International Blog

A summary of the exciting events in our International Department....

Cooking with Parents from our Sister School

Planning when to add the cream

We recently had a week long visit from a group consisting of a teacher, parents and students from our sister school, Chaotian which is in Guangzhou, China. The group had a very busy programme during their stay but the adults were able to join Parent Class for our cooking lesson and one conversation class.

After initial introductions all round, the parents and teacher soon were laughing and chatting to the regular parents, asking questions about New Zealand and especially education. The parents were eager to join in preparing the ingredients and shared stirring the meat as it cooked. Many questions were asked about the spices used and we talked about how the recipe could be adapted to ingredients found in their home countries.                                                  

The recipe, Cajun Chicken, was voted as a great succes!

I Love you Mum

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you

With Mother’s Day being celebrated at the end of the week, the International Students spent time discussing their mums, why they loved them and what their mums did for them that was special. Each child was given a sheet of paper to write to his/her mum to say thank you for everything she does. As this is a special piece of writing from the heart, spelling, grammar and punctuation wasn’t checked. It is a moment in time capturing the thoughts of where the child is.

The students also made a card to give their mums too. It was lovely to see their choice of colours and designs. They took a lot of pride in their work and wanted to make the best card to show their love.

To a mum, work written or drawn by their child is special and something to treasure always.

Hopping into a Kiwi Easter

Happy Easter from the International Parents

The International Parents spent the last week of Term One discussing Easter. They were interested to learn what Easter meant to New Zealanders, as most parents do not celebrate the event in their home countries.

As part of their learning, the parents read and talked about the traditions we follow at Easter, the historical connections and even the idioms we use connected with the word ‘egg’. They made an Easter recipe in cooking class.

We also had two craft sessions making Easter cards and a basket with a chocolate Easter egg for each of their children.  It was great to see the creativity used in each session and the pride of the parents in their final products.

We finished the term with an Easter party eating hot cross buns, Easter eggs and farewelling five parents returning home after a ten week visit!

Sensing Summer

Concentrating on creating the summer beach diorama scene

The International Students spent some time talking about the summer season and what it meant to them. They looked at many images of different aspects of summer, discussed and used the vocabulary generated from the various images in written work.

After looking at their five senses and talking about how we use them in daily life, the students had to describe summer, through each of the senses, using a basic sentence structure. There was an emphasis on using adjectives (describing words) to ensure their audience could experience that sense, too. Next, the students published their work for a wall display.

Following the publishing, the students were given the task to create a diorama of a summer scene at the beach. They thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and took great care to produce colourful beach scenes, which enhanced the wall display. Both students and their parents were delighted with and proud of the finished work.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Concentrating on creating a Celtic Knot from paper

During Week 6 the Owairoa International Parent Class spent time learning about St Patrick’s Day (celebrated on March 17 each year).

After looking at the history behind St Patrick’s Day and finding Ireland on a world map, the parents had fun learning the meaning of some Irish words and idioms.  They enjoyed working out the meanings of Irish proverbs and related them back to similar proverbs from their own cultures.

They particularly enjoyed cutting out pieces to make a Celtic knot out of paper. A couple of the parents who had travelled to Ireland shared their experiences and photos of their trip.

Some parents were keen to take their families to events around Auckland celebrating St Patrick’s Day on the Sunday.

English Classes for International Students

One on one support for completing a writing activity

The International Students have started their English lessons for the term. Each week they attend two classes in the International Department, which focus on their learning needs in English and also providing support for in-class studies.


The first theme is “Getting to Know Each Other”. This theme includes writing about themselves, completing wall charts for others to read, finding their countries on a world map and setting out in English books. When writing the students are encouraged to record their ideas down using vocabulary that has been discussed as a group, especially for the Year 2 and 3 students.


The content of these classes will also support the technical and specific language that is used in the iSTEAM programmes being taught in the school this year.

International Cooking Classes

Sharing the task of chopping vegetables

As part of the Parent Class programme, we have a cooking session every Wednesday. The recipes are chosen to reflect seasonal influences, ideas for lunch boxes, easily prepared meals and recipes popular among kiwi cooks.

The parents learn the English names for utensils found in kitchens and the various words to describe methods of preparing and cooking the food. A lot of discussion is always centred on the ingredients used, with many parents doing google searches to read up about the herbs and spices. They really enjoy being able to use familiar ingredients, often in a different way.

Often the recipes enables parents to taste different combinations of ingredients using the same basic process. Parents usually agree the cooked food is delicious and want to try the recipe again when they return home.

Welcome to 2019

Welcome to International parents and students

Term 1 is underway at Owairoa Primary School. The pupils are settling into new routines with their teachers and classmates and continuing with their learning journey for 2019.

In the International Department we are hosting a group of parents and students from several different countries as they have an introductory taste of New Zealand life and experience education in a school setting.

The International Classroom is ready to start giving long term students (ie those who have enrolled for five weeks or more) extra English lessons to support them at their individual stage of learning English. The first step is to assess their current Reading level. This helps the classroom teacher to organise a reading programme for that student.

Regular weekly lessons will start as soon as the assessments are finished.

Learning about New Customs

Spicy Fajitas to acknowledge the Mexican Celebration of The Day of The Dead

The International Parents talked about the tradition of Halloween and its origins and how various countries celebrate it. The parents were prepared for New Zealand’s version of trick or treating and some were keen to join in.

Because Mexico’s traditions of celebrating The Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2) follow immediately after Halloween, we talked about what the Mexican families do and watched a video clip which gave us a lot of interesting facts. The parents also made Spicy Fajitas in cooking class to taste a different type of cuisine. They really enjoyed looking at and smelling the different spices used and then the final aroma once they were all mixed together. The verdict ~ delicious.

Think Spring; Think Lambs and Calves

A special memory of spring in New Zealand

Our International Parents were able to get up close to a young lamb and calf this week, when Mrs Gill's farm animals arrived at Owairoa Primary School to meet the Junior school.  Our Junior Students were told about the animals and had the opportunity to touch them.

The International Parents were fascinated and stood at the classroom window watching. They were so excited to be invited outside to experience the animals close up. Several took the opportunity to hold Nibbles the lamb, who thoroughly enjoyed the whole visit.

One of the International mums even managed to rock Nibbles to sleep. Her comment was it was "just like holding a baby!"

Certainly a day to remember

A Taste of ANZAC

Freshly baked ANZAC biscuits ready to sample

Our International Parents have spent time this week looking at ANZAC Day, the history, the significance, the symbolism and the associated activities. They were very interested in learning about the ANZACs and the way the day will be celebrated both locally and in greater Auckland. Some Parents are even keen to experience the Dawn Parade!

Each Parent was given a bag of Anzac biscuits to take home. The temptation was too great and before the end of the session the bags were carefully opened and small pieces of biscuit broken off to try. First tasting over, the rest of the biscuit was removed and eaten with very positive comments about the flavour and taste. Consequently a second cooking session has been added to the week’s programme to make another batch of Anzac biscuits!

Empowered Women Empower Women

A Japanese Mum sharing about an famous and inspirational Japanese woman

Our theme in Parent Class this week has been centred around “International Women’s Day” which has been celebrated across the globe. What has emerged, is the passion, creativity, bravery, intelligence and inspiration that so many women around the world, bring to the table of life.

The international women here at Owairoa are culturally diverse, but as individuals they also bring so much to one another by way of kindness, friendship, belief systems, humour, companionship and values that cross all cultural boundaries.

As we have discussed in our Parent Class sessions, we are first women. Our origin of birth/nationality comes second. So from Japan, Iraq, New Caledonia, Hong Kong and China, we have learned about extraordinary female architects, television presenters, writers, politicians, human rights activists, army generals and artists, including New Zealand’s Kate Sheppard, who heralded in the right for women to vote both nationally and abroad. Thank you to all of our “Wonderful Women of Owairoa”!

Work-Play Balance

International Students enjoying the summer sunshine

By Week Two our ‘Language Learning Support Classes’ were up and running in T2 for our International Students.  The students have completed a range of assessments, and combined with classroom teacher information, detailed academic profiles have emerged. These provide a solid foundation for future learning.

Students are developing responsibility for their learning by arriving to classes on time, bringing equipment with them, ready to settle into their 45 minute sessions.  A sticker system has been implemented to reward positive work attitudes and behaviour. Each student is expected to interact respectfully with their peers, and to focus wholeheartedly on individual learning intentions, demonstrating commitment to improving their oral and written English skills.

Every school day is a busy and challenging one, especially for our International Students, so seeing them relaxing in the weekends, exploring outdoor New Zealand is heart-warming indeed.

Clearing Customs

One of our new Junior Students and his Mum arrive at Owairoa Primary School

The hustle and bustle of new students, parents, administrators and teachers fill the lobby, office and classrooms in the International Department. First day jitters are palpable.

Every contingent of global newcomers is different. No two children are ever alike and every parent is unique, carrying in their hearts, a mix of high (yet varied) expectations regarding the huge decision they have made, to immerse a son or daughter in a foreign educational environment.

All up, it’s a little like baking a cake. An array of fresh , separate ingredients doing their best to mix, blend and infuse, in the hope of creating a pleasurable and satisfying result for all involved in the process. The end result hoped for, being the happiest of smiles from both parent and child.

Mission completed. Customs have been cleared in a strange new land!

In the Sticks

Showing off newly aquired stick game skills

This term Owairoa Primary School has yet again facilitated a wide variety of New Zealand learning modes, from which our Kiwi students can proudly showcase their own culture, whilst developing caring and meaningful bonds with international peers, who are here to embrace a life changing educational experience ‘down under’.

The Maori Culture sessions with our well-trained Kapa Haka group led by Mr Barrett and Miss Turner have been powerful catalysts for this to occur. Our International Students and Kiwi students have mixed together to learn waiata, stick games and the poi, demonstrating evident enjoyment and pride in newly learned skills.  Spot prizes of NZ’s iconic chocolate fish were awarded to those showing special expertise or engagement.


Writing Wintry Words

Students writing sentences describing winter pictures.

The International Department at Owairoa Primary School is always busy, including two afternoons being devoted to English support for our Year 2 to 6 International Students. These classes provide opportunity for our International students to engage in small group instruction, as a means to develop confidence in speaking and writing English with fluency and accuracy.

Visuals are important in second language learning. Recently the students have been choosing, discussing, cutting and gluing winter pictures. Their first learning intention was to write sentences connected to their pictures beginning with “I can see….”, first saying their sentences out loud to be sure they made sense.

The next learning intention was to think of more descriptive words (adjectives) to add richness to their sentence framework. Observing the children working thoughtfully on their sentences, I was reminded of the song “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow…….” Each child unique, but together, a differentiated learning garden.                                                                

Tell Me a Story

Illustrated retellings of favourite childhood stories

We are fortunate if we can recall the thrill of having stories read to us as a child. There are those that stay with us because in some way they have ‘struck a chord’ within.  For Parent Class Teacher Judy Finlay, it was “Robinson Crusoe”, a tale which ignited her sense of adventure.

Childhood stories have spoken to our Parent English Class in many different ways. For Gaelle from France, “Aladdin” was about the magic of believing.  For Sharleen from Taiwan it was “Cinderella” and her kindness. Lisa from Trinidad shared her sense of injustice at Enid Blyton’s Mr Meddle, regarding the mischief he got away with. From “The Silver Axe and the Golden Axe”, Zona from China learnt about honesty.

So the next time a little person tugs on your sleeve, book in hand, be sure to respond in kind. You never know what dreams and aspirations you could be birthing in a child’s heart.


What a Difference Two Weeks Makes!

Taste-testing feijoas in Miss Finlay's class

So much has happened on so many levels for so many people: our Guanzhou students and their Teachers, our Homestay Families, plus our own students and staff here at Owairoa.

Each one of us has been touched by our Sister School visit, never to be quite the same again, because all experiences, create change for us as individuals. This is how we grow as people and as global citizens.

Highlights that come to mind have been the Chinese students’ tasting feijoas for the first time, discussing Kiwiana, engaging with the uniqueness of Maori culture through songs and legends, and enjoying Greedy Cat tales by New Zealand’s beloved author, Joy Cowley.

Smiles and laughter have abounded throughout the two week visit. The saying holds true - “it takes a whole village to raise a child”. As this group of students return home, we hope they will take with them ‘snapshots of the heart’ that will stay with them for life.

Masami Meets Maui

Masami engages with written text, using her electronic dictionary to check vocabulary

To see our International Parents show such respectful interest in New Zealand’s Maori people and their culture has been heart-warming to observe. The group were visited by Julie Belding who shared a great PowerPoint presentation on Maori History and Customs following mapping activities earlier in the week, looking at Maori place names. One Japanese Mum especially asked if we could study a Maori legend before she returned to Japan. We chose ‘Maui and the Big Fish’ which linked perfectly.

Along with food, friendship, music and humour, this wonderful group of Parents have found that discussion related to legends can be yet another effective catalyst for creating a meaningful language-learning context.

Watching Masumi’s enthusiasm for ancient Maori tales, maybe this Kiwi classroom experience will trigger a new pathway of interest for her, when she perhaps connects a tasty fish meal in Tokyo to her new “legendary friend” from Aotearoa.

The Friendship Factor

Friendship: The pot of soil from which much learning grows…

Incorporated into our Parent English Class programme is a quote for the month for us to talk about and create a piece of artwork for. This activity has become a positive and engaging opportunity for the oral sharing of perspectives around a given phrase such as “Friendship is not about being inseparable but is about being separated and nothing changes”. Expat parents can relate to such a statement, due to their own experiences of leaving relationships behind, as they have taken the risk of exploring life abroad.

Friendships can go through significant change during times of separation. Some continue on, others morph into something different as shared experiences lessen and some can actually fall away, becoming seasonal memories of something special that no longer exists. Like the partaking of food together, discourse around a quote, tends to be a great connector within a diverse group, given that the imbedded concepts often reflect a global value that speaks to us all.

Culinary Cultural Connections

Putting in the preparation before our cooking session

Food is a great connector; a wonderful way for individuals to engage with one another, regardless of language barriers, religious beliefs and cultural differences.

This has certainly proven to be the case with our 2017 Parent English Class. We have learned to sort utensils from ingredients and use a recipe to identify, choose, measure, mix, beat, blend and bake cheese muffins, meatloaf, banana bread and quiche.

Tasty treats have been the end result, but the learning journey has not been about demonstrating perfect culinary skills so much as it has been about the process: teamwork, buddy support, new vocabulary, sharing ideas and ultimately the fun of enjoying food in one hand with coffee or tea in the other.

Thank you to all our wonderful Owairoa Parents and Grandparents from around the globe. The richness you add to Owairoa Primary School and the larger local community is immeasurable.