Starting Guide

Kōwhiti Whakapae is designed to help you, as kaiako, strengthen planning, formative assessment and teaching practice within the framework of Te Whāriki He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa.


Kōwhiti Whakapae focusses on three learning areas: social & emotional, oral language & literacy, and maths. Using Kōwhiti Whakapae will help you to review and strengthen teaching and learning in these areas across the strands of 'Te Whāriki', understand and respond to children’s progress over time, and support children’s growing identity as learners.  

Each area of learning will guide you through a four-step process to help you:

  1. Lay the groundwork to create an enabling environment for all children
  2. Notice and recognise children’s current capabilities and possible directions for learning
  3. Respond to scaffold, consolidate, or expand children’s learning over time
  4. Document children’s learning using the assessment examples as a guide.

Revisit this process at any step as an ongoing review and reflection.  

Have a look around

Start by having a look around Kōwhiti Whakapae online, watch the ‘About Kōwhiti Whakapae’ video and click ‘learn more’ to get an overall sense of it. Because information is layered, you can focus on higher level information first and open links for more information when you feel ready.

Learning areas

Each learning areas begins with an overview that explains what the area refers to, why it’s important, and how it is approached in Kōwhiti Whakapae. This information is layered so you can read a little or a lot. Scroll down to see how each learning area is divided into a number of sub-areas. Sub areas are to help you to quickly see the big ideas as you drill down into different aspects of teaching and learning.


When you enter a sub-area, you can explore the four steps under the ‘Get Started’ tab and learn more about that sub-area in the ‘About’ tab. Explore the different sub-areas to get a feel for the content and when you’re ready, choose just one sub-area to focus on until you are familiar with Kōwhiti Whakapae. Keep it manageable.

Get started on the steps

Once you’ve chosen a sub-area start at step 1.

Step 1. Lay the groundwork

In this step you’ll find teaching practices to help you to whakaritea te pārekereke | prepare the seedbed and create an enabling environment for all children. Clicking on each practice will reveal more information about why this practice is important and how you might apply it in your setting. Note that the list of practices is not exhaustive, and you might think of other practices appropriate for your setting.  

First - read through some of the practices to get a feel for the key ideas.

Next - consider your current learning environment with your team. Which of the practices are evident in your routines, equipment, the way you use space or organise staff? Which practices do you want to know more about, and which are strengths you can build on?

Then - choose practices that you think will be most helpful in creating an enabling learning environment for all children in your setting. Focus on a few practices at a time - keep it manageable. Decide with others how to adapt these practices to be meaningful to the identity, language and culture of children in your setting, and consistent with your service’s philosophy. Think about how you might adjust centre routines, equipment, the use of space or organisation of staff.  

Now - put these into practice. You might spend several months embedding a few practices at a time. Don’t worry – take time at this step. It is important to have an enabling environment for all children and their whānau before focusing on children’s capabilities and learning progress within your environment.

Review - Once you’ve adapted and have been using these practices in your setting for a while, review their effectiveness and adjust where needed. This might be part of your usual internal evaluation or self-review process.

Step 2. Notice and Recognise

In this step you’ll find progressions that illustrate children’s capabilities at different phases of learning: Te Korekore, Te Pō, Te Ao Mārama and Te Ao Hōu. These phases are not age-based and the capabilities across phases are cumulative and overlapping. They describe typical characteristics along a continuum of learning; however, the expression of these capabilities will vary for each child, shaped by their identity, language and culture.  

The progressions will help you notice and recognise children’s current capabilities and identify possible directions for scaffolding, consolidating or expanding these capabilities to supporting broader learning over time. The progressions are not specifically mapped to 'Te Whāriki' learning outcomes because the capabilities they describe focus on specific aspects of learning areas (such as agency and adaptability as part of social and emotional learning) and connect to a range of 'Te Whāriki' learning outcomes across a range of strands.  

First - open all four phases of the progression to see how they describe children’s expanding capabilities over time.  

Next - decide how these capabilities might be expressed in your setting. What would you expect to see (notice) children doing at each phase? Talk with your team to get a consistent view.  

Then - use evidence to help you decide which phase best fits the current capabilities of a particular child or small group of children in your setting (recognise). Evidence could include discussions with kaiako, children, whānau, informal observations, video or audio recordings, formal observations such as time-samples, examples of drawings etc. Look at adjacent phases of progress to test your thinking about which phase best fits a child’s current capabilities.  

Now - decide whether the child’s current capabilities are beginning to emerge within the phase you have chosen or are more established. These decisions will guide your response at step 3. 

Step 3. Respond

In this step you’ll find teaching practices to help you respond to children’s learning at different phases of progress. The practices will help you support children to scaffold, consolidate or expand their capabilities and broaden learning over time.

First - select the phase that you decided best fits the child(ren)’s current capabilities. You made this decision in step 2. Read through the different practices to see how to respond in this phase.  

Next - decide your purpose for responding. Your purpose will depend on whether the child(ren)’s current capabilities are emerging, well-established or somewhere in-between. For example, if a child’s capabilities in Te Pō are just beginning to emerge, you might decide to scaffold and then consolidate these capabilities. Alternatively, you might want to help the child consolidate or expand their capabilities into different situations or contexts.  

Then - identify the practices that you think will be most helpful in supporting this progress. To identify these practices, think about your evidence, talk with whānau and the rest of your team. Think about what interests the child, their strengths, and what they might need most help with.  

Now - decide how to adapt these practices to be meaningful to the child and your setting. Think about the child’s identity, language and culture when deciding how and when to apply these practices. Some practices might involve adjusting your routines, equipment, how you use space, or how you organise staff throughout the day.

Review - Once you’ve been using a practice for at least a couple of weeks, review its effectiveness and adjust where needed. Is it helping the child’s progress as intended? Go back to step 2 and gather new evidence to help you make this judgement. It often takes time to embed or adjust new practices - that’s fine. Over time, some of the phased practices may become part of the way you ‘lay the groundwork’ for all children. Other practices might remain useful only when children’s capabilities are in a specific phase of progress.  

'Te Whāriki' notes that “although learning and development generally follows a predictable sequence, for some children progress in some areas may require further assessment, planning, intervention and support”. If you have spent a long time reviewing and adjusting practices to support a child’s progress, but the child is not making progress, you should consider seeking additional support. Visit to find out more.

Step 4. Document and communicate

In this step you’ll find assessment examples that illustrate ways to use information gathered through the previous 3 steps to enhance your documented assessments and communication. Each assessment example describes and tracks a child’s learning progress over time, and informs ongoing planning. This documentation also supports conversations with children and whānau about each child’s learning and progress. 

First - read one or two assessment examples that describe and track a child’s progress over time. You will see that each assessment highlights how both Te Whāriki and Kōwhiti Whakapae have informed the teaching and learning that are described. They also highlight the kinds of evidence, such as observations or conversations with whānau, that were used to support judgements and planning decisions.  

Next - think about how you currently document your planning and assessments and describe learning progress over time. Talk with team members and children's whānau to identify how your assessment documentation might better describe:

  • a child’s current capabilities, strengths and interests - including evidence (notice),  
  • a child’s progress and possible directions for their learning (recognise), and  
  • how you will support the child to progress over time (respond).


This four-step process is not an end-in-itself and it’s important to continue reviewing your practices.