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“Boys as Successful Writers”

Level: Year 7 Maori Boys at Paeroa Central School

Context: Written and oral language - writing and presenting their stories as sound bites at the NGA IWI FM radio station in Paeroa.

Intentions and links to classroom practice:

The literacy intervention programme (through the MOE) is designed for small groups of at risk, targeted students to assist in raising the standard of writing. Where 94% of our students are Maori, there was an identified need to make writing meaningful and relevant in the lives of Maori boys in particular. The students needed to see positive rewards and the implications of achieving high standards in literacy for themselves and as positive future contributors to their culture. Community elders, whanau, local radio station technicians, local museum personnel and artifacts were used within the context to influence and encourage communication skills.


After a two-day introductory course at the Waipuna Conference Centre the teacher and principal planned an intervention programme for x4 Year 7 Maori students based around local Maori legends.

Motivation: Myths and Legends graphic stories – "In The Beginning" written by Peter Gossage and illustrated by Gavin Bishop and "Weaving Earth and Sky" written and illustrated by Robert Sullivan. 

  • Principal invited Hariatta and Reg, (grandparents of another student) to visit and speak to the boys. Hariatta brought an old painting of her ancestor Teraia who was a paramount chief and a cannibal who didn’t sign the Treaty of Waitangi. He had a large waka that went up and down the Ohinemuri River to Waiomu on the Thames Coast. The taurapa from his waka, was given to the first pakeha family, the Thorpes, and three generations later the Thorpes gave it to the Paeroa Museum. Te Papa in Wellington had requested it but Hariatta had refused as a leader and representative of the local iwi.
  • Teacher and students visited the Paeroa Museum and viewed, touched and had explained to them, the history of the taurapa. Lots of questions, answers and discussion ensued. 
  • Each student wrote his own interpretation of the creation story. Then the students chose the best version - Coel's.
  • Students and teacher went to Nga Iwi FM, the local radio station to record Coel’s version. He had included a lot of direct speech so there were speaking parts for all 4 of them. The boys contributed with authentic sound effects too.
  • Further writing focused on descriptions of Teraia, narrative writings about the waka, their own experiences of travelling in them and personal experiences of the Ohinemuri River. Persuasive writing allowed the boys to present their own opinions on who should look after this fragile piece of carving - Pakeha, Maori, Paeroa Museum, Te Papa. Whose taonga is it?
  • Back at the local radio station, each child has recorded their self-chosen, best story from their written drafts. The radio station has played these stories and interviewed the boys on air about themselves as authors.

Impact on students:

  • What motivated the boys? Working in a small group where their mana was increased by their own realization that they could write and hearing their stories with the audio enhancements. Going to the radio station and being coached by the staff there. Using new and different technologies. Their stories being broadcast over the town’s local radio and the students receiving copies of their recordings.
  • Daily reflective journals on their achievements and where to next (with teacher input as appropriate). Students challenging and reflecting on their creative ideas, ability and mechanics and techniques of good writing. 
  • Raised levels in Star and asTTle test results
  • Self-esteem has increased with the realization that they can write and their mana has been raised amongst their peers and community.
  • Further writing has been the boys' own choice of theme. Each day's writing sparking the next. 

Student voice:

Student 1 said, “I moved myself from my class writing group because they weren’t taking writing seriously.”

Student 2 said, “It was great to have the local community hear our work over the radio and give us feedback on how well we did and that they liked the stories we had written about our local area.”

Where to next? They are authors now and underway independently. Now they are promoting and producing good writing within their own class. Teachers are continuing to provide opportunities for these and other students to extend the writers' direct experiences and audience for their writing. The creation of blogs to provide a global audience is an exciting next step.