The Name Game (Te Reo)

One of my pet hates is poor pronunciation of Māori placenames.  Not that I aren’t guilty of lapsing into provincial vowels sometimes, Taupo being a particularly difficult one. Being Pākeha I have internalised the mispronunciation of a lot of the places most familiar to me – Matamata, Te Aroha, Tauranga, Mt Maunganui – and need to consciously strive to correct them.

As part of Leoni’s Te Reo SPIN, one of our homework tasks was to produce a game or resource the whole class could use to help practice and improve the pronunciation of Māori kupu (words). This assignment is a great example of how Leoni encourages her students to take ownership of their learning, by devising ways to help teach other. The work was pitched to allow students at different levels to be able to create something useful whether it be a simple way of getting vowels correct or something a little more challenging like saying Mangatainoka correctly…

The equipment for the game I created consists of a series of placenames on cards (file attached at the end of the post if you’d like to print a copy), on the back of each card is a number of points (5, 10 or 15 depending on difficulty).


Each player picks up a card and holds it in front of them. The first player to go must tell a short (1-2 sentence) story of a journey they took from the place in the card they are holding to a place on another player’s card ie. “It was a hot day in Paeroa, so I decided to ride my bike to Whangamata for a swim”. If they pronounce the name of the other person’s card correctly they take the other person’s card and earn the number of points on the back of it. If they do not get the pronunciation correct they re-try until they have it correct, however do not get the points.

The person who held the destination card then goes next, using either their original card (if the previous person did not get it right) or drawing a new card.

There are several ways to vary the rules – to ensure everyone gets a turn, or remove the points system, for instance – and the cards can also be used just as flash cards for practicing pronunciation.

The game seemed to work quite well and be enjoyed. From my own experience of having internalised a lot of incorrect pronunciation, it is much better to learn to say things correctly than try to re-learn them later…

<Feel free to download and use or adapt the pdf as you wish>


Te Reo @ Te Kura o Onekiritea

Ko Te Aroha te māunga

Ko Waihou te awa

Ko Mātaatua te waka

Ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi anō hoki

Ko Whakatōhea te iwi anō hoki

Ko Ngāi Te Rangi te iwi

Nō Ngarua ahau

Kei Te Rae tōku kainga noho

Ko Stephen Watts tōku pāpā. Kua mate ia.

Ko Anne Watts tōku māmā

Ko Mic Watts tōku ingoa

Ko Aia Dowsett Watts tāku tamāhine e whitu ōna tau

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

As part of my efforts to connect both with the bi-cultural aspect of the NZC, and my own – albeit disconnected – Māori heritage, I took the opportunity of using one of my non-contact blocks on a Thursday to join one of whaea Leoni’s introductory Te Reo classes throughout term 3.

All students are required to take one of these SPINs for a term during their foundation (junior) years. Each foundation student has 3 SPINs per term, each for 1 block per week. This gives Leoni 9 or 10 lessons to impart a basis for understanding te Ao Māori to all ākonga, whatever their prior knowledge.

Leoni is an excellent teacher with a caring and patient nature which is apparent in all her student interactions, and I found the class valuable purely for the opportunity to observe her pedagogy let alone the content. Although some of the curriculum was (suitably) basic, I found it valuable just to refresh my memory and to provide an opportunity to practice using the Reo. I learnt a lot of new phrases also, and had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the school’s bicultural situation.

It wasn’t compulsory to undertake any Māori study at High School – it was optional even in third form (year 9). I did learn quite a few basic kupu at Primary (counting, colours etc.) which I think has helped me to understand pronunciation and given me a basis of knowledge. The 6-month (1 morning a week) Wananga o Aotearoa course I did in Whanganui in 2007 was very valuable in increasing my vocabulary and especially my understanding of tikanga.

At high school, I found Te Reo daunting and intimidating, and while I knew that I had a small (1/32) amount of Maori whakapapa, no one in my family had shared any of this history or knowledge.  I had worked out that a thirty-second translated to a Great-great-great grandparent, but had no idea in terms of Iwi or Whenua about any specifics.

Happily I have managed in the past few years to make a few connections, to the point where I had managed to identify that Whakatōhea were one of the Iwi to which we were affiliated.

Part of Leoni’s course involved creating a pepeha which was a great impetus to do more research into this. I made contact with a relative who had researched some of our genealogy and was able to get a lot more specific details, enabling me to bridge the gap in my knowledge between Huihana Te Arawaere Hopa (Ngāi te Rangi / Whakatōhea) and my Grandmother Gloria, her Great grand-daughter.

I learnt that our branch of the family lost it’s connection to Whakatõhea when Huihana’s mother, Rawa Te Puea took her to the Coromandel to escape her marriage to a much older man, which had been arranged by Huihana’s father, Hopa Te Wheko. My grandmother and some of her children were welcomed onto the Opape marae in Opotiki a year before she passed away, and 4-5 generations after Rawa Te Puea and Huihana and her mother had left. I wish I had had the opportunity to accompany her.

So not only did auditing this class help build my connection to HPSS’s bicultural identity, it provided the opportunity to gain a valuable and fulfilling insight into my own whakapapa.