Wednesday, 4 November 2015

My Reflection for the Week 2-6 Nov 2015

The question I would like to investigate this week is:
What are the benefits to myself and the children in learning Māori waiata?
The Practising Teacher Criteria says:
Key Link:
10. work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand
practise and develop the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context.
Other Links:
2 ii. acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages and cultures of all ākonga.
3. demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand
 demonstrate respect for the heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi.
9 i. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of social and cultural influences on learning, by working effectively in the bicultural and multicultural contexts of learning in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Recently, as I was teaching the tamariki a basic group clapping game, I shared with them that Māori children through the ages have sat together and played clap games too. This inspired me with the idea that Māori waiata can be used as a springboard for teaching them about Māori heritage, culture, and values. It doesn’t need to be complicated or in depth – just a sentence or two acknowledging Māori culture, used as an introduction to a song, can be enough.
One example could be the waiata Tohora nui, which is about a big whale. This could link to a discussion about the sea and sea animals and the special connection that Māori have with these.
These small nuggets of information help to gradually enlarge children’s world view, as they simultaneously embrace their perspectives and validate the perspectives of other cultures (this links to a Te Whariki Contribution Goal 3 learning outcome which says “Children develop an increasing ability to take another’s point of view and to empathise with others.”) Also, when you explain to children what the Māori waiata mean, it can help children to gain an understanding of te reo Māori as a living and relevant language (Te Whariki communication goal 2 learning outcome).

-       Ako Aotearoa recognises the importance of Māori waiata and the role it plays in language acquisition in Te Reo Māori. The benefit is multi-faceted – not only is it easier to recall new words when you have previously used them in a waiata (e.g. by remembering the Māori colours through sing the song “Ma is white”), but the sentence structures within Māori waiata reflect correct Māori sentence structure and syntax, making it simpler to learn how to create simple sentences in the Māori language when speaking.

-       Finally, I believe that when Te Whariki says in a learning outcome in Communication goal 4 that “children develop an increasing familiarity with a selection of songs that are valued by the cultures in the community”, its meaning goes deeper than children just “knowing the words”. It is one thing to be able to sing a song by rote from memory, and another thing entirely to understand a song and connect to the heart and emotions in it.

This is why I think that little introductory discussions about Māori waiata prior to singing them with the children are so important. It opens the door for us to discuss things like “the person in this song is feeling very happy, or strong, or they are worshipping God”. This has the added benefit of developing children’s emotional intelligence, and they might even find that sometimes they want to express their feelings through songs and music too.

As I incorporate these Māori waiata into my teaching, and talk about waiata and their meanings with the children, I am developing the Tataiako competency of Manaakitanga, in that I am demonstrating respect for Māori culture through the “delivery process” of presenting waiata respectfully to the children. Also, I am developing the Tataiako competency of Tangata whenuatanga, as I present cultural knowledge to the children alongside the waiata.

With all this in mind, over the Christmas holidays I am going to learn 2 new simple Māori waiata and the meanings and cultural links that those waiata have for Māori, so I can return next year and teach them to the children. Also, I will seek to educate others on the many benefits of learning Māori waiata, for both kaiako and tamariki.