Kei Tua o te Pae

Kei Tua o te Pae/Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars is a best practice guide that will help teachers continue to improve the quality of their teaching.

The exemplars are a series of books that will help teachers to understand and strengthen children's learning. It also shows how children, parents and whānau can contribute to this assessment and ongoing learning.

We are making improvements to our Download to Print functionality, so if you want a printed copy there are pdf versions available at the bottom of the main cover page.

Licensing Criteria Cover

Holistic Development – Kotahitanga

Effective assessment practices reflect the holistic way that children learn.

What to look for:

  • The integration of children’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual development as they learn within the strands of well-being, belonging, communication, contribution, and exploration and as reflected in their working theories and learning dispositions (see Te Whāriki, page 23).
  • Assessments that connect what is being learned to meaningful situations and purposes, in many cases, through using narrative forms of assessment 
  • Multiple perspectives that enhance the interpretation and analysis of the learning.
  • Assessments that recognise that learning is multidimensional, for example, “science” exploration may include a sense of belonging to the world of the scientist, collaborating with others, and calling on the language of mathematics.

Reflecting on our practice

  • How can we use assessment documentation to draw attention to the integrated nature of children’s learning? 
  • Many exemplars provide a picture of a complex learning experience. For example, read “The mosaic project” and identify the learning that might be going on here, considering a variety of goals for learning and development (for example, problem solving, involvement, creativity, mathematics, and persistence).
  • Discuss the occasions when, in our setting, assessments have illustrated learning that is integrated within the strands of well-being, belonging, communication, contribution, and exploration. 
  • Discuss the documentation of a project in our setting and list the variety of ways our centre has recorded noticing, recognising, and responding.

  • Becoming a friend, becoming a learner
    • Learning story

      Becky usually chooses to play by herself at our centre.

      We have noticed that another child at the centre, Lauren, who also chooses to play by herself, has taken an interest in Becky. We have tried to support this interest by sitting the two of them next to each other at lunchtimes and pairing them up in music activities.

      Becky appears to be responding to Lauren’s interest in developing a friendship. When she arrives in the morning, she first settles by herself in the book corner and before long moves on to see Lauren.

      Short-term review

      Becky is responding to Lauren’s interest in developing a friendship. She is becoming involved in Lauren’s play and is developing trust in her.

      Becky obviously still feels more secure with starting her day with something that is familiar to her but is beginning to enjoy the unfamiliar that is evolving with Lauren.

      What next?

      Continue to encourage this friendship by pairing Becky and Lauren up in group activities and sitting them beside each other.

      Observe their play, and tune in on an interest that the two may share and extend on this.


      Learning story (three months later)

      Becky and Lauren spent the morning playing in the family corner. They were involved in a lovely game of mother and baby. Lauren was the mother and Becky was the baby.

      They played their roles beautifully. Becky would cry and Lauren would become the nurturing mother and pat her back and tell her she was all right.

      At one stage, Lauren tried to pretend to feed Becky, but Becky told her she was not hungry. Becky would then pretend to cry again. “Put me to bed,” she said to Lauren.

      Becky then climbed into the dolls’ cot and curled herself up to fit in. Lauren tucked in the blankets over her. Lauren then began to rub Becky, and Becky pretended to fall asleep.

      Later that morning, I noticed they were still in the family corner, but this time Lauren was in the cot and Becky was the mother.

      Short-term review

      Great example of co-operative play and turn taking, using knowledge Becky and Lauren have of babies and mothers to act out their roles.

      Demonstrates high levels of interest and involvement by (Becky) being playful with Lauren and being involved for a sustained period. Becky developed her ideas and interests by using different equipment and materials. Becky often carries on playing in the family corner after Lauren goes home. She then becomes the mother to the dolls. She feeds them, dresses them and tucks them into the cot for a sleep. This is a huge area where we can extend for Becky by providing her with different props in different areas of play.

      In music, they will often pair up together and dance around holding hands. Both girls have really opened up and become a lot more confident in their abilities. This friendship has been great for their self-esteem and security within the centre environment.

  • Monarch Butterfly Adventure
    • A child brought along a dead monarch butterfly from home to the kindergarten one morning to show Dawn and Helen. The monarch caught the attention of a number of other children, leading to a lot of questioning from the children and discussion about the dead butterfly. “What is it?” “Where did it come from?” “Why did it die?” The conversations between the children and the teachers continued and led to some of the children and teachers discussing together the life cycle of a butterfly. They searched out a book from the science box that illustrated and described this life cycle. As they discussed the pictures and read the words, some of the children obviously made a connection between what they saw in the book and what was familiar from home because it wasn’t long before several children announced that they had monarch caterpillars at home on swan plants.

      More talking followed between the teachers and the children, and the children decided they wanted to find out more about monarch butterflies. More books were found at the kindergarten showing other types of butterflies and moths. Together with a teacher, the children compared the size, colour, and features of the different species. They also revisited a favourite storybook, Maisey the Monarch by Sue Galbraith.

      Though the children were interested in the other butterflies and moths, Dawn and Helen realised that it was the monarch in particular that really captured their interest. So they decided to follow through on the interest of the children – monarch butterflies.

      Helen and Dawn organised a small group brainstorm with the interested children, based around what the children thought they would like to do to help them learn more about monarch butterflies. Because the children’s brainstorm related mainly to the life cycle of the monarch, Dawn and Helen decided to focus on this first. They drew up a plan from the ideas generated and set about resourcing the kindergarten environment.

      Helen visited a friend who had a lot of swan plants at her house. She gathered some of the chrysalises and brought these to the kindergarten for the children.

      A child offered to bring in a caterpillar from home and, after this was suggested, several of the children decided to bring in their caterpillars from home too. The caterpillars started arriving the very next day. Some children brought eggs on leaves and on the pods of swan plants.

      Monarch butterflies in a tree inside classroom 

      A special area was set up to house the swan plants, eggs, and chrysalises. One feature of the kindergarten environment is a huge branch from a tree (with plastic leaves attached) that looks like a small tree growing inside the kindergarten. This “tree” became the centre of the area, and many chrysalises and eggs were housed on it. The children were really interested in the way the caterpillars twisted their bodies in an effort to construct their chrysalises. Sometimes, the caterpillars crawled onto the tree from the swan plants to build their chrysalises. In fact, soon chrysalises could be found all over the kindergarten.

      Dawn comments: “The children were going home and talking about the butterflies. This prompted interest from their siblings, and there were two children in particular who would come along after school to check on the progress. They spotted some of the butterflies up on the high window sills and were worried about whether they would be able to find their way outside, so they offered to help. So out came the stepladder, and up they went.”

      After a few days, the children found out how hungry the caterpillars were. They soon realised that we didn’t have enough food for them to eat, so they had to find out what else they ate. The children were worried the caterpillars would die without food. They theorised about the types of things caterpillars would like to eat. One or two of them were very knowledgeable about what was considered good caterpillar food, informing the group that pumpkin was a good alternative to swan plants. The teachers and children looked this idea up in one of their books and, sure enough, pumpkin was recommended. The children brought pumpkin from home, but soon noticed that the pumpkin wasn’t really being eaten by the caterpillars. After a rethink, the children decided more swan plants were needed.

      The children’s artwork was dominated by their interest in the butterflies.

      Child's drawing of Monarch butterfly

      Georgia brought in her own chrysalis from home on a lettuce leaf. We hung it in the tree. Some children noticed that the chrysalis was moving. We went and called in as many children as we could to come and look. We were lucky enough to witness the hatching process. This took a long, long time, but the children stayed engaged. We noticed that the butterfly came out head first and then turned around and quickly grabbed the leaf with its legs to hold on. We had to wait for its wings to dry. We watched it spread its wings out and exercise them. We were surprised to find out that, just like in the birth of a baby, the butterfly had an “afterbirth”. This led to all sorts of discussion about whether it was a boy butterfly or a girl butterfly.

      Over the following days and weeks, the butterflies continued to emerge from their chrysalises in a steady stream. The children were able to watch this transformation many times over.

      Miles: I saw...

      Nick: I can see some more.

      Miles: There’s one.

      Nick: There’s one.

      Miles: Here ... here’s one. A chrysalis.

      Nick: Miles, you’re a good finder.

      Miles: I’ve got binoculars. Let’s look for babies. I saw one with kind of sparkly things on it. Hey, look! When I saw that one, it was wriggling around.

      Nick: Hey, look! Don’t touch it.

      Two children looking up at Monarch butterfly

      A significant feature of this project was the way the children learned to care for the caterpillars and butterflies. They showed incredible care for the protection of these tiny living things as they grew and changed. The teachers took special care in helping the children to find out how to care for the caterpillars and butterflies.

      As each butterfly got out of the chrysalis and had dried and rested, we talked to the children about how they had to be released into the natural environment. The children would carry the butterflies out on their fingers to the playground to release them. Sam tried to carry a butterfly outside, but the butterfly wouldn’t fly away, so he carried the butterfly on his finger throughout the rest of the session, including mat time.

      When Nana arrived to pick him up, the butterfly was still on his finger, refusing to move! So he got into the car and drove all the way home, where Sam released it in his own garden.

      Toy monarch butterflies were bought for the children to play with to help fulfil part of their initial desire to play with the monarchs.

      Some of the children chose to make butterflies, caterpillars, and so on out of baker’s clay, and they hung these in the tree with the real caterpillars, chrysalises, and butterflies.

      Two children making butterflies out of bakers clay Baker's clay butterfly hanging from classroom roof

      Helen visited the library to get some books for the project, but these were all out due to the butterfly season. Not to be put off, though, the children had the idea of making a book together about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly for the kindergarten.

      By the end of the term, fifty-two butterflies had been raised and released by the children.

      Reflecting on the project, Helen says: “We, as teachers, have learned through this project how important it is to record every step of the learning process, not just the products, as this tells us about the depth of learning that goes on. One of the other most significant things to us was the number of children involved here. There was a real sense of belonging evident. All of us learned together, teachers included. There were several times when Dawn and I said: ‘I don’t know. How could we find out?’”

      Dawn adds: “Of course, the interest is still there, months on. If the children spy a butterfly flying over the neighbour’s fence, it always leads to questions and discussion. ‘Is it one of ours?’ ‘Where is it going to?’ ‘Where has it come from?’”

      Child's painting of a Monarch butterfly

  • The Mosaic Project
    • The mosaic project began in term 2, with a group of children working together on mosaicking the concrete pavers for the outdoor environment.

      To continue and extend this interest, an ongoing project was planned for term 3. Sarah’s parents, Anne and Ian, provided their support and ongoing expertise – mosaic work is a real interest for their family.

      The children could choose to make a pot, a tile, or a picture frame. They were encouraged to sketch their design first to focus their thinking. The children had a range of coloured pre-cut tiles to choose from as well as old china, which they broke into pieces using a hammer. They used tile adhesive to attach the tiles to their objects. The process took some time as the children worked on the project at their leisure. When each child had finished the tiling process, they left their object to dry for twenty-four hours.

      Grout was mixed to a thick paste and applied over the entire object. The grout filled in the gaps between the tiles. A clean cloth was used to clean the excess grout off.

      The mosaic constructions have enabled children to work at their own pace, developing and creating an original piece of work.

      The interest from parents has also been immense, so we have planned a mosaic workshop for parents in week 9. 

      Children creating mosaic Children creating mosaic Children creating mosaic Two children creating a mosaic

      Teacher and child creating a mosaic Teacher and children creating a mosaic Teacher and child creating a mosaic Two children creating a mosaic

      Child holding up a mosaic Mosaic