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Pito mata – nurturing giftedness

Kaiako strategies to support intentional teaching

Mā te ahurei ā te tamaiti e ārahi I ā tātou mahi

Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work

It is important that the uniqueness of the child guides your māhi – the way you teach/work with each child needs to be in harmony with that child – and all that they are, all that they bring, all the aspirations others have for them. This requires thoughtful, responsive, and often pre-planned ways of working – what we call intentional teaching strategies.

Intentional teaching

  • Involves constantly thinking about what you are doing as a teacher and how it will support or enable children’s development and learning.
  • Requires an awareness of and being deliberate, thoughtful, and purposeful in your teaching behaviours.

Intentional teaching is a dynamic process of decision-making, involving both planned experiences and spontaneous responses to children’s emerging inquiries. Teaching actions and interactions must be constantly adjusted to adapt to children’s responses and current level of competence in ways that promote teachers’ aspirations and learning intentions.

Intentional teachers need:

  • a range of pedagogical strategies, an understanding of how children learn, and knowledge of children’s individual learning capabilities and processes
  • to recognise children’s intentions and be in tune with their interests so that curriculum is co-constructed rather than teacher determined
  • to understand co-construction involves more than just learning alongside and from children – it requires teachers to support children with deep-level conversations to critique understandings and develop a range of skills for inquiry and critical and creative thinking.

Through careful observation and a listening ear, kaiako can become attuned to the small expressions of gifted characteristics that are present within the child’s behaviours. Kaiako need to listen to children’s thinking, not just what they think but also how they think.

Kaiako talking to a child in the playground.


We refer to the principle of empowerment here because this is at the heart of intentional teaching. Intentional teaching should enhance the mana of the child and support them to enhance the mana of others.

Reflect on the underlying beliefs and biases that influence your decisions around what teaching strategies to use – this can support or limit a child’s ability to explore their gifts. This idea refers to the concept of agency. Agency refers to the ability to express one’s individual power – for example to have control over situations. For children agency involves children directing their own learning, making choices, setting goals for themselves and their learning, and through following through with their plans.

“Every child will experience an empowering curriculum that recognises and enhances their mana and supports them to enhance the mana of others.” (Te Whāriki, p. 18)

Localised curriculum

A localised curriculum that is right for the child:

  • provides learning that is culturally responsive and meaningful
  • ensures there are opportunities for tamariki to learn at their own pace
  • is responsive to interests and a readiness to learn.

Intentional teaching strategies are how the local curriculum is enacted and the ideas above realised.

They need to respond to the unique nature of each child and be specific to their learning interests.

There are many specific teaching strategies in both:

When whānau and kaiako are collaboratively intentional in the support they give tamariki, they become highly effective in responding to the unique nature of the child.