Kei Tua o te Pae

Kei Tua o te Pae/Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars is a best-practice guide that will help teachers continue to improve the quality of their teaching.

The exemplars are a series of books that will help teachers to understand and strengthen children's learning. It also shows how children, parents and whānau can contribute to this assessment and ongoing learning.

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A lens based on Te Whāriki – He tirohanga mai i Te Whāriki

Learning outcomes in Te Whāriki that are associated with symbol systems and technologies in the arts are distributed throughout the strands. The Wellbeing/Mana Atua strand includes the outcome that children develop:

  • an ability to identify their own emotional responses and those of others.8 This includes the representation and expression of emotion that is central to the arts.

The Belonging/Mana Whenua strand includes the outcomes that children develop:

  • an understanding of the links between the early childhood education setting and the known and familiar wider world through people, images, objects, languages, sounds …;
  • interest and pleasure in discovering an unfamiliar wider world where the people, images, objects, languages, sounds, smells, and tastes are different from those at home.9

The Contribution/Mana Tangata strand includes the outcome that children develop:

  • abilities and interests in a range of domains – spatial, visual, linguistic, physical, musical, logical or mathematical, personal, and social – which build on the children’s strengths.10

The Communication/Mana Reo strand includes two major goals:

  • Children experience an environment where they experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures.
  • Children experience an environment where they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.11

These two goals are annotated in Te Whāriki to suggest eighteen indicative learning outcomes, including an appreciation of te reo Māori as a living and relevant language. This strand also indicates that there should be “a commitment to the recognition of Māori language – stories, symbols, arts, and crafts – in the programme”.12

The Exploration/Mana Aotūroa strand includes the learning outcomes that children develop:

  • increasing confidence and a repertoire for symbolic, pretend, or dramatic play;13
  • strategies for actively exploring and making sense of the world by using their bodies, including active exploration with all the senses, and the use of tools, materials, and equipment to extend skills;
  • confidence with moving in space, moving to rhythm, and playing near and with others;14
  • the ability to represent their discoveries, using creative and expressive media and the technology associated with them.15

The Te Whāriki perspective is that children will participate in the symbol systems and technologies of the arts: for personal, social, and cultural purposes; for becoming confident and competent in culturally valued enterprises; for expressing emotion; for making connections across place and time; for contributing their own abilities and viewpoints to the community; for communicating with others (including appreciating the ways in which the available cultures communicate and represent); and for making sense of their worlds.

At the same time, the possible pathways for learning that derive from the four principles in Te Whāriki (see Books 10 and 16) can provide a guide for identifying dimensions of strength as children become more interested in and involved with the arts. Learning episodes associated with arts practices become:

  • more strongly integrated as recognised patterns, regular events, and social practices over time. The exemplar “Looking closely” results from a regular opportunity in this early childhood setting, where a vase of flowers or an interesting object placed on a table is frequently a part of the environment. Children such as Ethan, who choose to draw or to paint at this table, are encouraged “to look closely at flowers and other objects before painting and drawing them”. Ethan later looked closely at the centre’s coat hooks, “recognised”, and drew them.
  • distributed or stretched across a widening network of helpful people and enabling resources. In the exemplar “From costume designer to movie director”, Conor participates in the arts through a wide range of practices (drawing a plan, sewing capes, and making masks) as he takes on the roles of script writer, costume designer, movie director, and actor. (Through these roles, Conor also makes connections to the professional communities of film and the theatre.)
  • connected to a greater diversity of purposes, places, and social communities. In the exemplar “Vanessa’s dog, Trent”, Vanessa’s paintings of her dog develop over several months as she adds new elements from the environment to her images. Later she adds details to her paintings to indicate different breeds of dog. The teachers invite a police dog handler and his dog to visit, introducing a community in which dogs have special purposes. Vanessa “sat transfixed, right up the front”. She then paints the police dog.
  • more mindful (as children begin to take responsibility and make up their own minds). In the exemplar “Emily’s song”, Emily composes a song and sings it to the class at mat time. The song is a composite of new material about princesses interwoven with snippets of kindergarten songs.