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Who we are

Evidence based language development consultancy 

After more than 30 years working with the Ministry of Education and the University of Auckland as researcher, Project Director, trainer and facilitator, Dr. Jannie van Hees launched Languaging Minds, an evidence-based language development and education consultancy and training service. 

Through Languaging Minds Dr. Jannie van Hees provides advisory and consultancy services, online and face to face, COL based training and webinars for early childhood and primary school educators – teachers and learning assistants, and specialist support personnel; secondary school educators – teachers, specialist providers; school leaders of learning; additional learning needs specialists; Principals, HODs and Head Teachers; COL / Kahui Ako leaders and members; parents and families; organisations involved in families and learners educationally and socially; language specialists; tertiary education providers.


Languaging Minds also offers a collection of Language Learning packs for educators, as well as a selection of her latest publications about language and education

With a range of training platforms to suit the learners' needs, Languaging Minds offer the opportunity to learn and explore the why, what, how and when of language learning and teaching.

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Major pedagogical – language – learning understandings that underpin my work with educators, learners and families

Language across the curriculum, and integrated language and content learning, are core to the pedagogical stance that support learning. Language capability offers learners learning depth and breadth. Waves of knowledge building, carried through the lens of language, open up text as meaning-making powerhouses. Scaffolding teachers to implement transformational pedagogy, where language in abundance stimulates and expands learners’ cognitive power, takes central place.

Children’s language development moves through and across three phases in learning language, suggested Halliday (2003):

-          learning language

-          learning through language

-          learning about language

  1. At the earliest stage, a child (makes) meaning through a protolanguage, followed by a lexico-grammatical phase shaped by increasing access to and demand for extended more complex meaning exchanges, gradually moving into an on-going phase of grammatical complexification.

  2. As the maturing child moves (through various stages of development), … cumulative acquisition of grammatical structures by the him/her ‘typically proceeds by way of ....”innumerable small momenta” (of interaction)’ (p. 319).

  3. The third aspect, learning about language, is when the maturing child/young person consciously notices, enquires about and is assisted to explore (language and word) use and possibilities.

Excerpt from van Hees, J. (2011). Oral expression of five and six year olds in low socio-economic schools.

Learning primarily occurs in and through human’s prime communicative tool – words used meaningfully in contexts of being and interaction. Optimal language learning to learn about the world can be distilled down to ‘the core contributors’:


Optimising conditions are critical environmental and behavioural requisites that wrap around and are inside language learning potentialisation.


These optimising conditions are the foreground and background of effective teaching and learning. They are also main players in language learning to learn.


Two sources of meaning through words are available to a person – spoken and written. These ‘modes of meaning through words’ come in various guises – singularly, as in conversations and spoken texts of one sort or another, or written texts with no hyperlink to a video with spoken text; or integrated, as in media online interfaces where video and spoken is in the mix with the written word, and images.

My expertise embraces the intricacies of spoken and written modes of meaning through language. Over decades of learning and practice in language learning to learn, my expertise includes:

  • spoken – oral language acquisition and use

  • how spoke language is learned and optimized

  • how it can be measured and inform responses to progress learner capability

A core reference text: van Hees, J. (2007) Expanding oral language in the classroom. Wellington, NZ: NZCER

Written language acquisition and use – reading and writing, comprehension and production


  • the grammatical features of simple-to-more complex written texts

  • ‘diving deep into written text’ to comprehend at nuances of meaning

  • paying attention to words as they co-occur in written text – ‘the company words keep’

  • measuring reading comprehension – the ‘deep information gives’ – early years reading and later years reading

  • conceptual knowledge growth through reading

  • quality and quantity reading matters

  • reading in the early years of life

  • ‘catching the habit’ of reading, and loving it

  • conversation-accompanied reading



  • how written texts work – crafted and crafting words to convey meaning appropriately and powerfully

  • learning to craft written text at and below sentence levels –  what’s to know

  • choices at sentence level – the craft of sentence shaping

  • crafted and crafting paragraphs and well-linked ideas’ shaping

  • topic, purpose/s, audience – the key determinants of written text choices

  • multi-generic written texts – ‘fun in the writing field’

  • written text presentation

  • written texts – writing measurement and analysis

  • writing in the early years

Vocabulary knowledge and learning

Learn about:

  • what it means to know a word

  • words and their meaning/s in texts

  • how to exponentially expand younger and older learners’ vocabulary knowledge

  • ways of thinking about vocabulary – classifying and organizing vocabulary – vocabulary hierarchies, categories and clustering

  • word knowledge measurements – of texts; of learner capability – spoken and written

  • vocabulary advantage and development in the early years

  • vocabulary and spoken language; vocabulary and written language

  • bi-/multi-lingualism and vocabulary


A core reference text: van Hees, J. & Nation, P. (2017). What every primary teacher should know about vocabulary. Wellington, NZ: NZCER

Girl at School
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Words are the means: The limit of my vocabulary are the limits of my meaning-making through human language. Without words, I cannot mean using spoken and written language.’

Learning empowerment – cognitive uptake, is enhanced when learners are consistently supported to grow their awareness of how, what, why and when they learn or could learn. Consider the following:


Teaching and learning that explicitly pays attention to metacognition and metacognitive processes is empowering. It shapes teaching and learning as a partnership, and recognizes that learning is ultimately internalization. Reflective learning incorporates metacognition.

Learn the nuanced delivery of pedagogical metacognition and metacognitive processes for learners of all ages and stages. It cannot be taken for granted that this is ‘default practice’ in classrooms. Become super effective – a metacognitive champion and ‘pro’. Let me guide you along this journey, offer you tips, demonstrate it with learners, factor it into planning and delivery of learning.  

Whanau-learner-educator partnerships: together shape the learning journey  

The MoE adopted the home-school partnership programme in 2001, as developed and implemented by me in previous years a school facilitator and Auckland’s New Settlers and Multicultural Education Coordinator. A national programme of training was made available from 2001-2005, supported by a manual (van Hees,2001) guiding whanau sessions and school implementation. 

From the original programme manual:

whanau ,anual.png

Many years on, home-school partnerships have evolved into whanau-school relationships and partnerships responsive to the unique nature of each school community. My expertise as a pioneer in this space has grown with the changes.


Notwithstanding, the original home-school partnerships – the lens on language; the lens on Maths – primary and secondary, remain fully relevant currently. Be guided by an expert in this important collaboration between school and families and learners.

Early years language and cognitive growth and learning

Children aged 4-7 years are poised to springboard their perceptions and thinking, concepts and knowledge, language – vocabulary and grammatical capability, physical capabilities and interactions with others. It an exciting time of expansion, and when nurtured well in a balance of freedom and ‘frameworks’, a child stands to ‘become’ in ways well beyond earlier years of development.


The expansion of a child’s capabilities at this age and stage is highly influenced by and dependent upon the environmental conditions in which she/he is situated. Multiple opportunities to receive, notice and try out ‘doing’ and thinking, accompanied by language at his or her “cutting edge”, are needed for a 4-7 year old to fully potentialize (van Hees, 2011).

How to provide ‘magical and growth potentialising’ learning environments for 4-7 year olds in the context of schooling, and families, home and community, is an area that has led me to develop approaches, understandings, resources and pedagogies to maximise this ‘window of opportunity’ in each and all children. 

Major pedagodical
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