Embracing te reo Māori in early childhood education

Embracing te reo Māori in early childhood education

Raewyn Moke

In celebration of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, NZTC graduate, Raewyn Moke, showcases the importance of te reo Māori inclusion in an ECE environment.

Kia kaha te reo Māori – make the Māori language strong!

Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) graduate, kaiako and te reo Māori advocate, Raewyn Moke, believes the ECE sector plays a pivotal role in language preservation.

Moke, of Ngāti Tūirirangi, Ngāti Motemote, Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi descent, finds joy in supporting and serving whānau and tamariki in her South Auckland community. We catch up with her as she shares her thoughts on the importance of incorporating te reo Māori into ECE curriculum

What do you believe is the role of the ECE sector in contributing to the wider efforts of language preservation and revitalisation within Aotearoa?

The ECE sector plays a pivotal role in the triumphs and challenges of language preservation. ECE centres are in a position to shed light on the cultural and language aspects of te ao Māori, and should continue to find authentic understanding of not only the Māori language and culture, but of all cultures. Striving to implement authenticity in the way we integrate languages and cultures into everyday situations and learning opportunities (such as curriculum within a safe learning environment) that are nurturing and inclusive will always contribute to the preservation of all cultures. From a Māori perspective, the use of te reo Māori on an everyday scale is essential, as we continue the journey to support our language so that it thrives, and for some, to rediscover, re-establish and revitalise.

What reo Māori based activities or teaching strategies do you use to foster a sense of cultural identity and inclusivity?

I include a mixture of oral, aural and sensory based activities. I also ensure that places of cultural significance are included in children's learning and engagement. Focusing on these cultural aspects ensures authenticity, and offers learning opportunities for children, their families and staff. Consistency is key in obtaining and retaining learning, so many of these activities are regular, and in most cases, daily. As wahine Māori, and an advocate for te reo Māori, I strive to introduce our tamariki to these cultural experiences, in a way that is safe and nurturing.


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Visits and connections to our local marae, where tamariki can touch and see the carvings of historical figures significant to Māori. Children can also visit our maunga, waipuna and wairere.

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Learning a variety of waiata that are of cultural significance and/or are derived from a history mixed with traditional and western religious backgrounds such as oriori (traditional lullabies) himene (songs with western religious infusion) mōteatea (traditional chants) or karanga (traditional calling used mainly during pōwhiri).

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There are different karakia, used for the beginning and end of the day, depending on the region and hapū /iwi.

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Pūrākau /pakiwaitara:

Traditional stories often depicting tūpuna (ancestors). Children love to be read to and I always make story time exciting and a time to look forward to.

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Our whole ECE centre participates in pōwhiri often, especially for special events. All staff participate, where kaikōrero (speakers) are encouraged to stand and speak utilising their own language. Pōwhiri combines the use of karakia and waiata, allowing tamariki to thrive as they use their own knowledge to actively participate.

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Utilised within program planning and learning stories, to illustrate learning or themes

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Demonstrated in the way we interact with one another, through humility, understanding, empathy, respect, care and openness.


What positive impacts have you observed on children's development and learning when they are exposed to te reo Māori from an early age?

It is wonderful to see children embrace Māori culture and language. Some positive impacts include children remembering names of certain tūpuna or places of cultural significance. I have been fortunate to witness children gain knowledge in te reo Māori and histories, while also observing how te reo Māori has encouraged children to express their own ideas and thoughts on certain Pūrākau and waiata, contributing to the preservation of te reo Māori and Māori customs. Over time, children obtain knowledge in customs and practice and understand when to use them and for what occasion. It is also amazing to find that other cultures (of our children, their families and staff) can often find similarities between Māori and their own cultures, strengthening a sense of connection and belonging.

How have your studies with NZTC supported you in becoming the kaiako you are today?

NZTC has been a central figure in my personal learning journey. I have been extremely fortunate to have met amazing lecturers that have not only strengthened my growth professionally, but have also expanded the way I perceive teaching. Their invaluable knowledge and insight has assisted in the way I teach and support young children, their families and the wider community. The flexibility, student support, online forums, Field Practice and consistent open door policy of NZTC, made it possible for me to enter into a professional teaching career, which has been a much-celebrated personal milestone and achievement. I am not sure if I would have been able to achieve my educational goals and registration, had it not been for the pathways provided by NZTC.

The education and understanding I have gained from NZTC has given further insight on the way that I can continue to implement and share bi-cultural perspectives and practice within learning communities, contributing to a strong focus on authentic tikanga practice, and analysing themes surrounding advocacy for te reo Māori, te ao Māori and their revitalisation within mainstream early childhood education. My journey as a teacher is fulfilling, and the learning and continuous growth is both encouraging and ongoing. I am a life-long learner, and continue to be humbled by the experiences and growth that I encounter.