The just-launched Wai Ako is an online programme for primary schools to teach te reo Māori through song. Wai Ako translates to Learning Songs and is based around a series of music videos aligned to the te reo Māori curriculum, Te Aho Arataki Marau mō te Ako i Te Reo Māori.

Wai Ako has been created specifically for primary school teachers who have limited or basic knowledge of Māori language and pronunciation. Suitable for years 0-6, the programme features 12 sing-along videos of waiata that can be played in class with minimal planning required. The programme includes lesson ideas built around each song and ways to incorporate what is learned into daily classroom life.

The programme and its songs are written, composed and performed by Roimata Smail, a lawyer, musician and student of te reo Māori. Ms Smail’s husband is a primary school teacher who wanted an easy introduction to te reo for his year 3 students.  She created Wai Ako for him, but realised it might be of use to other teachers.

““I set about creating a programme that would give teachers the confidence to teach Te Reo while being enjoyable and educational for them and their students. The waiata are simple, repetitive and there is no planning time required – just play the videos and get started with your lesson. My vision for Wai Ako is that te reo Māori is a daily feature of every New Zealand school,” says Ms Smail.

Meanwhile in the north, innovative students won a Māori business challenge with their idea to create an app encouraging young people to speak Te Reo.

About 80 students from Kamo High School, Whangarei Girls’ High School, Whangarei Boys’ High School, and Te Kapehu Whetu took part in the Māori Business Challenge at Terenga Paraoa Marae last month.

As part of the challenge – organised by Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and the Young Enterprise Trust – groups of students had to identify a problem, create a business idea to solve that problem, they then had to pitch their creations to a panel of judges.

The winning team was Te Ao, a group of students from Te Kapehu Whetu and Whangarei Girls’ High School.

The process was challenging, said a member of Te Ao Shawnee Samuels.

“… we thought about our culture and how it’s dying. So we thought about what people or kids are playing these days, which are apps. So we thought of apps and te reo Māori,” Samuels said.

The group imagined creating an app that would allow users to create their own avatar – a Māori boy or girl  choose their iwi and what dialect they speak, and play mini games to improve Maori vocabulary and sentence structure.

“We discovered there weren’t as many Māori apps as we thought there would be. There were a couple, but not many,” said another group member, Tekarehu Diamond.

The group did market research to determine interest in te reo Māori, the cost to create the app, and how much to charge for the app so it was affordable but profitable.

Hone Tobin leads the Māori bilingual and full immersion unit (Te Whānau Moko) at Henderson Intermediate in West Auckland. Earlier this year he began teaching short Te Reo Māori lessons – five to 10 minutes, at weekly staff meetings to all of the kaiako (teachers).

Hone shares why and how he is supporting kaiako at his school to understand te reo and tikanga Māori.

Why is it important for all kaiako at your kura to be learning te reo?

I think it’s important that our kaiako learn how to at least read out loud Māori words properly. It’s a start and if kaiako wish to continue their reo Māori journey further, there are programs available to help them on their journey.

My focus was more on the surface stuff. Reading out Māori words properly, having the confidence to say Māori words in front of everyone and anyone, to pronounce Māori place names and people’s names, to get a good start in the language etc. and it’s working for us.

Teaching our kaiako will filter through to our ākonga (students) intentionally and unintentionally and we build on the cultural responsiveness we already have in our kura.

What has been the response of the kaiako to the lessons? 

When I had an interview with some of the teachers; most of them said that they want to learn Te Reo but didn’t know how to go about it.

Being fully immersed in a language, any language really, is quite a daunting, uncomfortable and demoralising affair. Especially if it is not your native tongue, so I wanted to create an opportunity for our kaiako to learn enough of te reo Māori to get by, but not too much that our kaiako feel uncomfortable.

Everyone has enjoyed how we deliver our te reo Māori Professional Learning and Development so far, and now everyone has become responsible for the revitalisation of te reo Māori within our school, whether it be proper pronunciation, tikanga-based activities, or anything Māori. I’ve noticed that it gives our Māori students and kaiako pride to see and hear our non-Māori teachers students using te reo Māori correctly and appropriately.  It shows that they care as much as we do about te reo Māori and being Māori.

To read Hone’s full account of the process and about his role, please see his blog post here:


  1. Tino pai to mahi – where can I access the Wai Ako programme. it sounds like a wonderful tool for teaching and learning alongside nga tamamriki.


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