Know thy Impact.

I often hear this phrase espoused by John Hattie and I thought about it after this week’s personal experience. I had a hilarious experience this week with the 5 years olds which I must share.



I am lead teacher for the ALLiS project at Newmarket School. As a school Newmarket has joined the ALLiS Cluster (Asian Language Learning in Schools). According to the MOE, the ALLiS Contract is funding available for schools or groups of schools, with particular emphasis on those that establish language learning pathways from primary through to secondary. The fund will encourage greater collaboration amongst schools in partnership with external Asian language and cultural organisations. Programmes must be self-sustaining once funding ends. The aim of the funding is to increase the number of students learning Asian languages to support our growing trade and international relationships. There are also bilingual benefits of learning a second language.


Our ALLiS Group of Schools.

Our group is the Epsom/Remuera group with Meadowbank School as our lead school. We are fortunate to have Deb Ward as our ALLiS Lead Teacher and she is based at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School. I have included a list of the school lead teachers in our group and we will be working together to increase the number of students learning Asian languages in our schools.


Deborah Ward ALLiS Lead Teacher
Stephanie Lin Parnell School
Maria Blanco Blanco Epsom Girls Grammar
Lisa Rolle Cornwall Park School
Joanne McNeil Remuera Intermediate
Jane Cameron Victoria Ave
Amy Ko Meadowbank
Sonya Van Schaijik Newmarket
Mary Fallwell Remuera Primary


This week at Newmarket School we began our Mandarin language and cultural programme for our school. We are fortunate to have access to our parent community who are Mandarin speakers and we were extra fortunate to have two parents agreed to teach Mandarin language and Culture further up in our school.IMG_2639

I have agreed to teach Mandarin and have been accepted into the Teacher Professional Development Languages Programme. (TPDL). The programme equips teachers to teach language effectively. Part of that is learning and teaching Mandarin for a whole year. I have registered and have paid for Chinese (Mandarin) Level 1A to begin soon at Unitec.



Those of you who know me know I am already quite a polyglot.

My first language is Samoan and I learnt English academically when we shifted here to New Zealand. I led a Samoan bilingual unit for two years and this strengthened my Samoan literacy. I learnt high school French and used this learning when I visited France. I also hosted a Tahitian student for a short period of time and this reactivated my schoolgirl French.

I learnt Maori at teacher’s college for three years and regularly led the Kapa Haka group. Now I can kind of get by with support. In my married life I learnt Dutch and when I visited Holland with my children’s father I was able to converse in Dutch with very little support.


When I first moved to Auckland I was thrown in at the deep end into a predominantly Tongan speaking class and learnt to survive on basic Tongan. I had a grandmother who often would teach me phrases which I used as part of classroom control.


I hosted Japanese teachers for three years and during that time I learnt Japanese at night school. I was able to use this learning when I visited Japan or when we have new English learners from Japan.

I also can say hello in all the languages of our children at Newmarket School.



So why am I now learning Mandarin, you may ask?


Well I have always maintained that I would never ask staff to do something that I was not prepared to do myself. So part of the ALLiS goal is learning an Asian language. It is about school sustainability with the Mandarin language. Our teachers have had access to a Mandarin Language Assistant who came to us as part of Confucius  and taught whole class Mandarin.


I chose Mandarin because I have hosted a Chinese student and absolutely adore her. In addition a large percentage of our school population are Chinese speakers. I live in Newmarket and know that out of all the local languages, Mandarin is the one I am most likely to have others to communicate with. This is because historically Newmarket has large numbers of Chinese migrants living here. I have visited China twice to visit my host daughter and I know I will return. I attend the Chinese lantern festival hosted each year in Auckland as part of making connections with the children I teach. I am also involved with the Flat Connections China Project as a teacher observer. I am fascinated with the way teachers are making connection across the locked down ‘Great Fire Wall of China’.


My level of Mandarin

If I use SOLO Taxonomy I know I am unistructural with Mandarin language.

I can count to 5, with support. My support are the children because they have been teaching me forever during my lunchtime duty. However I still need them to start me off. I can say hello, my name is Sonya and Goodbye. That is basically the sum of all I know in Mandarin. This week I have been practicing like mad to say Happy New Year, but still have to consult my card.

I also consciously learnt a new work. My new word was monkey. I thought about this and tried hard to remember the single sound of ‘hou’. This is because 2016 is the year of the Monkey and I wanted to share a little bit about the year of the monkey.


My first Lesson

I have agreed to teach the 5 year olds because I know from personal experience that if I am not prepared they will eat me alive. So I went into my lesson reasonably clear about the sequence of the lesson and my learning intention.


Everything was going really well. My first group were fabulous and I had support in the students with my pronunciation. They all made their monkeys and they all learnt basic sentences and could say this with support.


My next group involved two classes together and their two teachers. The lesson was a little more challenging because of the larger number. But that is OK because I know I will adjust from my peers feedback. I also know that the teachers are further along in Mandarin than me because they have had access to weekly lesson with the Mandarin Language Assistant so I am relying on them to support the lessons.


In the second class I have identified 7 fluent speakers who need much more than what I can deliver but that is OK too because I will use this piece of information to challenge my pedagogy. I do not want to teach whole class but want to structure the learning so my lessons caters for all levels of the language. Being a linguist I really want the children to be speaking in phrases rather than in single words as has been the previous few years learning.


I kept my eye on the short time and packed the children up. As they were leaving one little poppet, who was not a mandarin speaker called back to me,

再见猴子 Zàijiàn hóuzi. I responded with Zàijiàn. When he started giggling I realised what he had said and my first thought was, ‘just you wait until tomorrow.’


But then I thought about the linguistic implications. He had made a connection with two words, and he had made a joke. I know that to crack a joke in your second language takes quite a bit of thinking.


So do I feel pride or should I feel indignation? I will catch up with him about respect but will do so in a positive way. Unfortunately with 5 year olds, yesterday was a lifetime ago.


Personally, the parting comment made my afternoon and I was going around the staff telling anyone who would listen. However in this post I won’t respond what one staff member said. But it was really funny and you can probably make a smart guess.


My next steps

When I use SOLO to map my learning, extended abstract seems a lifetime away. But that is OK too. I have identified my starting level and I know what my next steps are.

My next steps will be carried out with Unitec with learning Mandarin and in the university paper on second language acquisition. I am looking forward to stretching my thinking by doing something new totally outside my comfort zone. I am really interested to learn about acquisition from a personal perspective and to apply it to a different way of learning.


Next week our group of schools will begin the ALLiS contract officially with an inauguration ceremony held at Epsom Girls Grammar. All of our staff will be present as we are committed to making this contract work.


For those of you wanting to know more about ALLiS you can join the online ALLiS Google+ community discussion group that has been set up.

But for now





5 thoughts on “ALLiS

  1. […] Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) is a programme that provides professional development and accreditation for languages teachers throughout New Zealand in order to improve their pedagogy and language fluency in ways that impact positively on student achievement. I have written about TPDL before when I reflected on my first Mandarin lesson. […]


  2. Sonya, thanks for sharing your multi-lingual journey and reminding us how important it is to recognise and embrace not only first language but second and third and beyond. Good luck with your Mandarin lessons – and thank you for the supporting the Connect with China Flat Connections collaborative.

    Liked by 1 person

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