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Mana Reo

Strand 4 Communication

Content from pages 41–45 of Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum


The languages and symbols of children’s own and other cultures are promoted and protected.

Ko te whakatipuranga tēnei o te reo. Mā roto i tēnei ka tipu te mana tangata me te oranga nui.


Languages are the means by which we think and communicate with each other. We typically think of languages as consisting of words, sentences and stories, but there are also languages of sign, mathematics, visual imagery, art, dance, drama, rhythm, music and movement.

One of the major cultural tasks for children in the early years is to develop competence in and understanding of language. At this time they are learning to communicate their experience in different ways; they are also learning to interpret the ways in which others communicate and represent experience. They are developing increasing competence in symbolic, abstract, imaginative and creative thinking.

Languages develop in meaningful contexts where children have a need to know and a reason to communicate. Kaiako should encourage the use of both the verbal and non-verbal communication approaches used by each child.

It is important that te reo Māori is valued and used in all ECE settings. This may involve, for example, using correct pronunciation, retelling stories, and using Māori symbols, arts and crafts.

The use of traditional storytelling, arts and legends and of humour, proverbs and metaphoric language can support children from some communities to navigate between familiar and less familiar contexts.

Communication | Children are strong and effective communicators

Mana reo | Through te reo Māori children’s identity, belonging and wellbeing are enhanced

Content sections


Learning outcomes

Evidence of learning development

Children experience an environment where: Over time and with guidance and encouragement, children become increasingly capable of: These outcomes will be observed as learning in progress when, for example, children demonstrate:
They develop non-verbal communication skills for a range of purposes Using gesture and movement to express themselves | he kōrero ā-tinana
  • Ability to express their feelings and emotions in a range of appropriate non-verbal ways and to respond to the non- verbal requests of others.
  • Use of responsive and reciprocal skills such as turn taking.
They develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes Understanding oral language3 and using it for a range of purposes | he kōrero ā-waha
  • Use of a large vocabulary and complex syntax, awareness of sounds in words, rhythm and rhyme, recognition of some letters and print concepts and interest in storytelling in one or more languages and in reading and writing.
  • Confidence that their first language is valued and increasing ability in the use of at least one language.
  • An appreciation of te reo Māori as a living and relevant language.
They experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures Enjoying hearing4 stories and retelling and creating them | he kōrero paki
  • An understanding that symbols can be ‘read’ by others and that thoughts, experiences and ideas can be represented as words, pictures, numbers, sounds, shapes, models and photographs in print and digital formats.
Recognising print symbols and concepts and using them with enjoyment, meaning and purpose | he kōrero tuhituhi
  • Familiarity with and enjoyment of stories and literature valued by the cultures represented in the community.
  • Familiarity with numbers and their uses by exploring and observing their use in activities that have meaning and purpose.
  • Ability to explore, enjoy and describe patterns and relationships related to quantity, number, measurement, shape and space.
Recognising mathematical symbols and concepts and using them with enjoyment, meaning and purpose | he kōrero pāngarau
  • Recognition that numbers can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform and excite.
  • Use of language to express feelings and attitudes, negotiate, create and retell stories, communicate information and solve problems.
They discover different ways to be creative and expressive Expressing their feelings and ideas using a wide range of materials and modes | he kōrero auaha
  • Skill and confidence with art and craft processes, such as cutting, drawing, collage, painting, printmaking, weaving, stitching, carving and constructing.
  • Skills with multiple media and tools, such as crayons, pencils, paint, blocks, wood, musical instruments, movement and educational technologies that can be used for expressing moods or feelings or representing information.
  • Ability to be creative and expressive through a variety of activities, such as visual arts activities, imaginative play, carpentry, storytelling, drama and making music.
  • Understanding and familiarity with music, song, dance, drama and art from a range of cultures and recognition that these media can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform and excite and that they may suit particular cultural occasions.


3. In this document, ‘oral language’ encompasses any method of communication the child uses as a first language; this includes New Zealand Sign Language and, for children who are non-verbal, alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).

4. For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, ‘hearing’ includes watching.

Examples of practices that promote these learning outcomes

Language and culture are inseparable. Kaiako enhance the sense of identity, belonging and wellbeing of mokopuna by actively promoting te reo and tikanga Māori.

Kaiako pronounce Māori words correctly and promote te reo Māori using a range of strategies based on relevant language learning theories.


Infant standing up against a table.

  • Kaiako use words and gestures to invite infants to engage. Through careful observation, kaiako recognise gestures of assent and dissent when engaging in caregiving practices.
  • Kaiako read books, tell stories and talk with infants. Many opportunities are provided to have fun with sounds and language. Language is used to soothe and comfort. The programme includes action games, finger plays and songs that encourage oral language.
  • The environment provided is print- and language-rich. Kaiako draw attention to numbers, shapes and patterns and to concepts such as ‘more’ and ‘less’, ‘big’ and ‘small’ in authentic and meaningful ways.
  • A language-rich environment includes languages other than the infant’s first language.
  • Infants are provided with resources, including natural resources, in a variety of colours, textures, shapes and sizes to experiment with and explore freely.
  • Infants experience patterns and sounds in the natural environment, such as leaves in sunlight or the sound of rain.


Toddler standing by play equipment

  • Toddlers are encouraged and supported to talk to each other.
  • Toddlers are encouraged and supported to communicate feelings and ideas through a variety of media.
  • Kaiako extend toddlers’ oral language by encouraging the use of their first language, modelling new words and phrases, playing word games, and sharing a widening range of books, songs, poems and chants.
  • Kaiako encourage mark making and drawing and an awareness of symbols.
  • Toddlers are supported to learn in their first language, which could include New Zealand Sign Language. They are also provided with opportunities to experience other languages and cultures.
  • Toddlers have many opportunities to play games and use a range of sensory resources that feature different numbers, symbols, shapes, sizes and colours.
  • Toddlers are able to experiment with real tools and materials and use natural materials in their outdoor and indoor play.
  • Toddlers have opportunities for music and movement, including participation in dance and learning skills with musical instruments.
  • Toddlers have access to a variety of props that will stimulate imaginative play and creativity.

Young children

Young child leaning towards camera with a big smile

  • Opportunities are provided for children to have sustained conversations, have fun with words, use complex language and increase their vocabulary. Children hear and practise storytelling.
  • Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are supported to learn and practise New Zealand Sign Language in meaningful, everyday contexts.
  • Children have opportunities to learn numeric symbols and to use mathematical concepts and processes, such as volume, quantity, measurement, classifying, matching and pattern recognition.
  • Kaiako encourage recognition of letters and writing, including the child’s own name.
  • Kaiako foster the development of concepts about print, such as ‘print conveys a message’ and ‘spoken words can be written down’.
  • Children learn that text and illustrations carry a story, books can provide information and stories allow them to enter new worlds.
  • Children use their whole bodies in dance, gesture and pretend play.
  • Te reo Māori is included as a natural part of the programme.
  • Other languages of the community of children, whānau and kaiako are integrated into the programme.
  • Children experience a wide variety of materials and technologies, such as clay, fabric, fibre, paper, pencils, props for imaginative play, brushes, rollers, stamp pads, scissors, calculators, digital devices, musical instruments, sticky tape, glue and carpentry tools.
  • There are regular opportunities for group activities in art, music and movement.
  • Children are able to exercise their creativity not only in art, craft and music but also in relation to environments, rules and ideas, and humour and jokes.

Considerations for leadership, organisation and practice

The environment is rich in signs, symbols, words, numbers, song, dance, drama and art that give expression to and extend children’s understandings of their own and other languages and cultures.

Kaiako have informed and realistic expectations of children’s language acquisition and development and seek timely advice if language delays are identified.

Children’s hearing is monitored and checked regularly, and information is made readily available to parents and whānau about ear infection, treatment and hearing aids.

Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are supported to develop language and communication skills in their first language. This may be spoken language and/or New Zealand Sign Language.

Children have opportunities to interact with a range of adults and with other children (of the same and different ages).

There are plenty of opportunities for one-to-one communication between kaiako and children.

Kaiako encourage children to initiate conversation, listen to them attentively to understand their perspectives, and help to develop and extend their language skills and vocabulary.

The use of te reo Māori in the programme is encouraged. Kaiako are supported to learn te reo Māori and to understand what it means for a child to be growing up bilingual.

Kaiako respect and encourage the use of children’s home languages.

The setting offers a range of mathematics and literacy resources to support the development of mathematical and reading and writing concepts.

The setting offers a range of arts-related resources that support children to discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.

Kaiako support children to develop an understanding of security and safety when communicating in a digital world.

Questions for reflection

Kaiako are invited to use these or their own questions to support reflective practice.

  • In what ways and to what extent do kaiako identify and respond to children’s non-verbal communications?
  • What key approaches to language learning are used to support children’s communication abilities and emerging sense of identity?
  • How might kaiako enable all children to have regular opportunities for sustained conversations with kaiako?
  • In what ways do kaiako assist children to acquire and use new vocabulary and to grow their awareness of sounds and sentence structures?
  • How are children who are learning in more than one language supported to learn languages in daily practices?
  • What methods or technologies are used for tracking progress in language acquisition, particularly for children learning English as an additional language?
  • In what ways is te reo Māori used and encouraged in this setting as a living language?
  • How do kaiako recognise and respond to cultural, linguistic and developmental diversity in language acquisition, including when working with children using alternative methods of communication?
  • What types of literacy and numeracy opportunities are offered to children that will support knowledge of symbols and learning of concepts about print and mathematics?
  • How often, and in what ways, are children offered opportunities to listen to, create or retell stories?
  • What types of resources for the arts are regularly available to children and how often is creative and artistic expression encouraged in this setting?
  • What regular opportunities do children have to experience dance, drama, music and other forms of creative expression from their own and other cultures?

Curriculum support content and resources