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This glossary includes English terms used in Te Whāriki and the Māori and Pacific glossary from Te Whāriki.

The definitions are tuned to the specific context of Te Whāriki.

Select a letter to jump to that section of the glossary.



Agency A learner’s sense of control in a given situation. A learner with agency feels capable of influencing their own learning and acting to accomplish their goals.

‘Aiga (Samoan) whānau or extended family

Āhuatanga ako Circumstances of learning

Aroha Love, compassion, empathy, affection

Aspiration Hopes and goals for learning and the future held by whānau, learners, and kaiako.

Ā tōna wā In their own time.

Atua Māori Māori gods

Autonomy The freedom to make choices and have responsibility. Autonomous teaching and learning approaches are those that value children's rights, aspirations, interests, and ambitions.

Awa River


Bicultural In the context of Te Whāriki, bicultural particularly refers to Māori and non-Māori, as enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document.


Complex syntax The arrangement of words and phrases to form increasingly complex sentences.

Critical theories Theories that critique and challenge dominant world views with the aim of creating a fairer, more inclusive, and equitable society.

Culturally located The cultural contexts and communities learners and kaiako participate in that influence their understanding about learning and identity.

Culturally responsive Teaching responses that enable learners to connect new learning to their own prior knowledge, identity, and cultural experiences.

Curriculum design The process of deciding and implementing learning, assessment, and evaluation priorities, using Te Whāriki as a foundation.


Digitally mediated contexts Experiences and activities that involve the use of various digital technologies.

Diversity The range of unique characteristics within any group, including their strengths, skills, gender, ethnicity, languages, cultural backgrounds, and abilities or disabilities.

Domain knowledge Knowledge associated with a particular subject or topic. For example, science, mathematics, or art.


Equity The principle of ensuring that each learner has what they need to progress and succeed. This often means providing specialised, additional resources for learners or groups of learners that otherwise would be disadvantaged or excluded.


Funds of knowledge The knowledge and expertise that learners and their whānau bring to the early learning service because of their roles within their whānau, communities, and culture.


Hapū Tribe or subtribe

Harakeke Flax

Hinengaro Intellectual, the mind

Hūmārie Humility, gentleness, peacefulness


Intentional teaching To teach with thoughtfulness and purpose, with the goal of facilitating meaningful learning and development. Intentional teachers offer a combination of teacher-initiated, child-initiated, and peer-mediated learning experiences.

Internal evaluation The process in which kaiako systematically find out what is working or not working in their service in order to determine what improvements need to be made.

Inquiry (kaiako) An ongoing, cyclical process that underpins effective learning as kaiako inquire into the impact of their teaching on their learner's learning.

Iwi Extended kinship group, tribe, people


Kaiako Teacher(s), educators, and other adults, including parents in parent-led services who have a responsibility for the care and education of children in an early childhood education setting. In settings where parents have collective responsibility for the curriculum, it is understood that kaiako will also be parents and whānau. This term conveys the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning, which is valued in Te Whāriki.

Kaitiaki Trustee, custodian, guardian, protector

Kaitiakitanga Guardianship, environmental stewardship

Karakia Prayer, ritual chant, incantation

Kaupapa Māori A Māori approach that assumes the normalcy of being Māori – language, customs, knowledge, principles, ideology, agenda.

Key competencies Five capabilities for living and lifelong learning outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum, the curriculum for teaching and learning in English-medium schools. The capabilities are: thinking, using language symbols and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing.

Kōhanga reo Māori-medium early childhood service with a focus on retaining and revitalising language and culture.

Kōrero Conversation, chat, story, news, discussion

Kura School


Learner identity How a child views themselves as a learner. This evolves over time and can have a positive or negative effect on learning.

Learning dispositions Characteristics and attitudes that influence a learner's responses in learning situations. Dispositions can either facilitate or hinder learning.

Learning trajectories The progression of children's learning over time, which, while not being perfectly linear, follows a path towards greater complexity over time.

Local curriculum The local weaving of Te Whāriki including the principles, strands, goals, and learning outcomes that reflect the aspirations, priorities, and valued learning of an early learning service's people and community.


Mana The power of being, authority, prestige, spiritual power, authority, status, and control

Mana atuatanga Uniqueness and spiritual connectedness

Manaaki Show respect, generosity, hospitality, and care for others.

Manaakitanga The process of showing respect, generosity, hospitality, care for others.

Marae The complex of buildings and land associated with a pan-tribal group, whānau, hapū, or iwi.

Maunga Mountain

Mauri Vital essence, life principle, essential quality

Metacognition A learner's understanding of, and ability to manage, how they think and learn.

Moana Sea

Mokopuna Grandchild; in the context of Te Whariki, mokopuna expresses intergenerational connectedness


Noa Ordinary, unrestricted

Numeric symbols The various shapes and words used to represent numbers.


Papatūānuku Earth, Earth mother

Pedagogy The means by which kaiako influence, support, and provide guidance for children’s learning and development. Pedagogy is supported by theoretical knowledge, understanding of Te Whāriki, values, and practice.

Pēpi Baby

Physical literacy The skills, knowledge, and attitudes that give learners confidence and motivation to be active.

Play-based curriculum An approach to curriculum design where learners are encouraged to explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways.

Proactive strategies Teaching strategies that anticipate possibilities, outcomes, and issues rather than waiting for something to happen and then reacting. Intentional kaiako will use proactive strategies.

Provocations The intentional actions and interactions kaiako use to stimulate learner interest, ideas, and participation.


Raranga Weaving

Reflection The use of evidence, critical inquiry, and problem-solving to inform changes to practice aimed at improvement.

Relational practices/pedagogy Teaching strategies that prioritise a sense of security and emotional wellbeing.

Rangatiratanga chiefly authority, right to exercise authority, sovereignty, autonomy, leadership, control, independence


Self regulation The ability to have appropriate control over emotional responses and showing resilience in response to disappointment or conflict.

Sociocultural The influence of relationships and context on learning and development.

Split-screen pedagogy Teaching and learning that gives attention to both the content and the processes.


Tangata whenua People of the land (literal), descendants of the first people to settle Aotearoa New Zealand, indigenous people (used of Māori), person or people with customary authority over an area that may include land and sea. This authority is held by first settlement of an area or by succeeding to an area through active occupation and negotiation with the first peoples.

Taonga A highly prized object or possession; includes socially or culturally valued resources, both tangible and intangible.

Tapu Sacred, set apart, prohibited.

Te Aho Matua Te Aho Matua o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori, the document that sets out the principles by which kura kaupapa Māori operate.

Te ao The world.

Te ao Māori The Māori world.

Te ao mārama The world of life and light, this world, Earth.

Te ira tangata The human essence.

Te Kore The realm of potential being, The Void.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa The curriculum for Māori-medium schools. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa The Pacific Ocean.

Te pō The realm of darkness, the underworld, night.

Te reo (Māori) The Māori language.

Te taha wairua The spiritual dimension.

Te tino uaratanga Essential values.

Tikanga Māori Māori ways of doing, including practices, customs, and rituals.

Tinana Physical, body.

Tīpuna/Tūpuna Ancestors, forebears.

Tuakana–teina Senior and junior siblings, used where an older or more knowledgeable child supports the learning of a younger or less knowledgeable child.

Tū tangata Stand firm.


Waiata Songs, chants.

Wairua Spirit.

Wānanga Educational seminar, institution or forum; (act of wānanga) shared deliberations, discussions, shared learning.

Whakahī Pride.

Whakapapa Lineage, genealogy, ancestry.

Whakatoi Daring.

Whānau Extended family, multigenerational group of relatives or group of people who work together on and for a common cause.

Whanaungatanga Kinship, sense of whānau connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together that provides people with a sense of belonging.

Whatumanawa Heart, mind, seat of emotions.

Whenua Land.

Working theories Ideas and understandings that guide all human interactions. Children's working theories evolve and become more sophisticated through learning processes.