Student-led te reo Māori initiative boosts confidence

Issue: Volume 98, Number 21

Posted: 6 December 2019
Reference #: 1HA3d0

An Auckland primary school has found that a student-led te reo Māori initiative is helping students and teachers to become confident in their use of the language.

Torbay School in Auckland started a pilot in 2018 which sees children and teachers learning te reo Māori from their peers. Two days a week Year 4–6 students lead Year 3 classes in waiata and a basic te reo Māori lesson.

They show the class how they can incorporate what they have learned into their daily class routine. 

Lessons use the online Wai Ako resource which has waiata and lessons that are easy for children to lead. Wai Ako (learning songs) is based around a series of short music videos that introduce phrases and vocabulary covering a basic introduction, and provide pronunciation basics through catchy and fun songs. 

The resource was launched two years ago by Auckland lawyer and musician Roimata Smail, who began writing songs to help her husband, Torbay School teacher Sam Boriboun. He is now leading the pilot scheme at the school to develop teachers’ fluency in te reo Māori.

Interestingly, Sam’s first language is Lao, and English is his second language.

“I thought I needed to up my game as a teacher and be able to use te reo and normalise the language – it’s who we are now. When I first tried to learn Māori, Roimata and I realised that you can’t learn a language intellectually – you have to use it all the time. The songs take away that fear of pronunciation,” he says.

Sam noticed that students seemed to learn te reo Māori better child to child and thought this could be a good strategy for incorporating Wai Ako into lessons. The concept of Torbay School’s Wai Ako pilot is that students and teachers all learn together, with students as teachers.

“It only took the student leaders one lesson to get the hang of teaching te reo,” Sam says. “I taught the kids how to teach using one of the Wai Ako songs and we went through how to play the song, pause the second time around and get them to say the phrase five times to themselves, five times to their buddy. It only took about one lesson and they didn’t need me to help them again!

“The challenges are fear of pronunciation and lack of confidence, but having the student teachers just took that away – the children just give it a go,” he says. 

The school has trained a few children to do sign language alongside the Wai Ako lessons and will introduce this next year, along with wellbeing concepts so that children can express their emotions in te reo Māori. The scheme will also be rolled out for Years 0–2 at the school in 2020.

“It’s such a different school now, with a big shift in confidence and teachers using it. The students love seeing teachers learning alongside them. The student teachers are now saying, ‘we’re the teachers now, we’ve got the knowledge’. They are really proud of themselves and are seen as role models.

“Schools should just give student-led te reo a go – the kids will surprise you,” says Sam.

More than 3,000 children around New Zealand are using Wai Ako, which is linked to The New Zealand Curriculum and includes planning and resources which progress from Year 0 to
Year 6.  

“It’s a great starting point. When students are leading the learning it’s not so much like hard work, but fun,” says Sam.

For more information about Wai Ako(external link) and to subscribe to the programme, go to the website.

Kōrero about Wai Ako 

Year 6 students Levi and Naava kōrero about being student-leaders

Q. What was it like the first time you took a class?

  • It was fun being the teacher because you got to tell the kids what to do and how to say it. Levi
  • I felt confident because I knew what to teach the students. I liked being the teacher. We all get to be the teacher. Naava

Q. What do you like about teaching Wai Ako?

  • It was cool seeing the children learn and improve and I learnt with them as well. Levi
  • It is fun because you get to learn Māori yourself with the class. Naava

Year 3 students Lydia and Ollie kōrero about being taught te reo Māori by student leaders

Q. What is it like to be taught te reo Māori by fellow students?

  • It is really interesting because you learn different languages. Because if you don’t know how to speak a language, you learn with them because they’re a kid as well. You get to learn new songs. It is the same as having a teacher and they are younger and it’s more fun. Lydia

Q. What do you like best about learning te reo Māori this way?

  • I think they are brave to be a teacher. I want to be like them and they are confident. Lydia
  • I can teach my family at home. Every time I learn something, I tell my mum. I know I can do it because I see it done and can be a teacher as well. Ollie 

Teacher kōrero

What is it like to learn te reo Māori alongside your students? What are the benefits of student-led learning for learning te reo Māori; and what are the benefits to the culture of the school?

Learning te reo Māori alongside my students adds purpose and makes it fun! It means we all share the same knowledge and can practise this with each other. I think it’s great that the older students have the opportunity to take a leadership role and share their knowledge with both the teachers and other students. It gives them a sense of pride and responsibility and the younger students really respect and look up to them. Lorelle, Year 3 teacher

I am not from New Zealand originally so when I first started teaching here the prospect of teaching a language that I didn’t know was daunting. Having the senior students come in to teach te reo Māori to my class has helped my own confidence in using it in the classroom because it gives me an opportunity to practise the pronunciation alongside my students.
I have seen within my own class and within the wider school culture a shift in the eagerness to use te reo Māori since we started this programme. My students love to learn from their older peers and it shows them that te reo Māori is important and applicable for them throughout their schooling. Aubrey, Year 3 teacher 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:44 am, 6 December 2019

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