Strategies to support learning

Every learner’s response to and experience of a health condition is different. The impact on each learner’s hauora and their learning will depend on many factors and will change over time. They will need their teachers to gently support their participation and learning in ways that work for them.

The information this page has been adapted from Adapted from 'What about school: A resource for parents of children, adolescents and young adults with cancer' published by Ronald McDonald House Charities, 2013, Australia.

Support attention

  • Ask ākonga to look at you before you ask them to complete a task (all ages).
  • Minimise the requests you make at any one time (all ages).
  • Ask them to repeat what you have asked them to do (all ages).
  • Practise counting, songs or rhymes many times (ages 2 to 6).
  • Provide lots of repetition to reinforce concepts such as basic number facts, spelling rules and time tables (ages 7 to 14).
  • Discuss memory strategies (ages 11 to 14).
  • Prepare or prime ākonga for when memory of information will be the focus of the task (ages 11 to 14).
  • Present information in a variety of ways that meet the needs of ākonga (all ages).

Support executive functioning

Ages 6 and up:

  • planning
  • organising
  • using working memory
  • planning actions.


  • Provide printed copies of class notes.
  • Break tasks into small, manageable steps.
  • Help over learn rules until they are automatic (for example, "i before e except after c").
  • Provide verbal reminders and written prompts about what they’re expected to do.
  • Write class rules, put them in a prominent place, and remind of these rules on a regular basis.
  • Use mnemonics or memory tricks such as acrostics and acronyms to help ākonga learn factual content.
  • Let them practise spelling words by using magnetic letters rather than having to write the word in a sentence.
  • Minimise interruptions or interference while ākonga are working.

Organising and planning:

  • Identify specific steps or items in a checklist of what learners need to do and have them work through the checklist in order, marking off each step as completed.
  • Teach self-talk and to ask: "What am I supposed to be doing? Am I doing it? What is the next thing I need to do?"
  • Use pictures and mind maps to provide visual prompts to help ākonga organise their thoughts, especially when introducing new material.
  • Provide a note-taking template to help them organise information and to separate important facts from less important facts.
  • Use different coloured post-its to help ākonga organise essay ideas and to tag work as high, medium, low priority.
  • Colour code exercise subject books.
  • Provide a count-down timer that shows how much time is left to complete their work.
  • Provide an audio cue for ākonga who have difficulty sustaining attention – when a sound occurs they can ask, "Am I doing what I am meant to be doing?"
  • Use phone or watch with an alarm for older ākonga to message them to remind them of a particular activity, or to take medication, etc.

Help manage fatigue

  • In discussion with ākonga and whānau, reduce expectations of homework and class work.
  • Help them prioritise work.
  • Allow them to leave class a few minutes earlier to get them sorted for the next class.
  • Modify time limits in tests.
  • Allow them to use a computer if handwritten work is too difficult.
  • Provide handouts of class notes to save them from having to listen and take notes at the same time.
  • Provide a 'time out' card that they can show rather than interrupting the class so they can take a break, have a drink or put their head on their desk for awhile.
  • Encourage other learners to have understanding and support.
  • Be positive and encouraging.
  • Ask them how they feel.
  • Assist them to seek special assessment conditions for exams.

Special assessment conditions – NZQA(external link)

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