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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Working with English Language Learners – A professional development resource for learning assistants

Ko tōku reo, tōku ohooho, tōku reo, tōku māpihi maurea.

My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.

Nau mai, haere mai, and welcome to the online modules for Working with English Language Learners: A Handbook for Learning Assistants (WELLs).

You can download a PDF of the complete handbook here:

Order a printed copy from Down the Back of the Chair (item number 90459). PDF versions of individual modules can be found in each pod.

The modules support the professional development of learning assistants who work with students who are learning English as an additional language.

Learning assistants will be best supported on their WELLs professional learning journey when they work through the modules in partnership with a coordinating teacher. The coordinating teacher may be a senior leader, ESOL teacher, experienced classroom teacher, or other specialist teacher.

Each online module includes:

●      an introduction to the key ideas

●      learning task/s

●      a video clip to illustrate key ideas and language learning tasks in action

●      preparation for the following module.  



Kia ora, ni sa bula vinaka. My name is Rae Siʻilata.

Kia ora, mālō e lelei. My name is Kyla Hansell.

Hello, ni hao, namaste. My name is Meg Jacobs.

Talofa lava, kamusta. My name is Martha Aseta.

We are the writers of the updated version of Working with English Language Learners: A Handbook for Learning Assistants. We are delighted that you have chosen to embark on this professional learning journey with your coordinating teacher. You have an important role to play in supporting emergent bilinguals in their learning at school.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, we recognise the special place of te reo Māori as the Indigenous language of tangata whenua. We also understand the importance of English as the language of communication and academic learning in English-medium education.

However Aotearoa New Zealand is rich in multiple languages and cultures. Many families and their tamariki speak English as their second, third, or even fourth language. It is really important that families are supported to keep their languages alive and to support their children to be speakers of their heritage languages.

In your role as a learning assistant, it is important that you and the teachers and leaders within your school have shared understandings of the significance of learners’ heritage languages and how to support students in their language learning across the curriculum.

This online version of Working with English Language Learners includes 10 modules designed to support your professional learning over two terms. This allows about two hours per fortnight for each module.

It would be most effective if you work through the modules alongside a coordinating teacher.

Each module has:

  • an introductory section for reading and discussion
  • at least one task based on the content of the module
  • a summary of key vocabulary used within the module
  • references to resources
  • suggestions for preparing for the following module.

You already come with a wealth of knowledge about working with emergent bilinguals or you yourself may be bilingual. Feel free to share your existing knowledge and experience as you make connections with the ideas in the modules.

We hope you will enjoy this professional learning journey, that you are encouraged to value what you are already doing, and are motivated to try out new strategies as you support learners.