Monday, August 7, 2017

Ko Te Kore - the child has potential
I was fortunate to attend a workshop facilitated by Rita Walker & Jacqui Brouwer which unpacked the assessment framework Te Whatu Pōkeka. Some of you may be familiar with this kaupapa Māori assessment resource, however, many of you may not yet have had the chance to engage with it. This workshop was the catalyst for me to seek more knowledge with the aim of being able to  truly value the language, culture and identity of tamariki. My hope is, that this article will make you curious and inspire you to want to investigate Te Whatu Pōkeka further, with the aim of incorporating its kaupapa into your teaching practice

 I’d like to start by sharing one of the issues that Rita raised: that te reo Mā ori is often translated but should in fact be
interpreted. Mā ori language is a taonga because every word has a whakapapa, where it has come from, and different
For example when we translate tamariki  it means ‘child’:
tama  - sons
riki  - sons of chiefs
ariki  - tamaariki - chiefly knowledge
 ariki - the realms
 However, the same word interpreted  becomes ‘precious little ones, loved’
ta  - Blueprint, image, representation, impression - Whakapapa, Ruomoko - the trembles are Ruamoko (the unborn
child) the deity of tamoko (patterning anywhere on your body). Ruamoko is the guardian of tamoko, who has the ability
to change the landscape - children are powerful. Ruamoko is fickle - children fickle. Ruamoko is also the deity of
eruptions - the child is a real Ruamoko. Tamoko - representing you, your stories, your history, your whakapapa.
tama  - Derivative of tama-nui-te-ra (the sun), ana atua (spiritual guardian) depicted by the sun, which provides light and
warmth which we can’t live without - the same as our children.
ama  - Balance, stability, consistency (ama - a specific type of waka, an outrigger providing balance) children bring
balance to our lives.
ariki  - chiefly status, devine being
riki  - young shoot connected to a root system; a metaphor for whakapapa
(riki - seed potatoes) they are rooted in their history.
(all translations taken from Walker & Bouwer workshop notes)

 You can see how different the translation and interpretation are from one another, how they can impact on your view of something. It’s just a reminder to slow down and take time as a team, to unpack the whakapapa behind the words you use in your te ao Mā ori journey.

 In Te Whatu Pō keka there are three aspects to the framework. Walker writes: “[T]he first part of the assessment framework which argues that children come with ways of knowing  the world (mohiotanga), that they learn (mā tauranga) through experiences and challenges and that they seek and gain clarity (maramatanga) from the achievements, accomplishments and failures they encounter as they learn and grow.
The second part of the framework argues that Mā ori children possess a number of attributes derived from their history which spans back through time and space [wairua, mana, mauri] [...]. This means that the Mā ori child has a way of being,  which in turn requires that adults working with and alongside these children must have an in-depth understanding of the children's contexts in order to plan culturally and socially responsive programmes

 Adult responsibilities is the third part of the framework which focuses on providing appropriate contexts of learning, drawing on knowledge relevant to the context, planning and implementing programmes and providing critique and analysis. This indicates ways of doing ” (Walker, R. 2008, p.9, my emphasis and addition). As teachers, getting to know each child, their whakapapa and their kō rero hitori is paramount, if we want to really
discover who they are. For some time now, many centres have been asking their whā nau to share their child’s whakapapa or pepeha with them, as a way of building relationships with whā nau, however, many of these taongo get filed away in the child’s portfolio or on the walls of the centre, once the enrollment process is over and the only
revisiting that occurs is by the child. I began thinking about how well we acknowledge, respect and value all that the
childern know and all that they bring with them, their whā nau, their history, their whakapapa? We need to be thinking
about how whā nau know that we truly value what they have shared with us?
Teaching teams that have unpacked Te Whatu Pō keka have begun to write bicultural assessment documentation that incorporates the concepts mohiotanga, matauranga, and maramatanga. They are helping to unpack the child’s kete, their ‘funds of knowledge’ and they are using what they discover to help them create a learning environment that is supportive, not only of that child but of whā nau, hapū  and iwi also. Their Learning Stories are one of the ways they are letting whā nau know that they value what has been shared with them. Their words have had the power to build learning partnerships. Teaching and assessment must be a collaborative activity where whā nau and kaiako both have a valued
contribution and we must be mindful to write Learning Stories that are thoughtful, meaningful, respectful and inclusive, remembering to interpret not translate te reo Māori.

Ministry of Education (2009). Te Whatu Pōkeka: Kaupapa Māori Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars.
 Wellington: Learning Media.
Walker, R. (2008), The Philosophy of Te Whatu Pō keka: Kaupapa Mā ori assessment and learning exemplars. The First
Years. Ngā Tau Tuatahi  (10):2, pp. 5-10.

Gillian Fitzgerald

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Growing Intelligence

When Nathan Mikaere-Wallis (neuroscience lecturer) talks about growing intelligence he said, “Intelligence is really problem solving at its heart and problem solving is hugely enhanced by creativity."
Another aspect of creativity is divergent thinking,  which has been described as: “the ability to branch out from a starting point and consider a variety of possible solutions, involves fluidity of thinking, broad scanning ability, and free association. It is thought to be a major cognitive process underlying creativity (Guilford, 1968; Russ & Kaugars, 2001). While object play has clearly been related to divergent problem solving ability in young children, so too has make-believe, or fantasy, play. For example, Dansky (1980) observed ninety-six preschool children in a free-play situation, and categorized them as high or low in their pretend play ability. He then assigned them to one of three conditions: (1) free play, (2) imitative play, and (3) a problem-solving task. Dansky (1980) found that the children in the free-play situation performed the best on the divergent problem solving task, but only if they were spontaneously high in their level of make-believe play. He concluded that it is not play in itself that predicts problem solving skill, but the extent to which children become involved in make-believe when they are playing.
The following from Laurie Makin and Marian Whitehead (2004) supports this -“Play is a special way of exploring all kinds of possibilities and even taking big risks in a very safe context. So, as they pretend to be chased by monsters, or hide from lions, young children enjoy a small taste of fear and plan a few useful strategies for escaping the dangers they have invented. When they change roles and become the frightening shark themselves, they experience life from the other side. It’s a bit like trying on a mask or a costume in order to become someone else. Children often pretend to be other people they know such as parents and teachers, or the characters from stories, or even machines like vacuum cleaners and wind screen wipers! They seem to be asking, ‘what does it feel like to be someone or something else?’ All this imaginary activity helps children make sense of the world and the powerful feelings they have about people and what happens to them. It is also the best possible preparation for understanding stories and picture books and getting ready for reading. The oral stories we tell and the stories printed in books are ways of playing and pretending too and if we don’t value children’s play in the early years we are not helping them to become confident storytellers and readers. It has been known for years that children can learn surprisingly complex things in partnership with an interested adult who helps but doesn’t take over. Children actually think beyond their apparent abilities while doing it alongside an expert. So think of the ways that you scaffold learning and communication through your interactions with children. Document the pretend play and the oral language that is being strengthened as a result.”

What does this mean for us as teachers?  Do we allow the time, space and environment for children to create complex story lines, rich in language, emotion and relationships? How are we recording the wonderful oral language, divergent thinking and story telling?  Divergent thinking is also related to the ability children have to use a box as a car or a wooden block as a babies bottle.  This reminds me of the importance of loose parts or divergent resources rather than only having convergent resources.   Learning Story - Imagination, Toi Taakaro