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Te poipoi i te whakawhitiwhiti me ngā hoa

Fostering peer communication

Successful interactions with peers and siblings rely on children’s growing language competence in both listening and talking.

Kaiako who teach oral language intentionally plan, rather than leave to chance, opportunities for tamariki to interact with their peers, regardless of their age or language ability. For some tamariki peer-to-peer communication will be built on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Some tamariki may also use alternative or augmentative communication, such as a picture or symbol system.

One tamariki helps another with taking off shoes

Encouraging tuakana-teina relationships

In te ao Māori "tuakana-teina relationships are a fundamental cultural expectation and strength". 1

In te reo Māori the words tuakana and teina are used when referring to an older or younger sibling or relative. In this strategy the terms are given to the more experienced and the less experienced. The relationship is based on skills and experience rather than age or whakapapa. There are many ways in which kaiako can foster these relationships in oral language, where a more experienced (tuakana) helps a less experienced (teina) learn about communication and talk.

  • Encourage tuakana to help teina – “Rāhera, can you help Hemi take his shoes off?”
  • Plan leadership roles for tuakana. For example, saying karakia or welcoming new tamariki and their whānau.
  • Notice and draw attention to tamariki initiating interactions. For example, “What a great idea to ask Sanjay to help. Remember to tell him how to turn the hose off when he is finished.”
  • Make the most of times when you as kaiako are teina in an interaction. For example, “Alice, remember I can’t speak Korean. Can you tell me what Hara just said?"

Environmental design for peer-to-peer interactions

Opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions are more likely when:

  • spaces are calm and not too noisy – avoid background noise such as continuous radio or music as this encourages passive listening or tuning out
  • resources are accessible, open-ended, and of interest to tamariki – the resources connect to their cultural worlds and experience
  • spaces have inviting physical elements, such as low partitions or see-through barriers that also encourage small group interactions
  • small, quiet, safe spaces are available to retreat to
  • planning and care rituals favour flexible, informal, small groups over large group gatherings.

Interactions for cooperation and collaboration

Kaiako encourage cooperation and collaboration by:

  • rehearsing turn-taking and listening through group games, sound games, or storytelling
  • modelling listening to ideas and different perspectives, for example, "That’s an idea I hadn’t thought of George. Has anyone got a different idea?"
  • including te reo Māori, home languages, and NZSL.

Two tamariki talk while working out how to build something outside.

Problem solving and conflict resolution

When tamariki learn to skip or jump, they generally need lots of practice. The same goes for interactions involving problem solving and conflict resolution. These often require kaiako to scaffold (intentionally build) children’s social and communicative capabilities and then step back to encourage direct peer interaction.

Scaffolding may involve suggesting and modelling:

  • vocabulary to identify the problem and articulate feelings
  • ways to work out solutions verbally.

Celebrating successes

Celebrating successes in peer communication is mana enhancing by:

  • noticing children involved in positive peer interaction and giving specific feedback
  • affirming tamariki when they successfully resolve conflict, collaborate, awhi, or show manaaki.

Story of practice: NZSL to foster peer-to-peer interaction in small group play

image:Kaiako signing the story Dear Zoo while it is being read.

At a kindergarten in North Otago, kaiako model sign and verbal language to ensure that all tamariki know what the signs mean and can use them without adult support. This means hearing-impaired tamariki, and others who find communication difficult, are able to join in and contribute to interactions with their peers. Kaiako provide visual aids, such as pictures, photographs, and toys that tamariki use alongside sign language and talk. Their aim is to foster communication and positive interactions by whatever means.

Kaiako chose signs with peer-to-peer interaction in mind. For example, “Hello, I play?”, “Hello, come and play”, “My turn, your turn”, and “Thank you for playing my friend”. If tamariki get stuck, kaiako will model words and phrases to keep the conversation going, always using NZSL and oral language simultaneously. Kaiako have found that their strategy of NZSL for all children has also worked well for some tamariki with autism spectrum disorder who tend to find peer-to-peer interactions easier this way.

Further strategies

For further strategies see: