Day-to-day use improving pupils’ fluency in Maori

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Hands on...Mataura SchoolÂ’s bilingual class pupils (from left) Ruby Tuuta (11), Anastasia-Marie McNally (8), Anahera Edmonds-Fowler (8), Allae Pennicott-Turipa (9), Freedom Elers-Lavery (10) and Kymarnii Hetet (10), prepare a hangi to celebrate Matariki earlier this year.

Maori Language Week is not only this week but every week for a Mataura School class.

Kaiako Laura Heenan has taught the bilingual class since last year and it has proved popular.

“I think it was based on community need,” whaea Laura said.

“There was nothing like it around here.”

Now in its third year, the class was capped at 20 pupils and was in high demand.

From 50% to 80% of instruction took place in Maori.

“Some days are total immersion.

“It depends on what we’re doing.”

Pupils could enter the class in year 3 and there was a range of ages and abilities.

“The older ones are able to help the younger ones. My seniors are a pretty on-to-it bunch.”

Fluency varied depending on whether children spoke Maori with their families.

Many of her pupils identified as Maori, but this did not mean the language was spoken at home, she said.

“You just .. tailor it to where they’re at; people are very eager to learn.”

Most pupils entered the class with some knowledge of Maori to build on.

“The other teachers are awesome at implementing it in their classrooms.”

The parents had also been “amazing” at supporting pupils.

Watching the pupils improve was the highlight of her role.

“I can see the progress they’ve made over the last two years.”

Maori language skills improved with day-to-day use and the class took a hands-on approach to other activities.

“The year 7s got to go on a pounamu-carving course.”

During Matariki, the class prepared a hangi for the school community.

Whaea Laura first started learning Maori in primary school and would have enjoyed being in a class like the one she now taught, she said.

“I just had a love for the language and for Maori performing arts.”