Term 1 Observation

Visit 1 focus: Baseline data of teacher and student use of target language.

My Reflection.


This week I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Thomson Director of TPDL. Wendy has been Project director since its inception as a pilot programme in 2005. She is an experienced language teacher and speaks several languages herself. Currently like me she is also learning Mandarin. For this first observation, she was my ISSF, In-School Support Facilitator.

What is TPDL?

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.

Reason for the visit.

Wendy had come to Newmarket School to observe me teaching Mandarin and to gather baseline data about me and my student’s use use of Mandarin throughout my lesson. She used scaffolded observation criteria and structured observation and reflection tools that enabled me to see the extent to which my classroom practice supports effective language learning. Those of you who have been following this story will be nodding your heads about me as the learner. Gathering data and supporting me to identify my next steps. I have been teaching for over 30 years and am always excited at learning something new. My knowledge of Mandarin language is currently growing and in order to make the 2000 basic interpersonal skills in a year I need to be learning 25 new vocabulary a week. So far this week I have made that. I have learnt to count to ten and I know all the primary colours. I know that I would not have learnt these words if I had not been teaching them.  The experience is a reminder to us all about the power of teaching to clarify thinking when learning something new. How often do we give students the experience of teaching? I know I need to do much more think, pair, share activities in my practice.

Wendy shared with me the work of Rod Ellis and I am already familiar with Rod’s work because of my recent published book with Pam Hook, SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners. However what she did was to map my lesson against the Ten principles of Successful Language Instruction, Ellis 2005.

Wendy literally transcribed everything I said. I was interested in seeing those highlighters being used because I tested that out last year with my student’s writing and used highlighters as visible evidence of their writing. Always with my elearning lens on, I questioned her use of paper copies as I said I could have given her WiFi Access. When we looked over my transcript I could identify the number of times I used Mandarin, the number of times the children used Mandarin and more importantly the number of times I could have used Mandarin. With her support  I was able to identify my next steps based on evidence of me and my students’ use of the language. For me my next step was using Mandarin for classroom use.

She gave me hard copies of examples I can use in my lessons for classroom language and for social interactions. Again I would have loved the sheets in soft copy because now I need to spend time recreating them so I can have a set of small spiral cards with me during my lessons. I spent ages online with a translator but could not find the exact script, so I will have to remake them. Again how often do we give students worksheets rather than a soft copy that they can add to. That is the beauty of Hapara for sharing soft copies with our learners rather than giving them paper copies that they cannot edit.

She also gave me a paper folder and to be honest I asked her ‘Why.’ Again I am the student who would have preferred soft copies of everything. I know I can say this to her because if students keep accepting paper copies and ring bind folders and do not question the reason behind this, then our tertiary providers will keep thinking that this is OK. In my given kit was a memory stick of audio and again I thought, why are our tertiary providers not using online storage of sound for this purpose? Particularly in this current ease of WiFi. I believe access to the internet is like having access to roads. It just is. Do we really still have adult teacher learners who do not have WiFi access in this day and age? Have I been so spoilt with school access that I have forgotten reality? How many schools are still waiting to be snupped and are still waiting for N4L? My receiving a USB is like receiving a floppy disc. I am the student who will always ask for soft copies or who will turn up to an event with a mobile device and expect to be given the Wifi password.

Wendy informed me that I had covered 4 out of the 10 principles in my session. I have made them bold below and have given examples of how I did this.

  1. Instruction needs to ensure that learners develop both a rich repertoire of formulaic expressions and a rule-based competence.
  2. Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus predominantly on meaning.
  3. Instruction needs to ensure that learners also focus on form.

(I gave the children correct visual of the language in both PinYin and in Mandarin script.)

4. Instruction needs to be predominantly directed at developing implicit knowledge of the L2 while not neglecting explicit knowledge.

(Students were given the opportunity of making connections with what they were learning and with what they know. They showed me how they count to 10 in their own language or told me what the colours were in their home language.)

5.Instruction needs to take into account the learner’s ‘built-in syllabus’.

6. Successful instructed language learning requires extensive L2 input.

(I provided the children with good models of L2 using youtube video clips.)

   7.Successful instructed language learning also requires opportunities for output.

(I gave the students the opportunity of moving into smaller groups to practice what they learnt with me.)

8.The opportunity to interact in the L2 is central to developing L2 proficiency.

9.Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.

(I had some first language speakers model for us therefore making use of their prior knowledge.)

10. In assessing learners’ L2 proficiency, it is important to examine free as well as controlled production.



Me teaching Yanse- Colours.

Teacher directed and from the front. I wonder who is the real learner here?

shareChildren practising in smaller groups how to introduce themselves.


Where to next

Wendy and I discussed my next observation. This will involve a different ISSF who will also carry out scaffolded observation criteria and structured observation and reflection tools. Again  I will see the extent to which my classroom practice supports effective language learning and this will continue to be mapped using evidence principles strategies against the Ten principles of Successful Instruction.


Wendy’s visit provided me with a lot to think about. The discussion was well structured and I felt like I was learning.  I am already a language teacher but being a language learner opens my eyes to how effective I am being as a language teacher. I am already trained in TESOL and have taught in a Bilingual Immersion class. But I think I would have benefitted from someone like Wendy observing me and giving me feedback on how much I was using the target language when I was teaching in Samoan. The experience was interesting for me and allowed me to reflect on where I am as a learner. So to finish with I will summarise my learning using SOLO Taxonomy.

What am I learning.

I am learning Mandarin and I am using the 10 principles of successful instruction to frame how I teach Mandarin to 5 year olds.

How is it going?

I believe it is going really well in this early stage. The part that I am enjoying the most is making connections with the children that I teach. My vocabulary is slowly building with using youtube and a Mandarin language learning app as I await my night course to begin. I have also been making connections with teachers in China using WeChat who are part of the Flat Connections  Connect with China Collaborative that I am involved in. I have had some positive comments from teachers after my lessons. I remind them about being actively involved when I come in to teach.

What do I need to do next?

My next step identified with Wendy is to learn Mandarin language for the classroom. I am determined to learn chunks of language and to put my vocabulary building into action. I want to praise the children in Mandarin and I want to begin giving instructions in Mandarin.


Here are PDF’s of some of what I was given in my ring binder.

Ellis, R. (last updated 15 July 2005). Instructed Second Language Acquisition. Section – Small Groupwork, p. 22: www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/6983/instructed-second-language.pdf

Ministry of Education [2006], Instructed Second Language Acquisition: Case Studies


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