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Whakawhanaungatanga - Getting to know our learners

It’s the start of the year, which usually means a whole new class of students to teach. Who are they exactly? Where do they come from each morning? What spins their wheels and makes them individual? What preferences do they have for learning? Who is their family/whānau/fanau and what do we know about their whakapapa? 

Teachers do well to observe students’

  • needs and interests
  • challenges obstacles and distractions
  • peers and relationships
  • parents


Teachers make powerful connections between home and school, with opportunities for children to; draw/paint family portraits, write about themselves and others, or bring along items/stories/photos from home to share. All the while, new data is being gathered to provide an overview of learner skills, knowledge and needs.

It may take a little longer to get to each child/young person's

  • experiences and realities
  • goals and aspirations
  • learning preferences (larger font, group work, standing desks)
  • history and culture

Professor Professor Brian Edmiston talks about the power of polyphonic (between many) learning conversations as well as, ‘connecting to storytelling as a genuine tool for understanding.’ Through quality conversations, teachers can and do discover what influences, motivates and inspires students from all different perspectives and world views.

One way to find out more about our learners, is to invite tamariki to create and share their mihi or pepeha (Māori, Pacific or other).


What do you do in your classroom to get to know your learners and future leaders? Can technology help?

Maybe we could compile a shared resource, on ways we get to know our learners? We’d love for you to share one tip/trick/image/video clip.



Want to know more?



Image modified using Creative Commons.


  • Roimata Baker (View all users posts) 01 Apr 2014 9:09pm ()

    Pēpeha is a daily if not weekly practice at our kura.  I have used the Padlet app to encourage our students to add to their pēpeha.  This tool allows them to create wonderful visual presentations using video and document links, adjectives, nouns etc all of which allow us to show the sometimes hidden aspects of ourselves. These words are often arranged into shapes such as hearts or patterns.  Trailers of favourite films, books and songs are very popular as well.  Much more interactive than a wordle, they love making and sharing them with each other.

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