Mainstreaming te reo Māori in early learning services

Published on Wednesday, 29 September 2021
Last updated on Thursday, 30 September 2021

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Early childhood educators play a key role in promoting little ones’ language development and early literacy.

Child care conversations, explanations, games, songs and storytime all boost young children’s brains, and English isn’t the only language that’s valuable in these early years.

Immersion in te reo Māori also brings great benefits for under fives, and a new programme called Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is helping educators to normalise te reo Māori in early childhood education (ECE) services.

Today, Te Rito Maioha: Early Childhood New Zealand explains what educators will learn in the programme, and why this knowledge is great news for the kids in their care.

Te Rito Maioha has been named as a provider in the national roll-out of Te Ahu o te Reo Māori. What does the programme involve?

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is a pathway to improve te reo Māori skills and use across the education sector. It also aims to provide opportunities for te reo Māori to be normalised, and for Māori identity and culture to be shared and embraced.

Te Rito Maioha is one of the country’s largest early childhood teacher education providers, and we’re partnering with Te Ataarangi, a national organisation with 10 rohe (regions) throughout Aotearoa, to deliver Te Ahu o te Reo Māori in Napier, Hastings, Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne and Wairoa. 

This means participating educators will have weekly kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) Te Ataarangi – Te tuara o te reo classes, and will engage in self-directed learning in Te Rito Maioha’s flagship online programme, He Pātaka Reo | Te Reo Pantry.

Educators will gain knowledge about the principles of second language learning through te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (the Māori language and customary practices and values) and learn how to apply this knowledge at their service.

Participation at noho marae (an overnight marae stay) will give educators a lived experience of Māori cultural concepts.

As co-learners and teachers, educators will also deepen their knowledge about:

They’ll also reflect on te ao Māori (Māori world views) and āhuatanga ako Māori (Māori pedagogical practices).

What language skills will educators learn?

As they take part in Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, educators will learn to:

  • Pronounce Māori language correctly
  • Use simple and appropriate greetings and acknowledgements
  • Learn the correct spelling of simple te reo Māori words
  • Gain knowledge of Māori language resources
  • Gain an understanding of Māori language revitalisation issues
  • Demonstrate respect for, and increasing competence in, normalising te reo Māori me ngā tikanga Māori for teaching and learning in ECE settings, and demonstrate knowledge about the principles of language acquisition.

The programme is designed to encourage and support kaiako to build confidence in speaking te reo Māori, and educators will cover topics they can use in their early childhood services and daily conversations.

We start with the basics, including the Māori alphabet and correct pronunciation, how to greet someone and introduce yourself in a traditional way, and how to praise someone in te reo Māori.

We then move to more activity-based language to use with puzzles, reading, locating objects and people, and building and construction.

We support educators’ to use te reo Māori in their everyday conversations, focusing on correct pronunciation through the use of waiata (song) and karakia (prayers).

By the end of the programme, kaiako will begin to develop and implement a lesson plan that puts into practice what they’ve learnt.

What are the main benefits for children when te reo Māori is normalised in ECE?

Te reo Māori is one of the official languages of Aotearoa.

Normalising te reo Māori and tikanga practices and protocols in the ECE environment provides a sense of manaakitanga (reciprocal hospitality) and whanaungatanga (kinship) that acknowledges, ‘Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori – The language is the life essence for Māori wellbeing.’

When tamariki Māori are in a learning environment where their culture is valued, they begin to develop a sense of closeness to the space, and to the people they share it with.

When Māori culture is promoted and celebrated, all tamariki, regardless of whakapapa (genealogy), feel a sense of pride as they not only learn te reo Māori, but also the protocols and practices that are fostered through the local stories and history and the learning of localised curriculum.

Te reo Māori is rich in culture and it enables tamariki to engage in the traditional practices, like carving, weaving, kapa haka, and much more.

Being exposed to more than one language also supports brain development in children.

What are some practical ways that educators can encourage tamariki, parents and their whānau to learn and use te reo Māori?

Educators can include local iwi and whānau in developing the curriculum within the tamariki learning environments, and consult local experts to ensure te reo Māori dialect and tikanga practices are adhered to, with local kaumātua and kuia (elders’) support.

Educators can also:

  • Learn local stories and histories from the iwi to make sure genuine connections are developed
  • Introduce te reo Māori through simple tamariki waiata, games and stories
  • Visit historical areas, including local marae, and become familiar with necessary protocols of mihimihi, pōwhiri, karanga and kaikōrero speeches
  • Take the time to understand Māori ways of knowing doing and being
  • Engage in kaupapa-driven events, such as kapa haka festivals
  • Connect with local kōhanga reo and kura, and establish days where knowledge can be exchanged, with whānau invited to attend as well.

There are so many ways to make te reo Māori a normal part of the ECE day, and we’re pleased to be helping educators to share language and culture with young learners to ensure the spontaneous use of te reo Māori.

Further reading

The significant rise in preschoolers using te reo Māori

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