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In conversation: Balanced learning for English Language Learners

Feb 12, 2018 | Author Chat

The idea of balance in learning a second language is important to success. In practical terms, how does this idea translate to the classroom?

When working with English language learners (ELLs) at Newmarket School, Sonya Van Schaijik uses Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) Taxonomy to build balanced learning opportunities and long-term success across the four strands of language acquisition – listening, reading, speaking and writing.

The teacher and Essential Resources author is passionate about SOLO Taxonomy and its power to deliver. Her co-authored book with Pam Hook outlines practical SOLO-based strategies that enable ELLs to successfully build language skills.

SOLO Taxonomy is an evidence-based learning model that makes visible the structure and process of learning. Its five levels of learning outcome clearly show teachers and students both what has been achieved and where to next. For example, for functioning knowledge (knowing how to), learning outcomes may range from pre-structural for a student who needs help to start through to extended abstract for a student who identifies new ways of doing things. The approach establishes a common language of learning, in which everyone can readily communicate the levels through terms, symbols, hand signs and academic verbs.

SOLO Taxonomy can frame any learning activity, says Sonya.

“Using SOLO I can quickly identify if learning is surface or deep just by highlighting the verbs used in planning and modelling books. When I hear children reflect on their learning, I can hear their level of thinking and know how to support them in developing next steps by using SOLO Taxonomy HOT rubrics.”

Sonya finds SOLO Taxonomy inspirational in forging a positive, balanced learning path that leads ELL students to acquire language successfully.

“Using SOLO I see the progress children make and the difference in the quality of learning. SOLO also allows me to reflect on my own learning process as a teacher.”

About the book: With the support of the astute guidance in SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners by Pam Hook and Sonya Van Schaijik, join those who are already celebrating the step up in language proficiency in their ELLs. 

About Sonya: Sonya Van Schaijik is an experienced teacher from Auckland, New Zealand, whose teaching and thinking are underpinned by SOLO Taxonomy and recorded in her blog ( She is tattooed with the Samoan woman’s malu, is a bilingual learner who speaks Samoan fluently, and has trained in effective pedagogies for bilingual education and ESOL. At Newmarket School, she has responsibility for the integration of technology into teaching and learning programmes in ways that maximise student learning outcomes. Her considerable experience in building and leading e-learning communities for teachers and students includes introducing and coordinating TeachMeetNZ, which promotes conversations on effective pedagogies (including ESOL), being actively involved in the Flat Connections Global Project, leading groups of teachers on Connected Educator and as an across school leader for the Auckland Central Community of Schools, ACCoS Kāhui Ako. She was a recipient of an e-fellowship with CORE Education Ltd in 2011 and TeachNZ fellowship in 2013. In 2016 she passed HSK level 1 and completed her TPDL certificate. In 2017 she was a recipient of  the China Scholarship Programme to Beijing.


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