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

Working through Kāhui Ako to improve support for ELLs

Karen Cebalo (Browns Bay School) and Chris Mashlan (Campbells Bay School) are both Across School Leaders in the Mid Bays Community of Learning on Auckland's North Shore.

Three years ago, primary school principals in the area were mindful of the fact that now at least one third of the students at their school were ELLs. Teachers across the Kāhui Ako grappled with supporting the growing numbers of ELLs in their classes and were asking for help.

Two new roles were created to support culturally responsive pedagogy, one with a Māori-Pasifika focus and one for ELLs. Karen was appointed to the ELL role. 

Karen said:

"Underpinning everything is 'What can we do better together?' The ESOL specialists in our Kāhui Ako had been supporting teachers in their own ways but we realised that by working collaboratively as a Kāhui Ako ESOL specialist team we could often share the load."

"Teachers generally have little training to prepare them for supporting ELLs/English language acquisition and we were planning to upskill all of the teachers in our schools."

Chris, also an experienced ESOL teacher, was more recently appointed to an additional ASL role in the Kāhui Ako. 

The ESOL specialists in the Kāhui Ako worked through a process called GROW with Future Learning Solutions experts from the Centre for Languages at the University of Auckland. GROW is a year-long series of workshops designed to support teachers to develop measurable capability in the effective teaching of languages and foster strong inter-school support networks. It was adapted for ESOL and implemented with ESOL teachers across the Kāhui Ako in 2019. 

Karen (left) works with a class teacher at Browns Bay on an ELLP spreadsheet.


Chris commented:

"Several factors all came together at the right time. Just as teachers were asking 'How can we meet the needs of ELLs when we are no longer able to withdraw them all?' the Kāhui Ako decided to make ESOL a focus and we were encouraged through GROW to think about our hunches."

Chris capitalised on these factors and introduced a cycle of professional development for teachers, finding that it was teachers who were more proactive in looking for strategies and support who were initially engaged. One of the APs prioritised this PD in their team, so this was the first full team to work through the cycle. All teachers have now had a cycle of PD. With team leaders involved, a shared vision is very important. "The feedback is amazing – particularly around specific activities, such as vocab jumbles, and how easy they are to incorporate." 


Chris (second from left) works with a class teacher on a skills flow activity.


Karen, after trialling Chris's approach with different teams, has also concluded that this is very strong PD.

"I teach, the class teacher observes. We meet together and look at the ELLP data for their students, including the ELLP Pathway, and plan a lesson in a way which is more inclusive of ELLs. The teacher then teaches that lesson and I observe. We build up a folder for teams and teachers in the shared drive."

"Teachers can see how all learners can be engaged through having an inclusive approach. They are also becoming more aware of the need to be explicit about grammar. Priority 3 students are supported as part of our ESOL programme in weekly workshops over 3-5 weeks on aspects of language structures/grammar from the ELLP Pathway. Children may end up taking part in just one workshop series a year or several – it depends on need."

All of the schools in the Kāhui Ako applied for the teacher release time recently offered by the Ministry to work through ESOL resources, and the schools will all work with Karen and Chris on the use of the ELLP Pathway.

This year, the principals from the Kāhui Ako spent a day together exploring challenges across the Kāhui Ako schools. Supporting teachers with ELLs was right at the top.

"There are real advantages for us in having the full backing of our principals, especially in allocating ASL roles, and for us to be able to work collaboratively as an ESOL specialist group across our Kāhui Ako to lead change." 

Updated on: 25 Sep 2022