Ko te ākonga te pūtake o te ako.
The learner is the basis of teaching and learning.
On this page you will find teaching strategies and resources to support young children’s learning.
The impact of new technologies and globalisation has meant that concepts of literacy have greatly expanded. While reading and writing print are still central to what it means to be literate, the ability to make sense of visual and oral texts has become just as important. The term “multiliteracies” reflects the idea that messages are now produced and received in a combination of ways.
Kaiako concerned with promoting literacy take into account the many and varied ways that children “read” and interpret information, and how children share, state their views, and create meanings about the wider world. The literacy practices that are significant in the everyday lives of children do not occur in isolation to their interactions with adults, older children and peers, and significant social events.
It is well documented that young children are more likely to experience success in learning to be literate when kaiako, children's families, and the wider community have a shared understanding about what literacy involves, what counts, and what is valued by everyone.
Using a multiliteracies framework, kaiako acknowledge the significance of children's unique cultural and social skills, knowledge, and understanding in becoming literate in today’s culture. Kaiako who understand this promote literacy practices that take account of the beliefs, attitudes and expectations of children, their families, and members of the wider community. Children therefore experience literacy that is meaningful to them and built around their interests, knowledge, and expertise.
In twenty-first century families, children often have exposure to technology and use it in sophisticated ways that kaiako can build on. Diverse literacy practices might include children creating and recording their own digital stories or making movies. These and other literacies bring with them new and different social practices and social relations, as children, kaiako, families and whānau learn together across social, cultural, and linguistic situations and contexts. Kaiako may find themselves asking "who is the expert here" as they recognise the wealth of cultural knowledge each child and their family brings to the literacy experience.
It has been said that “reading and writing float on a sea of talk”. Children who develop strong oral (or signed) language abilities before going to school are more likely to experience success well into their school years, especially when it comes to learning to read. This is because it is only through the words children know and use that they are able to think, have ideas, and make sense of their world and their lives.
Therefore, kaiako who offer effective literacy programmes also pay particular attention to the quality of talk and interactions. They are interested in what infants and young children express through gesture or words and they take time to listen and respond. When kaiako take this time, children learn that their ideas and thoughts are of interest to others. This encourages children to communicate more, strengthening their oral language abilities.
Britton, J. (1970). Language and learning. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press.
Kaiako who operate a rich literacy curriculum:
Kaiako also ensure that as children grow and develop from infancy onwards, the language or languages they experience around them become more varied. This happens when kaiako:
Building oral language through storytelling
Christine Alford is an ECE teacher and 2016 CORE Education Efellow. Christine’s research looked at ways in which materials and the arts can be used to promote storytelling for young children.
COMET – Talking Matters
Talking Matters is a community-wide initiative, run by the Auckland City Council , bringing together education, health, and social services with whānau to promote the importance of talking more and talking differently with children to maximise their potential.
Extending their language – expanding their world: Children’s oral language (birth – 8 years)
Extending their language – expanding their world is a resource developed by the Education Review Office that explores effective pedagogical and leadership practices that promote children’s oral language development. Leaders and kaiako need to know how children’s oral language develops and recognise the ways both the curriculum design, and kaiako practice, can promote rich oral language learning. Examples of effective practice are provided to provoke early learning services to reflect on, and strengthen oral language practices in their setting.
Literacy practices – Education Review Office
These two literacy reports developed by ERO “highlight the variety of factors, activities and experiences that go into the development of children’s early literacy skills”. The two reports outline strategies for teaching, as well as examples of what literacy learning can look like across a range of early childhood services.
Much More than Words
Much More than Words is a resource developed by the Ministry of Education that provides information and ideas to support kaiako and parents to facilitate children’s oral literacy development through the child’s skills and interests.
“Children need the adults around them to actively support and encourage their communication development. The more we know about how to support and encourage, the more we can help children develop their communication skills through play and social conversations in real-life situations” (p. 4).
New Zealand Sign Language
Learn NZSL is a free learning portal on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Download the NZSL dictionary onto your mobile device and get a word of the day in NZSL and te reo Māori.
Now we’re talking – Ko Awatea
Now We’re Talking provides an opportunity for ECE services to work collaboratively to develop new approaches, test ideas, and formulate measures for improvements in the identified communities.
On the path to literacy through a pair of shoes and smelly socks
An account of a teacher very effectively using a every day event - putting on socks and shoes - to have a playful conversation with a 2-year-old.
Oral, visual, and written literacy – Kei Tua o Te Pae
Kei Tua o Te Pae provides excellent resources to support literacy teaching and learning.
“Children who have enjoyed the opportunity to talk, describe, argue, reason, justify, question, and explain will have developed language skills that predispose them to literacy with purpose, understanding and pleasure” (Book 17, Oral, visual, and written literacy). Two particular resources are:
Picking up the Pace
This research project delivered concentrated professional development in literacy instruction to groups of early childhood and new entrant teachers in decile one schools in Mangere and Otara. The outcome was a substantial lift in the reading and writing achievement of new entrants. Picking up the Pace was a component of the Early Childhood Primary Links via Literacy (ECPL) Project, which was part of a much broader project, Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara (SEMO). This project aimed to raise achievement significantly among students in these two communities.
This project was funded by Ako Aotearoa and examined how bicultural competence is applied in the education of early childhood kaiako in Māori pedagogies, identities, languages, and cultural beliefs, and how Māori pedagogies are valued in the provision of early childhood education in Aotearoa.
In addition to the research report, a number of very useful resources for ECE kaiako were developed. These include posters and brochures, which are available as PDFs from:
There are a number of free websites and resources designed to help you learn te reo Māori. These include:
Science supports young children’s understanding of the world by encouraging observation and experimentation. Through a science literacy lens, children develop oral language and working theories as they engage with their environment and gather, evaluate, and interpret their findings.
Te Papa Tongarewa, in conjunction with three early childhood centres has developed a comprehensive guide on scientific literacy, providing examples of practice, teaching strategies, and resources that align to the Ministry of Education’s five science capabilities. It explains:
“Scientific literacy is essential in today’s society. By enabling young children to investigate the living world, you’ll help them build confidence, broaden their interests, develop scientific thinking skills, and build knowledge.” (from It’s a Bug’s Life, Te Papa, 2016)
“Physical literacy is ‘the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding required by participants that allows them to value and take responsibility for engaging in physical activity and sport for life” (Sport New Zealand).
Sport New Zealand have developed a resource to support the lifelong development of physical literacy, starting with our young tamariki.
Te Kākano is a framework developed as a tool for ECE services to support the teaching and learning of mathematical ideas. It is aimed to spark mathematical discussions and understandings. All services should have a CD called Te Aho Tukutuku, which contains Te Kākano framework. Additional CD copies can be ordered from the Ministry of Education resource catalogue website Down the back of the chair.
Te Kākano framework recognises the range of mathematical ideas (cultural tools for mathematical thinking) within a setting. The strands in the diagram represent these ideas. Depending on how the seed is nurtured these strands may be numerous and strong, or, in a less nourishing setting, they may be limited because only some strands are supported, or the strands may be weak.
People, places, and things provide the food or soil that surrounds the seed. These include kaiako pedagogy, kaiako content knowledge, family/whānau knowledge, and resources. These interact with the children’s interests to foster particular mathematical learning.
Pedagogy has been defined as the techniques and strategies that enable learning to take place and that provide “opportunities for the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions” (Siraj-Blachford, 2010, p. 150). Kaiako pedagogy shapes the development of Te Kākano in particular ways.
Laissez faire approaches and fond notions that “maths is everywhere” and therefore does not require kaiako planning or involvement, may limit development. At the same time, as with learning to read, there is a danger that inappropriate practice might raise the achievement of particular skills in the short term, but lead to negative attitudes that are detrimental to enjoyment and progress in the long term (see Carr & Peters, 2008), thus stunting Te Kākano’s growth over time.
How can we ensure that mathematics learning is a satisfying, interesting and meaningful experience? The Best Evidence Synthesis Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics Pāngarau(Anthony & Walshaw, 2007, p. 24) provides a useful synthesis of pedagogical practices related to mathematics learning in ECE. A number of these (for example, shared purposes and interests) connect with the findings of longitudinal studies that show that children who attend ECE centres with high quality adult-child interactions have higher scores in mathematics and literacy at school (Sylva et al., 2004; Wylie & Thompson, 1998).
Ideally, pedagogy will focus on strengthening dispositions and encourage an orientation towards learning goals where children persist with difficulty and strive to understand or master something new. This contrasts with performance goals, where children strive to gain favourable judgments or avoid negative judgments (Smiley & Dweck, 1994). If we want children to develop learning goals then it is counterproductive to have an emphasis on performance goals when it comes to mathematics.
Children can be supported to explore further mathematical ideas, contexts or concepts. However, it is important to remember that sometimes the mathematical element in a situation is secondary to another purpose and it is appropriate to respond to the main purpose rather than “hijack” the situation (for example, not interrupting a child’s exploration of a complex science topic with an irrelevant “how many… ?” question). At other times it may be appropriate to provide the space for children to consolidate something they are exploring (for example, counting or sorting small collections of objects) without always pushing for a “next step”.
Assessment for learning: Kei Tua o te Pae
Kei Tua o Te Pae provides some excellent resources to support the teaching and learning of mathematics in an early childhood programme.
Mathematics is the exploration and use of patterns and relationships in quantities, space, and time. Statistics is the exploration and use of patterns and relationships in data. These two disciplines are related but different ways of thinking and of solving problems. Both equip students with effective means for investigating, interpreting, explaining, and making sense of the world in which they live.
Mathematics through Manaakitanga
Bluff kindergarten was involved in Ministry of Education-funded professional development. In this video kaiako and whānau from the kindergarten share their story about a mathematical resource they developed and the outcomes for their community engaging with this resource.
A guide to children’s early mathematics – Education Review Office
This mathematics resource developed by ERO focuses the “balance between spontaneous child-initiated play and planned mathematical learning.” It outlines strategies for teaching, as well as examples of what mathematics learning can look like across a range of early childhood services.
Children exploring art is a feature of early childhood education. In choosing sites for this page we have avoided collections of art activities and focused on sites that encourage a more open-ended approach. This is a very small beginning – we welcome your suggestions.
Discover is an online database of resources developed by the National Library to provide access to their collections of New Zealand art and music. It includes audio clips of New Zealand birds and early waiata, as well as images and other historic information.
This site from the National Gallery of Art (United States) has a collection of interesting tools for creating art online that references a diverse range of artistic techniques used in historic art works.
These interactives from the Queensland Art Gallery encourage children to explore aspects of modern art. The third link on the page Kusama'a World of Dots gives children an opportunity to explore Yayoi Kusama's fascination with dots. The Queensland Art Gallery is committed to developing innovative exhibitions and programs for children – well worth an explore of the whole site.
This wonderful collection of online art activities from the Tate Gallery in the United Kingdom also has a whole section of suggestions for "offline" creative explorations.
ICT is already part of children’s lives: New Zealand children interact with technology every day. A growing role of the education system is to support children to understand and make the most of the technologies they encounter to support their learning. Kaiako can help our children to use ICT in healthy and safe ways that enhance their learning.
The following links will take you to useful resources to support the meaningful integration of ICT in ECE settings:
Digital literacy builds upon traditional literacy to incorporate the skills needed to make sense of information so we can become confident and capable users and creators of web-based information and flexible and adaptable to new technologies. More importantly, we need to develop critical thinking skills in order to make sense of the information presented by these new technologies. Now, more than any period in time, information is freely available and often at the press of a button. Children and adults need to question this information to determine its relevance and accuracy.
Digital literacy skills include being able to:
As kaiako we have a role in helping children, and ourselves, to become digital citizens. We need to consider ways in which these skills can be incorporated into the curriculum. It is not enough to be exposed to digital technologies for digital literacy to be gained. Purposeful teaching needs to occur. We need to expand our understanding of what is safe practice and consider how this is reflected in our practice.
As kaiako we need to think about the purpose of technology. Talk about the purpose with children rather than the tool. For example, when suggesting painting as an activity to a child, we would say “Do you want to paint?” rather than, “Do you want to use a paintbrush?”. A computer, like a paintbrush, is a tool that can be used to achieve a purpose, such as writing a letter, talking to someone on Skype, or finding out information.
Intent also applies to centre communication. For example, if you have a centre blog or are thinking of starting one, determining the purpose of the blog is important.
Actively engaging with digital media
Part of becoming digitally literate is being an active user of digital media. This includes being able to explore, create, and produce. Children will often explore media together, finding new ways to create and collaborate. Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Book 20 of the Kei Tua o te Pae series, has an example of Nissa actively engaging with digital media as she uses a camera for documentation.
Choice of tool
Kaiako can continue to encourage thinking about the best tool for the job. Sometimes it will be pen and paper, play-dough or crayons, and other times it might be a computer. We can allow children the freedom to explore and experiment with different tools to build their knowledge and expertise in their use.
Time and space
It is important that time and space is allowed to explore media. Learners, whether adults or children, need time to experiment with and understand digital technologies to be able to fully engage with them.
Critical thinking involves engaging with information, questioning and evaluating it to determine its accuracy and authority. We need to understand how the information we have accessed fits with our own understanding of the topic, how relevant it is, and how accurate it is. As kaiako we can help build this level of reflection by asking questions at appropriate times. Think about how you critically reflect when using technology and digital media for your own professional learning.
Keeping safe is an integral responsibility of an education environment. Developing informed policies and procedures help protect children, family, and kaiako. We need to establish protocols that provide a safe digital environment for our children, while also teaching digital skills that protect young users.
This site is designed for you as you work with our tamariki. We will be adding more support resources and information. We would appreciate your feedback with any suggestions or ideas for further content.
Please email us at Early.Learning@education.govt.nz