Appendix 2: Pre-review questionnaire - what services told ERO

ERO asked services to complete a Pre-review Questionnaire which included questions about how the service promoted and defined literacy, what expectations they held and PLD they provided for educators, what literacy skills educators had and how they included literacy in the programme, how they catered for different groups of children and included parents, whānau and the community in literacy.

Defining and valuing literacy teaching and learning

Promoting literacy teaching and learning

Almost all services reported that they valued literacy teaching and learning. However, many did not have a formal commitment to literacy through their philosophy, strategic and annual planning, policies, or PLD.

About a third of services thought their philosophy promoted and supported literacy teaching and learning. Most commonly, services reported that their philosophy supported a holistic framework in which literacy was interwoven, and encouraged children to be competent and confident learners. However many of these services had no specific mention of literacy in their philosophy.

A few services’ identified that their philosophies included specific mention of:

  • providing a literacy-rich environment
  • valuing first languages and cultures
  • promoting skills to live in a technological world
  • emphasising literacy and numeracy
  • providing meaningful contexts
  • providing dramatic play and art for creativity and expression
  • talking and listening
  • preparing children for school.

Just under a third of services reported having recent PLD that was related to literacy. In some cases, this PLD was undertaken by the whole service. However, more often PLD was limited to one or two educators who subsequently shared their learning with other educators in their service.

About a fifth of services reported referring to literacy-related goals in strategic or annual planning. They mostly suggested this was linked to resourcing, and occasionally to goals for learners such as expressing ideas and feelings through oral and written languages, visual arts, drama, and music; and using and understanding te reo Māori through commands, praise, stories, waiata, and conversation.

Very few services reported promoting literacy through a literacy policy, self review, performance appraisal or assessment practice. Services where this was apparent identified a focus on promoting and enhancing children’s emergent literacy skills and experiences through written policies and appraisal.

Defining literacy

Nearly two-thirds of services defined literacy as “oral, visual, and written” aligning with the broad definition provided in Kei Tua o te Pae (Ministry of Education, 2009b: 2). Some services expanded on this to define literacy as:

  • holistically developed throughout the curriculum
  • language, symbols, texts and communication
  • multi-literacies and multi-modal.

Expectations for literacy teaching and learning

Services self-reported a wide variety of expectations and outcomes for literacy teaching and learning. The most common included:

  • educators provide a literacy-rich environment
  • educators understand and support literacy learning
  • children experience literacy across the curriculum in meaningful contexts
  • children are supported to move through the different stages of literacy learning at their own pace
  • children learn the formal skills they need for the transition to school
  • children have foundation skills such as phonological awareness, concepts about print, and letter-sound knowledge
  • children actively communicate or develop communication skills.

In some services, defined expectations were unclear, or focused solely on reading and writing. A few mentioned the need to meet the “starting school” indicators in The Literacy Learning Progressions (Ministry of Education, 2010). Others said they included parental expectations such as alphabet knowledge, name recognition, identifying some numbers and letters, letter formation (particularly the child’s name), and correct pencil grip.

Very few services mentioned involving parents and whānau in partnerships to promote literacy learning, teachers having up-to-date knowledge through PLD, providing positive literacy role models, or encouraging first language development.

Educators’ literacy skills

Most educators indicated they had a literacy component included in their pre‑service or field-based training, some more extensive than others. Some educators had undertaken post‑graduate study specialising in literacy.

While many educators identified they used and understood basic te reo Māori, few said they were proficient. A far greater number were proficient in a language other than English or te reo Māori. This often reflected the first languages or other home languages of children at the service, especially, but not only, in playcentres.[10]

Services identified different types of pre‑service training for some of their educators. Some educators were trained ESOL [11]teachers.Some were trained primary school teachers, and a few were trained secondary teachers. These educators were most often in playcentres, as were educators with previous work experience in communications, journalism, research, ICT, or with university qualifications majoring in English or linguistics. A few educators had also worked with, or for, therapists and GSE.

What services told ERO about how literacy is practised?

Services reported a large variety of ways to provide literacy experiences in their programmes. Usually literacy learning was in the context of play or daily routines. Common activities reported included:

  • songs, poems, and stories
  • word play and language games
  • development of fine and gross motor skills
  • questioning games
  • creative activities – drama, art, music, dance
  • writing in the context of play and with a variety of writing materials
  • activities using ICT
  • walks and outings
  • conversations in te reo Māori and children’s first languages
  • extended conversations and questioning
  • physical games such as ‘duck duck goose’ and ‘I wrote a letter’.

Many services highlighted the importance of providing a print and literacy rich environment, developing sensory skills for infants and toddlers, developing oral language, fostering imagination and creativity, and teachers role modelling and co‑constructing thinking and ideas with children. The following example highlights the variety of ways services incorporated literacy.

Literacy is woven throughout the programme. Teachers place a strong emphasis on recording the different means our tamariki have of communicating. We view our programme as being socio-cultural and believe that literacy experiences can be found in most areas of the kindergarten in a variety of different ways.

Many services with children aged three years and over reported providing more formal literacy activities, particularly for transition groups and at mat time. Activities included:

  • learning pencil grip and letter formation
  • phonetic awareness
  • letter and name recognition, sometimes using flashcards
  • mihi
  • reading books and worksheets
  • reading and printing homework.

Groups of children

Over half of services who completed the questionnaire felt they differentiated their programme for different groups of children. The remaining services said they provided gender-friendly, age and stage-based activities, and focused on individual children. However, comments showed little recognition that different groups of children respond in different ways to different literacy activities.


Many services believed they differentiated their literacy experiences for children of different ages. For infants, the emphasis was on sensory experiences, verbal and non‑verbal communication, easy access to resources and displays, and using routines as opportunities for communication. For toddlers, the emphasis was on introducing more books and resources, developing fine and gross motor skills, and nurturing oral development and vocabulary. For young children, educators introduced more structured mat times, developed oral language such as mathematical and scientific language, encouraged more complex sentences, and introduced specific literacy skills such as letter recognition and formation, and concepts about print/books. A focus on learning through play was acknowledged though more formal activities were introduced during transition times. Some services reported using early readers, worksheets, and homework books.


Many services stated they did not have any children enrolled who had special needs or abilities relating to literacy. Those who did outlined how they sought to support these children. For special needs children support reported across services included:

  • special one-to-one time with, or support from, an educator or aide
  • IDPs or IEPs[12]
  • visual aids
  • sign language
  • language games/sessions
  • support from GSE or therapists.

Very few services acknowledged having special needs children with delayed literacy development, or who showed no interest in literacy. They mainly referred to children who had a formally recognised intellectual or physical disability.

Where children with special abilities in literacy were identified, services sought to provide appropriate resources and challenges to extend these children. This was sometimes spontaneous and sometimes planned. Particular approaches services stated they used were:

  • using ICT to develop personal inquiry
  • recognising multiple intelligences[13]
  • providing more challenging books
  • extending questioning
  • expanding vocabulary
  • providing PLD for educators and information for parents.


Some services expressed an awareness of a need to offer equitable literacy opportunities, stating that boys and girls engaged with literacy in different ways. In general, services stated they:

  • provided books appealing to a range of interests
  • encouraged children to bring items from home to talk about
  • promoted drama indoors and out
  • made opportunities for pretend play and associated writing in a variety of scenarios from pirates and bus trips to shopping and restaurants
  • acknowledged popular culture such as superheroes, fairy tales, movies, and songs.

They recognised that girls were more engaged in “tidy art” activities, fiction books and the family corner. Educators told how they added literacy focused resources to the play areas that attracted girls. Activities they identified that focused more on boys included providing clipboards and markers at the sandpit and/or carpentry table, providing an outside writing table, and encouraging “messy art”.


Services reported incorporating basic te reo Māori in daily routines, greetings and conversations; sang waiata; and celebrated events such as Matariki. Some said they encouraged oral traditions such as karanga, mihi, whaikōrero, and taught children kapa haka and pōwhiri. A few services described encouraging Māori whānau to share their culture with the children at the service, and referred to desired outcomes for Māori children in Ka Hikitia (Ministry of Education, 2009d).[14]

In some services with Pacific children enrolled, especially Pacific language nests, educators referred to promoting oral storytelling, counting, and greetings in the children’s language, singing Pacific songs and playing music. Communication with families about the names of objects and phrases were also mentioned as important.

Services with children from other cultures, identified that music, songs, home language lists, the celebration of special occasions, and the inclusion of religious and ethnic practices were important literacy practices. Differentiation in literacy experiences was more likely for children whose first language was not English.

Parents, whānau and community

Services reported involving parents, whānau, and the community in literacy experiences in a variety of ways. Some encouraged parents and whānau to participate in literacy activities with their children at the service. Practices included sharing their home language, literacy practices, and celebrations; taking time to read or retell a story or sing a song when arriving to drop off or collect their child; and accompanying children on excursions. Some services described how parent helpers/educators took opportunities to model different literacy practices and/or draw on the parents’ knowledge and expertise.

Services described how they involved parents and whānau by sharing literacy learning in assessment records such as children’s portfolios or profiles. Educators shared how they encouraged parents to contribute to these assessments and to comment (written or verbally) on home literacy practices. Parent interviews, surveys, and informal chats also provided opportunities for educators to share information about children’s literacy progress and ask about home practices. Educators also talked with parents about their aspirations for their child, including the development of their first language if appropriate.

Services also described providing information about literacy to parents through:

  • literacy information evenings
  • motor skills workshops
  • transition to school information
  • newsletters, daily whiteboards and blogs with information about literacy activities
  • lending resources such as books, DVDs and CDs
  • written information about their philosophy and how it relates to literacy
  • Ministry of Education publications
  • links from the service website.

Many services also said they encouraged and valued home literacy practices such as the use of a first language, shared reading, and help with homework (readers and letter formation). Some provided resources in first languages for parents to take home.

We encourage parents to buy Samoan resources. We give them pese and tauloto[15]for them to sing at home. We encourage them to speak Samoan to their children at home.

Services described how they used community resources, and engaged with community members to help with literacy teaching and learning. Many services told how they networked with schools to develop literacy expectations, discuss children’s abilities and interests, liaise with new entrant teachers, and share PLD. Services also described visits to and from other services, especially language nests, to share songs and dances. Other visitors included authors and illustrators, puppeteers, and storytellers (both professional and volunteer groups like Story Grans). Children at some services regularly visited local libraries or celebrated special occasions at marae, while others, particularly in rural areas and/or at playcentres, were invited to and attended community events such as concerts and school agricultural days. These visits and interactions gave children opportunities to develop their questioning and extend their vocabulary.

Questions from Pre-review Questionnaire for Services

In what ways does your service promote and support literacy teaching and learning? For example, included in philosophy, annual or strategic planning, recent professional development.

  1. How does your service define literacy?
  2. What expectations does your service have for literacy teaching and learning?
  1. What professional development focusing on literacy has been undertaken at your service in the past three years?
  2. What is the ethnicity of the children enrolled at your service?
  1. What literacy skills do particular educators bring to your service? For example, from pre-service training or professional development, knowledge of biliteracy, ICT, English as a Second or Other Language, literacy networking.
  2. How do educators include literacy experiences in the programme?
  3. How does your service cater for different groups of children in your literacy programme? For example, age – infants, toddlers, young children; ability – special needs, gifted; gender – boys, girls; ethnicity – Māori, Pacific, English as Second or Other Language.
  4. How does your service involve parents, whānau and community in the teaching and learning of literacy? For example, parent education, networking with local schools, surveys.

10. What are the age groups of the children enrolled at your service?

  1. ERO is interested in any “success stories” you may have about literacy teaching and learning in your service. These can be documented for and/or discussed with the ERO review team.