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Growing te reo Māori capabilities

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Tracey Hopkins outlines the te reo Māori professional development programme in place at Hukanui School. Tracey explains how teachers are supported in their own personal learning, and also in their teaching of te reo Māori to their students.

Hukanui School stories

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Promoting professional conversations

The NZC states (p14) that:

By learning te reo and becoming increasingly familiar with tikanga, Māori students strengthen their identities, while non-Māori journey towards shared cultural understandings. All who learn te reo Māori help to secure its future as a living, dynamic, and rich language. As they learn, they come to appreciate that diversity is a key to unity.

By learning te reo Māori, students are able to:

  • participate with understanding and confidence in situations where te reo and tikanga Māori predominate and to integrate language and cultural understandings into their lives
  • strengthen Aotearoa New Zealand’s identity in the world
  • broaden their entrepreneurial and employment options to include work in an ever-increasing range of social, legal, educational, business, and professional settings.
  • How well do your students understand and use te reo Māori?
  • Tracey discusses the tuakana-teina system that she has set up in her classroom. How can you see the tuakana-teina system fitting into your classroom context?
  • How can you connect with local iwi and marae to enhance your students’ connection with local iwi and take their new skills out of the classroom?
  • What are some of the non-language benefits you may have noticed or may gain when teaching te reo Māori?


I like learning te reo Māori because it’s the native language of New Zealand.

I like it because it’s my culture and I’m very passionate about it.

In Hukanui school we’ve had professional learning for the last two years to support us with our learning. That has been involving Nadine coming in and doing observations of us teaching te reo to the children. It’s also involved us observing Nadine when she’s taking a lesson. I think the really valuable thing for me is that she has given us feedback on our lesson and she’s always managed to find something positive.  It’s good to get that reinforcement even if it’s reinforcing that what you’re doing is okay and you’ve got some strengths that maybe you didn’t know that you had. I think for all of us when you have that first visit you’re thinking, oh my gosh is it going to be right, am I going to do this right? I think that was the really important thing even from that first visit, yeah you are doing really well, you pronounced that word really well, think about doing this... So you’ve not only got some reinforcement of what you were doing well, but you’ve got some things of what you could move forward in to make the next one happen better.

I think it’s having the confidence to say you're not confident, you know, and it’s going to be okay to say that and I need help and ask questions - because that’s the way that we learn and that’s what we model to our children, that it’s okay to ask questions so I should be prepared to do that as well. That’s what we need to do to continue the learning as learners.

As part of this programme some key changes that I’ve made to my classroom practice are - the first one would be actually deliberately planning for te reo to happen in the classroom. Because if it’s not deliberately planned for then we’re all in busy classrooms and it can fall by the way. The other change that I’ve made in my classroom this year is that I have set up a tuakana-teina system of reciprocal learning with my students. The aim is everybody is going to get a chance to be tuakana - to share their learning or their passion with somebody else in the classroom or beyond the classroom. I think the impact has been just to see them have that confidence, to be able to build on the skills that they might already have or the skills that they are gaining along the way the program rolls out. Just to see that enjoyment in the way that they are learning the language and sharing their learning with other children in the classroom and me as well because I’m learning along with them. Yes the te reo skills are building but I think incidentally the way the children are now working together (particularly when we’re doing our te reo lessons) has been a real positive aspect. They can work with anybody in the class, they work collaboratively, they take turns so that they’re sharing what they’re doing and I think that's been a real positive spin off of the programme.

Achievements I’m most proud of - it’s really easy for me to answer. There's probably two that really stand out in my mind. One is just going back to that tuakana-teina system - I think that was something really new for me and that came out of just a conversation I had with a parent of a potential year five coming into the classroom. Thinking about everything being new for them and I thought well actually I can solve this. I can solve it in a way that actually is going to benefit all in the classroom.

The other big achievement was last year where I planned an overnight stay to a marae. Which for me I hadn’t done before and it’d been a long time since I’d been on a marae. We took a lot of parents and I had a day’s activities, spent a night on a marae. The next day was fully immersed in doing waiata, rākau, haka and I think just getting that feedback from the parents really validated going because for a lot of them it was the first time they had ever been on a marae and again it’s that principle of ako where we were all learning together.

My advice to other teachers who are starting out, or thinking about starting out, with having a programme in te reo Māori, would be to take small steps first and not worry too much about where you aren’t. Think about “well it’s, we’re learning with the children, and that’s ok.” To ask lots of questions, and again that’s okay and that’s how we learn.

I think that it’s important to keep on learning language because if you don’t, then like, it will die down and no one will know it and just need to keep it running so that everyone learns it.

Published on: 10 Apr 2013