Monday, 12 February 2018

Achieving Balanced Learning for ELLs

The idea of balance in learning a second language is important to success.
In practical terms, how does this idea translate to the classroom?

When working with English language learners (ELLs) at Newmarket School, Sonya Van Schaijik uses Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) Taxonomy to build balanced learning opportunities and long-term success across the four strands of language acquisition – listening, reading, speaking and writing.

The teacher and Essential Resources author is passionate about SOLO Taxonomy and its power to deliver. Her co-authored book with Pam Hook outlines practical SOLO-based strategies that enable ELLs to successfully build language skills.

SOLO Taxonomy is an evidence-based learning model that makes visible the structure and process of learning. Its five levels of learning outcome clearly show teachers and students both what has been achieved and where to next. For example, for functioning knowledge (knowing how to), learning outcomes may range from pre-structural for a student who needs help to start through to extended abstract for a student who identifies new ways of doing things. The approach establishes a common language of learning, in which everyone can readily communicate the levels through terms, symbols, hand signs and academic verbs.

SOLO Taxonomy can frame any learning activity, says Sonya.
“Using SOLO I can quickly identify if learning is surface or deep just by highlighting the verbs used in planning and modelling books. When I hear children reflect on their learning, I can hear their level of thinking and know how to support them in developing next steps by using SOLO Taxonomy HOT rubrics.”
Sonya finds SOLO Taxonomy inspirational in forging a positive, balanced learning path that leads ELL students to acquire language successfully.
“Using SOLO I see the progress children make and the difference in the quality of learning. SOLO also allows me to reflect on my own learning process as a teacher.”

About the book: With the support of the astute guidance in SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners by Pam Hook and Sonya Van Schaijik, join those who are already celebrating the step up in language proficiency in their ELLs. 

About Sonya: Sonya Van Schaijik is an experienced teacher from Auckland, New Zealand, whose teaching and thinking are underpinned by SOLO Taxonomy and recorded in her blog ( She is tattooed with the Samoan woman’s malu, is a bilingual learner who speaks Samoan fluently, and has trained in effective pedagogies for bilingual education and ESOL. At Newmarket School, she has responsibility for the integration of technology into teaching and learning programmes in ways that maximise student learning outcomes. Her considerable experience in building and leading e-learning communities for teachers and students includes introducing and coordinating TeachMeetNZ, which promotes conversations on effective pedagogies (including ESOL), being actively involved in the Flat Connections Global Project, leading groups of teachers on Connected Educator and as an across school leader for the Auckland Central Community of Schools, ACCoS Kāhui Ako. She was a recipient of an e-fellowship with CORE Education Ltd in 2011 and TeachNZ fellowship in 2013. In 2016 she passed HSK level 1 and completed her TPDL certificate. In 2017 she was a recipient of  the China Scholarship Programme to Beijing.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Create learning activities that captivate students!

You need to get inside students’ heads to create learning activities that captivate them, says top-selling Journal Journeys author Marie Langley.

With nearly 90 titles to her name, Marie is one of Essential Resources’ most successful and prolific authors.

Many of her titles are part of the Journal Journeys series—best-selling educational resources that link hands-on learning activities to the content of the Ministry of Education’s long-running Junior Journals and School Journals series.

Marie began writing educational support materials for Essential Resources in 2003, soon after the company was established.

It’s a unique creative challenge to tease out practical learning activities that build students’ cross-curricular skills and strengthen their abilities to think for themselves. It starts with getting your head in the right space, Marie says.

“I read the journal I’m working on, absorbing the level and approach it takes, and try to get in sync with that. Journal Journeys is about making sure there is a good cross-section of activities with wide appeal across many interests and abilities.”

While the activities Marie creates centre on literacy skills, they also cover a wide range of other skills across the curriculum and cater to diverse learning styles.

Most of her ideas come from subjects she is personally connected to—such as the natural environment, biking and music. Above all, it’s the creative aspect she enjoys, whether that involves generating an initial idea for an activity or taking it further to extend students’ thinking and learning.

She prefers open-ended questions over ‘right or wrong ‘answers too.

“I like the opportunity for kids to be extended or to get involved at their own level. It’s about encouraging thinking, expanding knowledge and getting kids interested in the world around them. That’s what inspires me.”

This year Essential Resources is celebrating 15 years of publishing resources that support the work of teachers and schools. View or purchase Marie’s latest Journal Journeys books to follow up on learning from the 2017 Junior and School Journals.

About Marie: Marie Langley’s experience in education includes 19 years’ teaching in secondary and area (Years 1 to 13) schools, during which she spent 10 years as head of an English department and seven years as a deputy principal. Her published works include a thesis for a Master of Teaching and Learning degree, magazine articles, short stories, poetry, picture books, a junior novel and numerous educational resource texts. She currently lives and works in Golden Bay in the top north-west corner of the South Island of New Zealand. When she’s not writing at home, you may find Marie helping to run the family’s cycle shop in the main street of Takaka.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Active Children, Engaged Learners (Part 2)

I teach children aged between 5-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years old. Children at this age need to be active; they need different strategies and activities to keep them motivated and engaged in their learning. The interesting part is that the children love to contribute and give me advice on how to change or add to an activity or make their own activities. Here are a few that we enjoy in my class. See my earlier post for more.

1. Physical activity before or after a lesson
Green Light: Move quickly.
Red light: Stop – and make a funny pose or a funny face without moving or speaking.
Orange Light: Go slow – act out in slow motion.

I ask the children to find a spot anywhere in the classroom and to act out the activity in silence.
I say: “Green Light, you are a beautiful butterfly looking for a flower to sit on”.
Allow children to act out this command for a time then say, “Orange Light”, then “Red Light”.
Change the command, eg, “You’re an aeroplane flying in and out of clouds,” or, “You’re a slithering snake looking for food ... “.

This activity helps with listening, following instructions, and thinking quickly while having fun.

2. Another activity children love (and it’s good for learning adjectives too)
  • Have a student walk around the classroom. 
  • Find an object to describe to the class. 
  • Come back to the mat. 
  • Describe the object chosen by only using 3 specific descriptions. 
  • The rest of the class have 3 chances to guess what it is. 
  • The child who guesses correctly goes next. 
Example: it is square, it is hanging on the wall, it has orange and red stars on it.

3. “End of the day” activity to solidify learning
I say: “I am not an animal, I am not a thing, I am a person, I work in the circus, I have funny make-up on my face and I do funny things that make you laugh I am a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “.
Or: “I am not a person, I am not a thing, I am an animal I have a trunk and I am the biggest mammal on land, I am an _ _ _ _ _ _ _“.

I tailor this activity depending on what the letter sound, blend or family word for the week is. In my books, The Language Contract 1,2,3 there are activities such as this that can used or changed to suit.

Peggy Bruce is a primary school teacher, specialising in teaching children who are learning English as speakers of other languages. She enjoys writing and has developed many of her own classroom reading and writing resources.

Peggy is the author of the series The Language Contract which is available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the world.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Downloading ebooks from your Filebox

Downloading our ebooks is simple. When you purchase ebooks from us, you will receive an email that includes quick links to download them. These links will expire if not used within 2 weeks or if they have been partially downloaded. If that happens, you can always find a copy in your FILEBOX.

Simply go to our website and click on SIGN IN.

Enter your Username (which will be the email address on your email) and enter your password. If you can’t remember your password, reset it by clicking FORGOTTEN YOUR PASSWORD. We will send you a link to reset your password to your email address

Once you have logged in, click on FILEBOX in the top left menu.

In your FILEBOX you will find a copy of all your ebooks.

Clicking on each title allows you to download a copy onto your computer by clicking Download PDF File.

Save your ebook to a safe place on your hard-drive or school server. Launch Adobe Reader and open your ebook or locate the file and double click on the icon. To download and view your ebooks, you need to have the current version of Adobe Reader on your computer. If you don't have Adobe Reader, click here to get the latest version for free.

Frequently Asked Questions:

I don’t really know what an ebook is. Could you explain?
An ebook is an electronic version of an Essential Resources book you can download to your computer and use in your classroom today.

When I use Adobe Reader, there’s an error message. How do I fix it?
You may have an old version of Adobe Reader on your computer. To download the latest version for free, click here.

My computer says it has downloaded my ebook. But now how do I find the ebook?
Your computer will have saved your ebook to the place indicated by your computer's browser. If you can’t find it, search for the file using EB + the product code number (which is stated on your account) + .pdf. For example, the code for Awesome Alphabet Activities is 0395 so the ebook has the file name, EB0395.pdf and you would use this file name to search for the ebook on your computer.

If, after searching your computer you still can't find it, you can always log back into your Essential Resources account, click FILEBOX and download your ebook again.

I’ve ordered more than one ebook. Do I download them together or separately?
You need to download each ebook separately.

Are your ebooks compatible with my Mac?
Yes. Essential Resources ebooks are portable digital files (.pdf), which means you can open them on any computer or digital reader able to open and view pdf digital files. You need the current version of the program Adobe Reader on your computer; click here to get the latest version for free.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

7 ways our website makes life easy for you

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to bring you our new website, packed full of features to make finding the ideal resources even easier for you.

Here are the top 7 features that you should know about…

Your Filebox
Once you’ve logged into our website, you’ll immediately have access to your Filebox. Here you will find all your ebook purchases, ready and waiting to be downloaded. These can be downloaded more than once so if you ever misplace the files on your computer, you can easy download another copy. If you purchase ebooks directly from the website, they will be available in your Filebox immediately.

Improved search ability
Being able to find exactly what you need is really important, so we have made our search function even bigger and better. You can search by keyword, age range and subject area, or any combination of all three.

New releases, featured products and specials
Our range of quality resources is constantly increasing so you can always stay up-to-date with our latest new releases, feature products and great-value specials directly from our homepage.

Larger visuals 
No one loves our bright, bold designs more than we do so we’re making it even easier to see what you are looking for with larger, pin-able graphics. You are also able to look inside each resource to get more of a feel for what it is about. But don’t forget, if you need a more in-depth look, our resources are available on a 14-day right of return so you can ensure you are getting exactly what you need.

Quick order
If you have our print catalogue open in front of you or if know the code of the resource you’ve been dying to get a hold of, simply use the Quick Order button to quickly and easily add that product to your cart.

Charge school accounts
Just because you are buying online, doesn’t mean you need to use your personal credit card (although you can if you wish), just use a school order number and you can charge your purchases to your school. We’ll send out the invoice with the resources and if they aren’t exactly what you’re after, you can send them back within 14 days without incurring any fees.

Download a digital catalogue

Maybe you don’t have to time to peruse the website at the moment or you might prefer to have a handy reference to our resources on hand at all times without another piece of paper cluttering up your desk. Now you can download a copy of our latest catalogues so you’ll always have access to what you need when you need it.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Active Children, Engaged Learners (Part 1)

I teach children aged between 5-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years old. During the years I have developed different activities I use in the classroom to keep the children engaged and motivated during the day while learning and having fun.

Here are three of them.

1. Physical activity after sitting on the mat
  • I ask the children to stand in front of me. 
  • I say: “Shake your hands, shake your hands and jump up and down, shake your hands, jump up and down, and wiggle your body, shake your hands, jump up and down, wiggle your body and make a funny face ...” 
  • Carry on for as long as the children can do it – they usually break down with laughter. 
2. Learning activity that helps basic fact learning and simple catching and throwing skills!
  • The children stand on their chair. 
  • I throw a big ball to one child and call out an equation, e.g. 4+4= (it can be as hard or as easy depending on the child’s ability). 
  • The child catches the ball and responds with the correct answer. 
  • The child then throws the ball to another child and sits down. 
  • Carry on until all the children are sitting on their chairs. 
3. Reflection
  • I ask the children to stand facing a buddy and they act out exactly what the other person is doing. 
  • I say: “You are getting ready for school, you are looking in the mirror and are brushing your teeth, pick up the toothbrush, brush your teeth, pick up the water glass gurgle some water, spit it out, etc.” 
  • “Combing your hair, putting socks on, shoes on …”. 
  • Each instruction is given separately up to sitting on the dining table, pouring milk into your bowl, picking up spoon, or picking up your bag and saying good bye to mum. 
  • Two children stand facing each other 
  • They make up an activity to mime 
  • They mime it out with one person copying the other exactly 
  • When they are ready they can with the class 
  • The other children have to guess what the pair is miming. 
This is a good activity for topic time. For example, at the moment my class is learning about “Community Helpers”, the children choose a job in the community they know about and they mime it or act it out. They have to be mindful of how they present their mime so that the rest of the class can guess correctly. Here they are using prior knowledge, thinking skills as well as cooperative and participating skills.

Peggy Bruce is a primary school teacher, specialising in teaching children who are learning English as speakers of other languages. She enjoys writing and has developed many of her own classroom reading and writing resources. 

Peggy is the author of the series The Language Contract which is available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the world.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Mentor Teacher Guide

Mentoring is a valuable role that many teachers take on, either formally or informally. But how can you pursue it in reality so that the mentored teacher continually improves their practice, while making the most of their strengths? In the video below, Deidre Senior talks about her latest book, A Mentor Teacher Guide, which is bursting with tools and tips that have been proven to work in a wide range of mentoring situations.

You can preview A Mentor Teacher Guide on our website here.