Expansion of tuakana teina approach boosts literacy progress

Issue: Volume 103, Number 1

Posted: 25 January 2024
Reference #: 1HAep5

Taranaki’s Ako Mai I Nga Kōrero programme, which was developed in response to a growing trend of declining oral language skills in new entrants, has been expanded to support intermediate students and ākonga learning te reo Māori in bilingual classes.

Kate, 13, and Lochie, 11, enjoy working together.

Kate, 13, and Lochie, 11, enjoy working together.

First featured in Education Gazette in 2020, Ako Mai I Nga Kōrero (Learning Through Talk) was developed by a group of Taranaki resource teachers of learning and behaviour (RTLB) and featured many concepts from the Hei Awhiawhi Tamariki ki te Panui Pukapuka (HPP) programme in which parent tutors were trained to enrich students’ oral language.

Ako Mai uses a tuakana teina approach, with older, or more able, students working with younger, or less able students. By using a series of statements and a question for each page in a book, the programme encourages conversations about the books being read.

Around 20 Taranaki schools are now using the original programme along with two schools in Hamilton, and one in Wellington. Two new programmes have now been developed to support language, reading and writing among intermediate students and ākonga learning te reo Māori.

Education Gazette spoke about the Ako Mai initiatives to Arahia Pomare, Angie Pearson, Jeni Portway, Sheree Cresswell and Wade Scott, RTLBs from Cluster 24 (Taranaki) who work in a variety of Taranaki schools from regular primary to kura kaupapa.

Students manage themselves

Jeni Portway has used HPP and Ako Mai I Nga Kōrero for many years and has observed an increased level of independence and self-management among students.

“One day, I was at the end of the line to the room where the programme was held. By the time I got into the classroom, about two thirds of the students had already matched up with their buddies and they had already started.

“They know exactly what to do, they love doing it and they manage themselves. I love that aspect of it.”

Wade Scott agrees, saying, “The students run it themselves. Early in term 1 last year, I went to Auroa School and one of the Year 8 students said, ‘when are you going to do that programme again? I want to be involved in that reading programme’. By week seven, this student was just about bursting. She was so eager to be a tuakana and she kept reminding us so we wouldn’t forget!” he says.

Jeni says that while teachers may initially be reluctant, it’s easy to implement and she has seen many examples of progress.

“There was one very reluctant teacher who didn’t really want to be involved, but it was happening in the school. After about four weeks, she said, ‘You know what? Little Johnny put his hand up. He answered a question in class.’

“And then in about week eight, she said he was starting to write in sentences, and she could understand what he was writing. It was because he was hearing short concise statements, he was having to retell stories and he was using new vocabulary. It comes out in their oral language, and then it comes through in their writing and reading,” explains Jenny.

Catering for intermediate ākonga

This year, Ako Mai I Nga Kōrero Peka has been piloted in three Taranaki schools for intermediate-aged students. The RTLB team has selected 25 high interest non-fiction books and developed a teacher manual and work sheets which introduce some new vocabulary for each book, statements and a question for tuakana and teina to discuss.

Angie Pearson had used the original Ako Mai programme in a primary school and now, working with Devon Intermediate, she soon realised that the original Ako Mai reading material wasn’t suitable for older ākonga.

“Year after year they are given the same texts, it switches them off, they become disengaged. Then I asked my students what they would like to look at and that’s where we came up with using the Connected series.”

The Connected series features mainly non-fiction high interest articles on subjects such as animation, electricity and making circuits, building a wharenui and rugby league.

When the original Ako Mai Peka kit was written, the RTLB team mainly had boys in mind, but they have since widened the range of books to cater for all students.

Connected and loving it

Akonga in the Intermediate programme were able to share knowledge as well as use skills like listening and practical hands-on activities.

“The tuakana helps with the reading side, but it was all the oral input, and they were just immersed in it. It was just lovely to see a smile on a face, feeling good because they were achieving,” says Angie.

Wade received a thank you card from a parent of one of the teina in the Peka programme expressing their gratitude for the growth he has made.

“This student has just published a book about tractors which has been accessioned in the school library because there weren’t any books about them.
We had a special assembly and he got Principal’s Award for that week. That is just a beautiful offshoot,” he says.

The book has also been added to the Ako Mai Peka kit and the student is now more invested in the programme.

Ako Mai Peka features two days of reading and discussion, and then a fun activity chosen by the student on the third day.

Jeni explains that while the teina do make progress, the most progress is made by tuakana, and so an objective is to encourage students to work towards becoming tuakana themselves.

Kōrero in te reo

When Arahia Pomare saw the Ako Mai Peka kits, she knew the programme could be a valuable tool for tamariki in bilingual units. Most ākonga in bilingual units have not been fully immersed in te reo Māori.

Ako Mai I Ngā Kōrero Te Reo Māori is currently being piloted, with a teaching manual and 16 books in te reo Māori and English receiving the Ako Mai treatment to encourage kōrero between a tuakana and teina.

The programme aims to promote language acquisition and provide a stepping-stone for reading and writing development and is being introduced in 2024.

“We’ve trialed it with two tuakana and teina pairs. The trial went really well and the relationship between the tuakana and teina was great. They needed to build their knowledge of vocabulary from the books they read.

“This would really help tamariki that are just learning te reo Māori. We want tamariki who have been identified as having difficulties with reading to improve oral language in te reo Māori and English,” says Arahia.

Resource teachers of learning and behaviour (RTLB) who work in a variety of Taranaki schools and kura kaupapa Māori.

Resource teachers of learning and behaviour (RTLB) who work in a variety of Taranaki schools and kura kaupapa Māori.

Free resource

All of the Ako Mai programmes are freely available, and the Taranaki team are happy to offer remote presentations to schools throughout Aotearoa.

“The first thing that makes this programme beautiful is that it runs itself. The second thing is that all the work is done for you – it’s all set, good to go. You should be able to find all the books in your school, and you can order extra books from Down the Back of the Chair. Our RTLB service will send you all the stuff you need,” says Wade.

“It’s important to make it student-led, because the students we work with, unless they have a part in the process, we can’t get them to engage. It’s important that they are at the forefront of whatever we create,” adds Angie.

To get hold of the kits for any of the Ako Mai programmes, email Gaylene Coombe at rtlb.clustermanager@npbhs.school.nz

Tuakana teina approach helps oral language development(external link)

Teacher kōrero 

An example of the resources in the programme.

An example of the resources in the programme.

Rachel Cathie, a teacher at Auroa School, shares her feedback on the Ako Mai I Nga Kōrero Peka programme.

What difference has the Ako Mai Peka programme made for your tamariki?

A child teaching a child is different to a child being taught by an adult. This took the stigma out of struggling to read. The tuakana taught the student new skills such as ways to chunk words. Once the relationship was developed it was strengthened by the programme as both groups became comfortable with each other, and the process created extra learning. The follow-up task was also a favourite.

It took a non-reading student and made them keen to read.

How difficult or easy has it been to implement in your class?

Easy. The programme gives able children responsibility at a good level. They also get a sense of self-worth by working with another student. Tuakana also needed to engage the student and figure out how the teina learns and ways to assist their learning style.

What are the key benefits of the programme?

  • Positive relationships with other students and staff.
  • Social skills are enhanced with others.
  • Less intimidating when learning with peers.
  • Positive outcomes for all involved.

Ākonga kōrero

13-year-olds Kate and Jade share how they have enjoyed being tuakana in the Ako Mai Peka programme.

What did you like most about being a tuakana? 

We liked that we taught bigger words that they would not have known and more skills to decode words.

We found new ways to help other students.

What have you learned by being a tuakana?

Everyone works differently and some things that we find easy they don’t get. This could be because of the way it is spelt or sometimes it is the way the word is said compared to the spelling.

The type of book or story is important because some books they were not interested in.

I also learned from reading the books myself – for example about unicycles and the tricks that you can do on unicycles, or about snails and that one snail is the size of your hand. We did extra research on it after reading the story.

11-year-old Lochie shares what it was like being a teina in the Ako Mai Peka programme.

What did you like most about being a teina and working with a tuakana?

Doing the activities after reading the story. My favourite was the one where we used baking soda and vinegar and it blew up!

What have you learned from the experience?

Learning how to make a volcano blow up and looking at the weather app.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:38 am, 25 January 2024

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