ve included all the necessary information. This means that self-questioning scales help students make the links between reading and writing.

The following example of a self-questioning scale was designed for an explanation text on the curriculum-related topic “What did Sir Apirana Ngata see as the major problems facing rural Māori in the 1920s and 1930s? How did he attempt to solve these problems?”

Ask yourself these questions to locate information in your reading text(s) to prepare you for writing. Then check that your own writing answers the questions.
Participants ___ Who/what group was involved?
Location ___ When/where did the situation take place?
Conditions ___ What factors were originally present?
Effects ___ What happened to change these conditions, or as a result of these conditions?
Event ___ What was the result of these factors, or what is now different from the original condition?

Notice that the teacher could have included an intermediate step of filling in an information transfer grid to make the link between reading and writing.

Using writing frames

"Say It", PMI, and Cubing are all very useful activities to prepare students for writing. For their actual writing, a writing frame can be extremely helpful, because the frame enables students to structure language and content in the way that is required by the purpose for which they are writing (as reflected in the genre or text type). See the video Secondary curriculum and vocabulary. 

Writing frames are one way of helping students use knowledge of text structure to support their writing.

Which words do my students need next?

Reading materials at curriculum levels 2 and 4

Use  Web VP to examine the difference between reading materials at curriculum levels 2 and 4.

Copy and paste into Web VP the first passage from  Measuring readability.

Do the analysis.

Copy and paste the second passage and do the analysis.

Fill in the table below with the percentages shown in the analysis.

Look at the results and compare the two passages.

What differences do you notice, and what does this mean for students as they progress from level 2 to level 4?

  Level 2 Bats Level 4 Ferns
First 500 words    
First 1000 words (1–1000)    
Second 1000 words (1001–2000)    
Academic words (from AWL)    
Off-list words    

The off-list words are those that are not frequent in general use (in the first 2000 words) or across many academic areas. They are mostly  technical words, such as "forestry", "logging", "bats", "ferns", "leaflets", "fronds", and "sporangia". In stories, they may be unusual descriptive words, such as "gleaming" or "quiver".

How do vocabulary levels relate to reading levels?

More complex texts will have more specific vocabulary. They will also have some more complex sentences.  Vocabulary is only one of the issues considered in deciding the reading level of a text. However, it is a very significant one. Comparing the vocabulary in texts that you know your students can understand with the vocabulary in a text that you are considering using will indicate whether the new text is at the right level.

Because readers need to understand at least 95 per cent of the words in a text to read it easily, consider the following questions:

  • What teaching practices can help your bilingual Pasifika students work well with texts in which more than 5 per cent of the words are unknown?
  • How can you help your bilingual Pasifika students learn the words they need to know?

ESOL Online has many vocabulary learning resources that can help you address these questions.

Students’ writing and speaking at curriculum levels 1, 2, and 3

In  Materials for vocabulary analysis, there is a list of all the different words students used in speaking and writing in the social studies curriculum exemplars at levels 1 and 2. There is also one full written text from level 1. You can copy and paste these into the Web VP program to look at how students at curriculum levels 1 and 2 use words in their writing and speaking. You will see that those students:

  • mostly use the first 1000 words
  • are already using some more difficult words from the second 1000 words
  • are beginning to use words from the academic list
  • use many off-list words as well.

You could then put in some texts from level 3 exemplars and see whether there is a large increase in the number of academic words used. The material produced by students in the exemplars suggests the vocabulary targets for bilingual Pasifika students as well as for students who know only English. Analyse some texts that your Pasifika students have produced and see if their vocabulary use is close to the patterns shown in the relevant exemplars.

Bilingual people generally have very well-developed language skills, so with appropriate support and guidance, your students should be able to progress quickly towards typical levels of vocabulary acquisition for their age. 

Students’ writing at curriculum level 5

Use  Web VP to think about students’ writing at curriculum level 5.

  • Cut and paste the level 5 social studies curriculum exemplars from  Materials for vocabulary analysis into the Web VP.
  • Compare the  Water Woes text with the Parihaka text,  My ancestor Te Whiti.
  • How many academic and off-list words do these two students use?
  • How do the different patterns of use relate to the different style and effect of the writing?
  • Look at the three Parihaka texts together

You will see that, taken together, the three Parihaka texts use a wider range of different words (types) than any one of the individual texts. This reinforces the idea that when students share what they say and write across the whole class (rather than working individually or with one other student), there is a rich source of  input and a wider vocabulary for students to learn from. 

Extending students’ vocabulary 

Most teachers are aware of the importance of vocabulary and pay attention to teaching it, especially content words. However, there are many aspects to the process of learning a word. Students need to extend their understanding and use of the words they have already met, as well as learning new words.

You may find it helpful to use and adapt this checklist:

Some aspects of knowing a word What students need to do
form Can the students recognise the word when they hear or read it on its own?
  Can they say the word easily, and write and spell it?
  Can they recognise other members of the word family (for example, "compare": "comparing", "comparison", "comparatively")?
meaning Do the students know what the word means?
  Can they give a definition or an example?
grammar Can they understand the word in a sentence?
  Can they use the word correctly in a sentence?
collocations (other words or phrases that are commonly used with a word) Do they recognise other words and phrases that often occur with the word? (This is important for understanding how the meaning of texts is built up and holds together.)
  Can they use the word with other appropriate words?

The video Secondary curriculum and vocabulary shows teachers carefully scaffolding aspects of vocabulary learning.

Planning vocabulary learning with your students

Students are not likely to know how many new words they need to learn to understand and use, or what these words are. It’s a good idea to share the need for vocabulary goals with them and to construct their language-learning goals together. Using the  Web VP site with them, so that they can see how vocabulary can be analysed, will raise their awareness of the nature of vocabulary and suggest to them where their next word learning needs to occur. Other things they should know are:

  • They need to learn to use about one new word every day – seven each week.
  • They need to learn to understand the meaning of a second new word each day – one that they may not use themselves.
  • They should gradually learn to use and understand all the words of the Academic Word List, including many concrete words, such as "adult", "community", "computer", and "vehicle", but also many abstract words, such as "access", "available", "despite", "issue", "maintain", "occur", and "valid".
  • They should consciously try to extend the range of different words they use.
  • The class can act as a learning community to provide each member with input based on more word knowledge than any individual student has, and to support individuals in practising and trying out new skills with words. Refer to the section on expanding students’ vocabulary as a classroom community, on pages 126–127 of Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8 (Ministry of Education, 2006). A reference copy of this book is available to all secondary schools.

Extending Pasifika languages

The same vocabulary goals as those described above can be used to develop Pasifika language use. Your bilingual students can work together to construct shared goals and check their progress in their Pasifika languages.
You may be surprised to know that translation is one of the best ways of learning words. 

Bilingual students can make bilingual vocabulary lists and records, and learn from those. This is one of the benefits of the "interdependence" of languages.

How can I help students deal with complex sentences?

When students are having difficulty with the material they need to read for their curriculum studies, teachers need to explicitly teach them how to read that material. Students who are not challenged may not move on to more advanced learning. 

Three ways of analysing complex sentences are:

  • breaking sentences into parts
  • restating parts of sentences in more familiar ways
  • putting parts together into more complex sentences.

You can use the same methods to help students learn to understand such sentences and develop their ability to use complex sentence structures themselves.

Generic patterns in texts

Teachers of primary school students could work with their students during a shared reading session to identify the structure and features of a new type of text that the students need to become familiar with. The shared goals could be to identify and build on all students’ prior knowledge of the text content and structure, to use the identified structure and features to aid comprehension during the reading of the text, and to discuss, after the reading, how the identified structure and features support the writer’s purpose.

Check that the text and instructional strategies you choose enable your bilingual Pasifika students to:

  • build on their existing literacy learning in both English and their L1
  • read the text in the context of the approach you use and ask for clarification when they don’t understand something
  • develop their knowledge of English and the culture that underlies it
  • experience cognitive challenge and discuss their understandings with other students, in one or both of their languages.

Can you use this again to develop students’ confidence with another important text type or combination of text types?

Secondary school teachers who have copies of Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9 to 13 (Ministry of Education, 2004) could refer to Chapters 4 and 6 for suggestions about using shared and guided reading and writing to identify the structures and features of the texts they use in curriculum learning.

Check that the text and instructional strategies you choose enables your bilingual Pasifika students to:

  • build their existing knowledge of literacy and curriculum content in both English and their L1
  • read the text in the context of the approach you use and ask for clarification when they don’t understand something
  • develop their knowledge of English and the culture that underlies it
  • experience cognitive challenge in relation to the relevant curriculum area and discuss their understandings with other students, in one or both of their languages.

Look at these short texts. They are the stories of two Sāmoan weavers. They tell the story of how each woman came to be a weaver (what motivated them and how they learned to weave), and they inform the reader about weaving, for example by explaining the significance of weaving today.

Vivealava Vaepae

"My name is Vivealava Vaepae, and I live at Lepuiai at Manono. I began weaving when I married my husband. My mother died when I was very young, so I taught myself after watching other women weave, because I wanted to improve my family. I love to weave. I will weave anything. I really started to weave because when I got married, having no mother, I didn’t have any mats to bring with me to my husband’s family. Sāmoan women should know how to weave. It’s an art that belongs to them. It’s their purpose in life. Mothers should teach their daughters how to weave. It’s their purpose … I think that weaving is still very important in Sāmoan society today. It’s the matafaioi …"

Emma Kesha

"I was born in Sāmoa and came to live in New Zealand in 1958 when I was only 18 years old. My mother is Apaua from the village of Fale Apuna and my father is Fuatavai from the village of Fusi Salofata. I learnt to weave from my mother and grandmother. Weaving is an everyday thing that goes on in the village life and I remember when I was a little girl going to school and coming home to see my mother and grandmother weaving. That is when I first started…. In 1983 I set up my own Multicultural Weavers Association and started teaching weaving. My aim is to preserve the art of weaving and share my knowledge with others. Weaving is an art …"

(Text extracts from Mallon, 2002.)

You could compare and contrast the information in the two stories by using this information transfer grid:

  Vivealava Vaepae Emma Kesha
Where was she born?    
Where does she live now?    
Who taught her how to weave?    
Why did she want to learn to weave?    
How is weaving important to her now?    

What are your observations of the language in the two extracts? Look across each of the rows. What is the nature of the items in the boxes? Do they have the same form, or are they different? Is one way of expressing ideas more complex than another?

How do you think this method helps students to understand the texts better?

Select a short text and prepare an information transfer grid for it. Get your students to fill in the grid. What do you notice about how the activity supports their learning?

Bilingual students who become familiar with using information transfer activities may like to work in groups to develop their own information transfer grids for texts in their Pasifika languages. They will be able to compare them with similar English texts and identify differences and similarities. For example, the second sentence of Emma Kesha’s recount is a common feature of many Pasifika texts. Your students could identify which text types normally have this feature and where it is usually located in the texts.

Finding information in complex texts

Look at the  Kiwi Conservation Club webpage.

Notice the many different mini-texts on the page: two sets of bulleted points; two coloured texts; one text in a box or frame; and two diagrams (or drawings).

  • Identify where information about wētā is located and consider the writer’s purpose.
  • What other kinds of information are there? Consider the writer’s purpose for adding this to the information about wētā.
  • Do the diagrams relate directly to the text? What is their purpose? Do they make the meaning of the text clearer?

Explore the links to other information about wētā on the  Kiwi Conservation Club webpage. How similar are the texts about other types of wētā? Are there similar levels of complexity, or do the levels vary?

What does a good reader do?

When students reading a curriculum-related text recognise challenges in comprehending it, they need to make connections with their prior knowledge and with their knowledge of other texts. This also helps them retain the ideas they gain from that text. The more connections a student makes, the more memorable the text becomes. Students also need to be able to focus on the main points in the text.

Teachers can help their students make connections with their own prior knowledge by:

  • using a technique such as brainstorming before and/or after reading
  • providing for more than one reading of texts, when appropriate, especially when working with English language learners.

Teachers can help their students make connections across texts by: 

  • having their students monitor their ongoing learning by keeping a  log in which they rewrite their understandings after reading new texts (The purposes and benefits of student learning logs are described in Appendix 1 of Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9 to 13: A Guide for Teachers, Ministry of Education, 2004) 
  • using  information transfer charts and  inquiry charts to help students select, organise, and evaluate the information in different topic-related texts. Bilingual students who become familiar with using information transfer activities may like to work in groups to develop their own information transfer grids for texts in their Pasifika languages. They will be able to compare them with similar English texts, and identify differences and similarities. This will enable them to make connections when reading other texts in the future.

Students need explicit teaching to enable them to recognise the main points in complex texts such as multiply linked texts. For example, teachers can:

  • teach students to identify subheadings (in written text) or section headings (in hypertext) and to retrieve the information in them 
  • teach students to identify the writers’ purposes and the key points made to meet those purposes
  • ensure the learning activities they plan and implement require their students to comprehend the information they have, to take responsibility for it, and to share it with others (for example,  split information tasks).

Using inquiry charts

There are three steps in using an inquiry chart. Before students read a text, they record what they already know about a topic, either with other students or with the teacher. They do this in relation to the categories of information they need to focus on in their learning. In the following example, students are learning to retrieve information from a factual report:

Topic: Frogs What do tadpoles eat? What do frogs eat? Where can frogs live? What eats frogs Other interesting facts
What we know







sea snails

under the water

in the pond

in lakes

on a lily pad

under a lily pad






Sometimes they dry out.

The frog goes up to breathe.

The students then use the same categories of information to guide them in reading a number of different texts or other sources of information. This might look like the example below:

Topic: Frogs What do tadpoles eat? What do frogs eat? Where can frogs live? What eats frogs Other interesting facts
Text 1 small water plants insects In a fish pond




They go down in the mud when the cold comes.

Frogs have long tongues.

Text 2 plants





on plants

in the pond

on grass

no information available Some frogs are poisonous.

Finally, the students integrate information and language under each of the headings to produce a summary statement for each.

Topic: Frogs What do tadpoles eat? What do frogs eat? Where can frogs live? What eats frogs Other interesting facts
Summary plants and insects insects in damp places birds and small animals  

Using inquiry charts like this help students to link the skills of speaking, reading, and writing. See  Inquiry chart for a complete description.

Take your own curriculum area (if you are a secondary school teacher) or one of the curriculum areas (if you are a primary school teacher) and keep a daily log of all the texts students are given or instructed to read in the following categories. Note both the frequency of particular text structures and features, and any challenges the students face.

One individual text Multiple texts
one theme, one genre one theme, mixed genres thematically related, presented at different times thematically related, presented at the same time
same or similar genres different genres same or similar genres different genres

Design an  inquiry chart that will help students navigate the  Kiwi Conservation Club website and its links to information about other types of wētā.

(If this website is not appropriate for your students, you could find another website for this investigation and then reflect together on its usefulness for the intended curriculum and language learning.)