Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

New Zealand Curriculum Online navigation



Blog archive

Growing te reo Māori at Henderson Intermediate


Te reo Māori is the waka that carries the tikanga

Hone Tobin leads the Māori bilingual and full immersion unit (Te Whānau Moko) at Henderson Intermediate in West Auckland. He is also the lead teacher for cultural responsive pedagogy.

In this blog post, Hone shares why and how he is supporting kaiako at his school to understand te reo and tikanga Māori.

Ko te tuanui o tōku whare ko te rangi e tū nei
Ko te papa, ko te papa e takoto nei
Ko ngā pou o tōku whare
Maunga Taniwha titiro ki Tokerau
Tokerau titiro ki Rakaumangamanga
Rakaumangamanga titiro ki Manaia
Manaia tangata, Manaia toka, ko te Parawhau tērā
Manaia titiro ki Tutamoe
Ko Ngāti Whatua tērā e hora rā
Tutamoe puta atu ki Mangatawhiri
Te waharoa e noho ana i tawhiti
Hoki mai ki a Tutamoe titiro ki Maunganui
Ki te riu o Hokianga
Ki te wāhi e takoto ana a Āraiteuru rāua ko Niniwa
Maunganui titiro ki Pūhangatohora
Pūhangatohora titiro ki Te Ramaroa
Te Ramaroa titiro ki Whīria
Te paiaka o te riri, te kawa o Rahiri
Whīria titiro ki Panguru ki Papata
Ki te rākau tūpatapata e tū ki te hauāuru
Panguru Papata titiro ki Maunga Taniwha
Koia te whare tapu o Ngāpuhi
Tū te ao, tū te pō
Ūhi, wero, tau mai te mauri o Haumie
Hui e
Taiki e

Why I am teaching te reo Māori to kaiako at my school

I think it is important for all staff to have some understanding of te reo Māori. The main reason is our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as kaiako and as a kura. We need to change mindsets that learning te reo Māori puts people at a disadvantage and that te reo is not a language of any use in this day and age.

My kaiako are eager to learn te reo Māori in a safe and inclusive environment. My aim is to grow their confidence so they can use te reo Māori and feel comfortable in tikanga based settings such as pōwhiri and whakatau.

As you learn a language you start to build an awareness of the culture behind the language. Te reo Māori is the waka that carries the tikanga.

I also want to ensure that Māori students feel more comfortable being Māori in the classroom. Teachers who have an understanding of te reo and tikanga Māori will support these students. For example, when I was a student I found it uncomfortable when my kaiako was mispronouncing my name.

How do I teach kaiako?

I see my role as supportive instead of managerial. Most teachers have said they want to learn te reo and tikanga but they don’t know where to start. I’ve given kaiako an opportunity to ask questions in a safe space because I know it will help build their understanding.

In Te Whānau Moko, our bilingual and full immersion Māori unit, we are using Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, the Māori Medium curriculum, and one of our goals is to build staff understanding of Māori culture. I asked all staff to complete a survey to find out who wanted basic lessons in te reo Māori and they were keen.

Earlier this year we began short te reo lessons, just 5 to ten minutes at weekly staff meetings. At first this involved reading aloud in Māori and spelling out words to practice pronunciation, noting the difference with English. Kaiako would read and practice in small groups so it was a safe setting.

We want to incorporate lessons in other languages too, particularly Samoan as we have a Samoan Bilingual unit. I like Russell Bishop’s idea of what works for Māori, works for all the other ethnicities in our classrooms.

Every week each mainstream class gets a 45 minute lesson with a te reo teacher. In these classes the teacher, teacher aides, and the students all learn together. This involves learning te reo in a variety of different learning and delivery styles set up by our Māori Action Plan team.

Staff and students are all involved in pōwhiri and our school haka, which has unified us as a school.

What are the essential elements before this mahi can be carried out?

  • Leadership support.
  • Staff who are confident and willing to learn and make changes.
  • Clear and specific goals for Māori students to achieve.
  • Implementation of things Māori in everyday school life.
  • Someone with experience and in-depth knowledge of te reo and tikanga Māori who is willing to share it.
  • A collaborative learning approach.

How is this working for teachers?

I have been collecting teacher voice through regular interviews during the year. So far, it’s been very positive. Everyone is on board, no one has said it’s too difficult.

Working in groups to learn te reo has definitely helped to make teachers more comfortable. Teachers are more confident asking for support and sharing with their colleagues. I hear teachers saying things like, “My kids have been practicing their pepeha, can they come and share with your kids?”   

We have a new teacher this year, originally from the US, who gave this feedback:

“During the staff meeting you mentioned staff wanting to go deeper in te reo. I want to go deeper into the language, culture, everything. Thank y’all for explaining things so patiently.”

One teacher is now driving te reo in his class. He has really jumped into it and integrated it into his teaching. You can see and hear it in his classroom, more signage in te reo, instructions in both te reo and English. His goal now is to get beyond the “tokenistic” te reo and tikanga, to be more authentic right across the curriculum.

What are the benefits for students?

Kids are really noticing the difference. I have collected student voice from Māori students in mainstream classes. I will be asking students from other ethnicities for their views next.

Māori students are reporting that teachers are pronouncing their names correctly and that they (students and teachers) are using more reo. They all say they like learning te reo and want more opportunities to use it on a more regular basis.

What I’ve found is that it's normalising Māori culture in our school. It doesn’t mean that other cultures aren’t important but this culture, Māori culture, is part of our school life. Greetings in Māori around the school are the norm now. Students and teachers know the different roles in a pōwhiri. In our school, it’s working.

What are the benefits for the kura and the community?

A new kura wānanga is planned for 2018 to be used as a learning space. We are showing the community that Māori culture is important to our kura. The new kura is a response to how we have integrated things Māori into our school.

We are representing the Tāmaki region at the National Kapa Haka competition this year, which is a highlight for our whole school.

Advice for other kura

To further progress te reo and tikanga for all learners (teachers and students, both Māori and non-Māori) you need to have:

  • a leader who is willing to create change, who understands the importance of Māori culture, and also acknowledges the diversity in your school. This is for the value of all our students, not just Māori.
  • someone who has an in-depth knowledge of tikanga, te reo, and the capacity to share in an inclusive way. If it is a kaumātua or a kuia, their mana throughout the school needs to be acknowledged and nurtured.

Further links

Hukanui School stories
The staff and board of Hukanui School decided that they would like to focus on te reo Māori development within their school. This series of 3 videos explains their journey.

Te wiki o te reo Māori
This resource page offers ideas, links, and stories to help schools engage with their parents, families, and whānau to support the learning of te reo Māori in both the school and home environment.

Boost your use of te reo Māori
This blog highlights resources, tools, and school stories to help you boost your use of te reo Māori throughout your school.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
te reo Māori
tikanga Māori
treaty of Waitangi