Dr Margie Hohepa: providing new aids to learning

"We are taking a strengths-based approach. So that teachers can go from where they are now to where they want to be."

AS EVERY CHILD knows, learning to read means first cracking a code. The next challenge is reading to learn – when you move from just identifying the words to extracting deeper comprehension.

It's a crucial step. And while the teaching behind it has been well researched for mainstream schools, Dr Margie Hohepa, a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, and a team supported by a Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, are helping to ensure Kura Kaupapa Māori schools are supported in taking their students through it as well.

Part of the challenge, Margie, who is from Te Mahurehure and Ngāpuhi, explains, "is in the languages themselves." As English is unpredictable a student has to "catch" its meaning in distinguishing, say, "threw" from "through". In Māori, a child can 'read' further with more reliably predictable sounds, so ensuring early comprehension is even more important.

Margie's project, Whakawhānuitia te Hinengaro, "Broadening the mind", undertaken with Noema Williams and Julia Barber, provides teaching comprehension strategies for years four to eight students.

Margie was among the first parents of Te Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori and says that Māori medium schooling, which caters for around 14,000 students, is coming of age as Kura Kaupapa grows from an early focus on saving the language to working with more recently available higher-level texts.
"We are taking a strengths-based approach," Margie says. "So that teachers can go from where they are now to where they want to be."