Activity for ‘Sione’s Talo’

Sione’s Talo

by Lino Nelisi

In this book, Lino Nelisi tells a Pacific Island version of The Enormous Turnip story. When Sione finds a talo growing on his plantation, he tries to pull it out, but it won’t budge. Sione asks his wife, sons and daughters to help, but in the end it is a tiny ant which gets the talo out of the ground. That night there is plenty of talo for everyone – including the ants. This is a beautifully and simply told story, which shows the reader what life is like in the Pacific Islands. The illustrations show the characters climbing coconut trees, weaving flax, arranging flowers into lei’s and eating together on flax mats.

This book is available in English, Samoan, Maori and Niuean translations.

It was recommended for the collection because of the way it represents Pasifika culture and shows language diversity. It was also recommended because it allows Pasifika children to see themselves, and their culture represented. This book was awarded Best Picture Book in the AIM Children’s Book Awards (1993).

Activity: LANGUAGES OF THE PACIFIC (Learning Languages)

Curriculum Level 1, 2 & 3 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • participating and contributing
  • relating to others


This story is available in English, Samoan, Maori and Niuean language versions, so provides an excellent starting point for learning a new language, or for reinforcing a home language.1. Invite older children or adults from the community who are able to read and speak in any of the languages you wish to focus on. You may  have students in the class who are able to read and speak a Pacific Island language. Ask them to come and read the story and talk about the story of Sione’s Talo. Encourage them to talk about the pictures as they read, so that children can follow the ideas in the story, even if they do not understand the words.

2. After reading, ask the children if they recognized any of the words they heard in the story. They may have identified some of the more common words.

3. Ask the visitor to teach the children some more vocabulary from their own language.

Children could be taught enough to begin constructing simple sentences of their own. Because interaction is an important aspect of language learning, work with your resource person to create an interaction task.

Teach students how to ask one question in the focus language.

For example, in this case it could be: What is your favourite vegetable?

Teach students a range of possible responses, and they must choose one for their answer.

Each student should move around the room, asking other students their question and responding to the question as it is asked by others.

4. Ask the visitor to choose a short passage from the story. Have the words of this passage so that they are visible to all students, and have them learn how to read this passage, using correct pronunciation. Children could go away and practise with a buddy, then “perform” the passage to the class and visitor.


  • different language versions
  • parents/ older students or adults who can speak Sāmoan, Cook Māori, Niuean.

Taking it further

As part of the Language Knowledge strand of Learning Languages, students are required to “compare and contrast” languages. If you are focusing on more than one Pacific Island language, students could be involved in identifying aspects of different languages, which are similar or different to each other.
Curriculum Links Learning Languages Proficiency Descriptor

  • students can understand and use familiar expressions and everyday vocabulary (Level 1 & 2)
  • students can understand and construct simple texts using their knowledge of the target language (Level 3)


Selecting and using language, symbols and texts to communicate

  • understand and produce information and ideas (Level 1, 2 & 3)

Participating and contributing in communities

  • use cultural knowledge to communicate appropriately (Level 1, 2 & 3)

Language Knowledge

  • recognise and describe ways in which the target language is organized (Level 1 & 2)
  • compare and contrast languages (Level 1, 2 & 3)

Cultural Knowledge

  • recognise and describe ways in which the target culture(s) is/ are organized (Level 1 & 2)
  • compare and contrast cultural practices (Level 1, 2 & 3)

Links to other books in the PPBC

Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street by Patricia Grace 

Ka’akapera Tikai by Lino Nelisi

Tane Steals the Show by Lino Nelisi

O Le Aso S Pa’epa’e by Sarona Aiono-Iosefa

My School Bag, My Preschool, When I go to Church by Tolo Pereira

Upside-down Face by Lemalu Ros Afamasaga

O Le Fa’aipoipoga by Emma Kruse Vaai

The Woven Flax Kete by Angie Belcher

– all of these books are available in dual or multi language versions, to support bilingual and new language learners.

Other ideas

  • Use the story as a reader for bilingual learners. They could follow up with a retelling or sequencing activity (English/ Learning Languages)
  • Focus on the aspects of Pacific Island culture that are illustrated in the story – clothing, landscape, meal times, plant and vegetable life (Social Sciences)
  • Cook and eat some taro – this may be followed up with some descriptive writing using the 5 senses (English)