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Guest post on using neighbourhood maps as student motivation for writing, Tongan language week

Malo e laumalie 

This week is Tongan Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga. This year's theme is Ko e kai ia ‘a e Tonga – Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan wisdom. 

At the time of the 2006 census, there were 50 000 New Zealanders who identified as Tongan. Currently, there are more Tongan people born in New Zealand than there are in Tonga, giving lea faka-Tonga (the Tonga language) and anga faka-Tonga (Tonga culture) a special place here. Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga gives students of all ethnicities the chance to learn some basic lea faka-Tonga, and gives students who speak lea faka-Tonga the chance to be experts in the classroom. - From NZC Online 


I would love to hear how you are celebrating this week at your school or within your cluster groups? I know that one North Otago Cluster has developed a Pasifika Success Talanoa Project blog-site where resources and ideas are shared with a particular focus on supporting Tongan and Pasifika students in their area.

 The August Literacy, English and ESOL community newsletter is now available online. Check out what has been happening across all our communities.  

Guest Post

I am delighted to introduce Charlene Mataio who has written this week’s guest post on using neighbourhood maps as a tool for motivating and engaging students to utilise their personal experiences to create texts that are significant and effective. Charlene has worked in teacher professional development as part of the Consortium of Professional Learning since 2012, mainly providing literacy support. Prior to that, she worked at a large International School in China where she was fully trained in the “Readers and Writers Workshop” method of teaching literacy.
Charlene is an experienced classroom teacher and has taught in a variety of schools and a range of leadership roles, (Deputy Principal, Literacy Leader, Senior teacher, Tutor Teacher and Associate Teacher). She is passionate about Maori education and raising student achievement through culturally responsive pedagogies. Charlene is an Accelerating Literacy Learning mentor and she enjoys writing, her story “Kutai Fritters” was published in a Part 2 school journal last year.

Charlene is currently a consultant for Tools4Teachers.  

Neighbourhood Maps

Many teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs) find that teaching them how to write in English is often very challenging. Along with this, motivating many students in general to write can be extremely difficult for many teachers.  Research tells us that giving children the opportunity to write about their personal experiences certainly helps to engage and motivate our young writers. Writing about personal experience at early stages of learning to write in English is even more important for (ELLs) and the English Language Learning Progressions (ELLP) bring our attention to this when they say, ”Writers often produce more accurate, comprehensive and effective texts when they are writing on a familiar topic”.  So how do we help children to gather ideas for writing that relate to their personal experiences, and can also be linked to what we are teaching across the curriculum? 

Ralph Fletcher uses the “Neighbourhood Map” in his Writers Workshop lessons. His humorous memoir “Marshfield Dreams” contains a collection of personal experiences from his childhood.  His introduction is an excellent section to read to children as a mentor text.  It describes his childhood neighbourhood, and is a piece that can launch your students into thinking about where they live.

Teacher modelling is paramount for all children, especially our English Language Learners.  Listening to and observing their teacher model his or her own neighbourhood map helps the learner to “hear” what expert writers do, and to gain a better understanding of metacognition. 

The neighbourhood map is a place to gather moments in time, or things that have occurred in the everyday.  These moments are possible ideas for writing, and can be developed later by children if they feel they warrant further attention. The maps are dynamic, and can be constantly added to as the children see fit.  Therefore the maps are a type of plan, and are not intended to be a piece of published work themselves. Ideally they should be displayed in places where the children can access them easily, so they are able to draw or add new things that have occurred.  In order to add to their maps, there is an expectation that the children will also get the opportunity to talk with their classmates.  This encourages that important “oral rehearsal” before writing occurs, which is so important for all learners and in particular English language learners.

So what can the children place on their maps, or what might the maps look like?  Sketches of their home, next-door neighbours, the local roads, schools, parks and the surrounding areas are a great start.  One child working on her map placed the plum tree that grew in her back yard.  Later in the year, her class was looking at procedural writing.  She looked to her map to see what procedure she could write from there.  Each summer she would harvest the plums with her father, and they would make plum jam.  Therefore, she decided to write the recipe for their family’s sweet spread.  What a wonderful way to bring her authority to a piece of writing!  Another reluctant boy looked to his map to recount a time in his life.  He was a massive rugby fan, and was hugely motivated to write about the time his father took him to watch the “Chiefs” play in Auckland.  In another classroom, a child decided to write a description of an Aunt in her family who had “malu” tattooed on her legs.  To see Ralph Fletcher’s example of his map, click here.  Children will always be better authors if they are given the chance to write about their “authorities.”

In my professional development work this year with teachers of ELLs I have introduced teachers to the 'Neighbourhood' map strategy as a tool for motivating and engaging students to utilise their personal experiences to create texts that are significant and effective. It has been exciting to observe and talk with teachers who have implemented it in their classrooms with great success. I have seen a number of examples of writing from ELLs where they have created their own texts that are extremely effective through the use of a neighbourhood map to scaffold their writing. The use of a neighbourhood map enables them to identify detail to provide elaboration in their writing, organize their texts appropriately and if teachers strategically teach new vocabulary and language structures as part of this process the writing that is produced is greatly enhanced. Any strategy that taps into children’s own “authority” for writing must be beneficial as it allows them to focus on learning about writing rather than having to think about learning content at the same time. Writing time is for learning aboutwriting and as our ELLs have lots to learn about writing in English let’s give them a context to write about that enables them to do this.

Want to write a guest post?

I hope that you are enjoying the guest posts. I think it is great hearing from voices other than my own. I would love to open the opportunity of writing a guest post to any New Zealand teacher on something that you have used and found to be effective for English language learners in your school context. If you would love to take up this opportunity just email at pandjmcq@gmail.com and I will get in touch with you to discuss this further.

Our Community

Thank you to Jannie, Kathy, Jane and Breda who all answered Rowans question about how to get a copy of Assessment procedures for new settler students from language backgrounds other than English. You can follow their suggestions here. I especially love seeing how supportive our community can be when members ask questions.

Thanks also to Laepa and Lori for responding to my question What has your school implemented in order to focus on improving Pasifika student achievement?You can still add to this discussion.

Don’t forget the literacy webinar, Building a Professional Learning Network for Literacy, Monday 15 September - 3.45 - 4.45 with Anne Kenneally. I suggest you put it into your diaries now.

Other Communities

Secondary ESOL - Memorising Techniques and Resources this thread focus on developing a list of tips, tricks and resources students can use in their own time to help learn and then remember new vocabulary and grammar. What a practical idea. We could start our own list aimed at use with primary students.

Literacy- Anne’s update featured SOLO Taxonomy in the literacy programmesnapshots from educators around New Zealand. She also shared about Phillip W. Simpson as part of her author series.

Secondary Literacy- Alana wrote a challenging update on Should we still be called teachers?

Secondary English – Tania Roxborogh’s post, thoughts from the other side is worth reading. Tania shares insights from her sabbatical on trying to learn Maori.  ‘I get frustrated in class because I often make mistakes when I try to speak and I only understand about half of what is said. But, what makes it harder is that I don't enjoy myself much and I don't have fun. I have the feeling (which may be entirely in my head but it's real for me), my teacher prefers the 'other kids' the ones who do well and don't ask for things to be explained again. We often get asked 'He patai koutou?' (Any questions?). I want to yell out, Yes. I don't get it. But, I've learned that Wittgenstein's observation that 'The limitations of my language are the limitations of my world' are true for me.’  There are lessons contained within the post that we could all profitably reflect on.

I hope you are enjoying Spring, I know it has been a stunning start to spring in the South island and the lower North Island.

 ‘Alu a