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Grammar Progression Table

  • The grammar progression table sets out a possible grammar progression to use with the Māori language curriculum guidelines, Te Aho Arataki Marau mō te Ako i Te Reo Māori - Kura Auraki.
  • The aim is to start with simple, common structures, and gradually build towards more complex structures, and to know how these all combine into whole texts, both spoken and written.
  • The items listed at each level are not necessarily the only items you will need at that level. They are just a suggested set of items to focus on.
  • At levels 1 and 2, some items are best treated as ‘unanalysed chunks’. For example: ‘Kia ora’ is one way of saying hello or thank you. It is in the form of a verb phrase, literally meaning ‘be well’, with the elements ‘kia’ verb particle and ‘ora’ verb, but do your particular learners need to know that at this stage? ‘Kei te pēhea koe?’ is a common part of a greeting routine – you tend to ask how someone is when you greet them. It is in the form of a Verbal Sentence made up of a Predicate and Subject. The predicate is in the form of a verb phrase and the subject is in the form of a noun phrase etc but is this information appropriate for your learners at this level?
  • At each level, items from earlier levels in the table will still be relevant and should be regularly reviewed and extended.
  • It is useful to take a ‘spiral approach’ and revisit items, adding more detail and complexity as your students become ready for it.
  • Introduce grammar in ‘context’. This is a key way to achieving understanding.
  • Start by encouraging ‘noticing’ of common items in natural, authentic texts.
  • Be aware of your students, their age, their proficiency, what they already know, what they need next, and convey the material in an appropriate manner.
  • The table is a fairly minimal outline. It does not set out absolutely everything that your learners will encounter and need or want to know.
  • It is for teachers (especially secondary reo Māori specialists). The teacher needs to understand the structure of Māori well enough to be able to explain the relevant aspects of it to the learners, in a way that suits their current level of understanding and proficiency.
  • The references given here are for the teacher. They provide explanations for aspects of the grammar of Māori written for adults. In most cases teachers will not show their learners the reference books. Nor will they necessarily use the technical language used in the books. The teacher must explain the Forms and Functions to learners in ways that their particular learners will understand. Form: the structure of an item, its component parts. Function: the way a form is used, for example, a noun phrase form is used to fill the subject function of a sentence.
  • The teacher can explain the basic shape of a phrase in Māori, and then explain the different types of phrases (for example, noun phrases, verb phrases, prepositional phrases) and the parts they have, and the types of words that can fit into each part. Then the learners can experiment with making their own phrases to express their own meanings.
  • As well as learning about the ‘form’ and ‘function’ of the parts of sentences and phrases, it will be useful for learners to know about the different ‘types of words’ or ‘word classes’ in Māori, and the way words are formed. This includes the types of bases and particles, and the various affixes (prefixes, suffixes, infixes) that can be added to bases.
  • In addition to word, phrase and sentence structure, learners need to know about the sound system of Māori, including the Māori alphabet, pronunciation, and stress patterns.
  • They also need to know ‘how utterances and sentences combine into larger units of language’, both spoken and written. To give just a few examples, in spoken texts, they need to know about appropriate turn-taking, how (and whether) to interrupt, how to greet someone formally or informally, how a karanga or whaikōrero is structured, who speaks when in different communicative events. With written texts, they need to know about how paragraphs are structured, and also about the structure of particular types of texts (for example letters, recipes, essays, whakapapa charts).

*A progression can only be a rough guide for a teacher, because the order in which items are introduced will depend at least to some extent on the ‘language background’ of individual learners. Here is just one example:

Pronouns in Māori can be phased in their introduction, even though all are comparatively high in their frequency.

It would be useful to focus on singular and plural pronouns first, and once these are established, focus on dual pronouns, as the dual pronouns are a little less frequent.

The concept of 'inclusive' and 'exclusive' pronouns (mātou, tātou, māua, tāua) may be unfamiliar to speakers of English, so it would be useful to establish other pronouns first and then add focus on these.

However, if any of your learners speak another Polynesian language, this concept will already be familiar to them, and the progression you choose will therefore be different.

Please note:
The grammar progression is presented with the needs of secondary school teachers and learners in mind. Younger learners are likely to progress more slowly through the levels, partly because of their level of conceptual development, but also because they may not spend as much time on te reo Māori each week in their primary or intermediate school settings.


In the following table, each section begins with a summary list, and is followed by a section providing more specific references to:

  • Harlow, R. 2001. A Māori Reference Grammar. Auckland: Longman.

This provides good information on a wide range of the structural features of Māori. Think of it as one of your professional tools, and work towards a thorough understanding of how to use it, and of its content. You will usually have to put the ideas into simpler language for your learners, especially young learners or those working at the earlier levels of the curriculum guidelines.

  • Head, L. 1989. Making Māori Sentences. Auckland: Longman.

This is a simpler text which covers just the basic, simple sentence patterns of Māori. It is available online for your reference.

You will find a lot more details about many aspects of the grammar of Māori in Bauer, W. 1997. The Reed Reference Grammar of Māori. Auckland: Reed. This is a somewhat more technical book than Head or Harlow.

Grammar Progression Tables

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