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Ministry of Education.

Module 1: Understanding the role of the learning assistant

Welcome to Module 1 of Working with English Language Learners.

In this module you will reflect on your own prior knowledge and experiences to help you think about ways to support learners more effectively. 


Learning byte

Watch this clip and consider how your own schooling experiences might impact how you carry out your learning assistant role.

After you have viewed the video, have a shared discussion to reflect on your own experience of schooling and your role as a learning assistant:

  • When you went to school, what helped you to learn?
  • How was your school learning similar or different to the ways you learnt at home?
  • What can you learn from your own experience as you consider your work with ELLs?  


Esha Lata – The motivation from my parents and teachers that learning is the way for a brighter future and a successful life. And also the help and support that I got from my teachers helped me a lot in understanding what I was learning about at school.

Mariana Kaitai – Teachers that make learning fun. They always made the class feel welcome, so I always felt like I was always a part of the class, not just in the class. They always saw the potential that I could give in the areas that I was strong in, so they would push me, support me, motivate me into all those areas that were available in school.

Kelly O’Rourke – I was one of those kids that the teacher had to show me how to do it, and I had to see things up on the board. I had a male teacher and his name was Mr Holmes, and I remember him because he was just, “Hi, how are you?” in the mornings. He was friendly, he was fun, and he made learning fun. Having a teacher that was fun, that knew us, that understood.

And in the classroom just having things around on the walls so we could see what we were supposed to be doing and how we were supposed to be doing it properly.

Ryan Seong – Sometimes when teachers gave a task, we made small groups and we sat together, and we had a discussion, and finally we found the solution. And it is through those things I learned – collaboration and the strategies.

Esha – Similar in the way thatI used to learn and recall the same topics that we did at school. And different I would say, I used to learn for long hours at home compared to at school, because back in the Islands, we used to get a lot of assignments. Plus my parents used to always motivate me that learning hard every day will make me successful, so that’s why we have to study hard at home.

Mariana – It was quite similar, the learning at school and the learning at home, everything had structure. So getting home was like doing my homework, you know, doing my chores, so it was kind of like the same.

Kelly – I was a product of parents that didn’t finish work until about half past five. So myself and my brother would come home from school and we would get our own afternoon tea, and then we would watch TV, and then when Mum and Dad were coming home we would pull out the homework books. So it was pretty similar to school life.

Ryan – I mean, my parents were quite interested in education and a successful life, even though they didn’t have enough education. In fact they, my parents, they just finished they just finished primary school, that’s all. So they just know how to write the Korean language. Maybe that’s why they focused on the education more. Mostly it was not that different. My parents focused on reading and writing, and also at school, also focused on reading and writing.

Esha – Also use my language. If I see that there’s an Indo-Fijian then sometimes I try to use my own language so they find it comfortable studying with me. And here I have noticed we have smaller groups like ESOL group or groups with teacher. So I have noticed that students are more confident here in speaking, so they all get a chance to contribute in a group. I try to build on their confidence more, through my experience.

Mariana – Having young children, as myself, learning that learning starts with motivation, compassion, drive, fun, also support, comfort and love with the tamariki. And I feel that the relationship starts first with the child before the learning, and once you build that confidence with the child the learning just thrives.

Kelly – I had a fun experience at school. So I would love our kids to have that experience when they are learning because to me, if they are learning like that, then they will remember and they will go through life as school was good for them, it was fun.

Ryan – Sometimes I see the kids like me, they remind me of my young age, to be honest. So I try to encourage them to have a wider point of view. Education is the most important in a country, so also those students will be important people.

Preparation for Module 2 >>

Module 2: Valuing and utilising learners’ language and cultural resources

Think about a learner you work with, the languages they understand or speak, their level of English, their education background, and whether they are from a New Zealand born, migrant or former refugee background.

Updated on: 03 May 2022