ECE Resources

Making connections between Te Whāriki and the NZC to support transitions

By Dr Vicki Hargraves

Sally Peters and Hazel Woodhouse follow up on their previous webinar (watch it here) focused on children’s transition to school. In this webinar, Sally and Hazel encourage teachers to make connections between the two curriculum documents, and to ‘weave’ new learning to extend the early childhood whāriki.  

Key ideas from Te Whāriki are relevant into the school years and throughout lifeTe Whāriki is the foundation from which all ongoing learning continues. While Te Whāriki (1996) made links across the curriculum to school learning outcomes, it wasn’t until the development of the New Zealand Curriculum in 2007 that a clear link was made between the strands and principles of Te Whāriki and the key competencies of the NZC. Te Whāriki 2017 makes these connections, and the concept of mana as central to children’s learning, even clearer, and invites all teachers to weave on from the whāriki of learning began in early childhood.  

The bridge between Te Whāriki and the school curriculum depends on the connections teachers make. The Pathways section of Te Whāriki 2017 shows some of the ways in which the key competencies, values and learning areas of the school curriculum can be woven into the learning outcomes of Te Whāriki. These tables are not comprehensive, but they highlight a place for teachers to begin their own explorations.  

Successful and seamless transition depends on teachers picking up the threads of children’s previous early childhood learning. This means that new entrant teachers need to find out about each child’s strengths and interests before they start school. This will enable them to set up an environment that is responsive to the child’s needs, helps them feel welcome and comfortable, and motivates them to connect and play.  

Transition portfolios can support new entrant teachers to access children’s previous learning. The use of transition portfolios is vital to help new entrant teachers connect with and motivate children. Rather than giving new entrant teachers the entire portfolio of a child, prepare a condensed version that will help them pick up the threads of prior learning and start to weave them into the new setting. These might be online or e-portfolios that are shared with school, and children might bring a hard copy of their transition portfolio with them on the first day of school. It is worthwhile to co-construct the transition portfolio with the child and their whānau. Early childhood teachers might ask the child what they would like their new teacher to know about them, and invite parents to decide what information needs to be passed on. A transition report or letter can also be useful.  

Early childhood teachers can be proactive about developing links with new entrant classrooms. Teachers can get in touch by email and ask to meet, or arrange for the new entrant teacher to visit the early childhood setting. They can inquire about what kinds of transition information might be useful to that teacher.  

Observation can be a key teaching strategy for new entrant teachers during the transition period. After preparing the environment to connect with children’s existing strengths and interests, teachers should be prepared to take a step back and observe children. Letting children lead their own learning can offer valuable insights into their current knowledge and understanding, as well as their experience of transition and adjustment to school. Children process their transition experience and learning through play, so it is important to build time into the day for children to rehearse aspects of their transition through play. New entrant teachers might offer props such as ‘block people’ (children’s photos on blocks) for role play about transition.  

Play is a key way to extend children’s learning, both in the final months of early childhood education and in the first years of schooling. It is not necessary to have a structured transition-to-school programme in the early childhood setting, as much of the school curriculum is embedded in Te Whāriki and offers scope for extending children’s literacy, scientific and mathematical thinking. The Pathways table shows where areas of the school curriculum are closely linked with the early childhood curriculum and can be used to determine how to stretch a child’s learning further.  

In schools, many teachers see the benefit of play-based learning time. School teachers can document and demonstrate children’s learning in play contexts by using learning stories, analysing the learning through the lens of the school curriculum to show progress and to highlight the authentic contexts that play presents for learning. 

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