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Wakatipu's Giant

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Writers:Chris Walsh & Evelyn Mann

The drama was written to demonstrate ways of working Māori myths and legends supporting students to deepen their experience and understanding of underlying meanings within myths and legends. There are many opportunities within the drama to explore te reo Māori and Nāga Toi Māori.

Key Question: What drives people to be courageous when there is huge danger to themselves?

Key Understandings:

  • Māori myths and legends were written to explain the origins of our world.
  • Some people show huge courage under extreme circumstances.
  • People are bound together in aroha.
  • Ordinary people can achieve great things.
  • Aroha is a great motivator.

Connected Curriculum Areas: Social Studies, English, Health and Physical Education.
Key Competencies - Managing Self, Thinking, and Relationships.

Possible Learning Intentions and indicators are offered for this drama. We acknowledge that there are many other possible learning intentions and that you might prefer to write your own in response to the needs of your students. The learning intentions offered are examples to choose from and to guide teachers new to drama in writing learning intentions. There is a variety of ways for collecting evidence to support learning.

Level Three

Possible Drama Learning Intentions:
The students will be able to:

  • Engage confidently in a range of dramatic conventions, structured by the teacher. PK DI CI
  • Share ideas about a legendary person by creating and developing a role within a variety of conventions. PK DI CI
  • With an awareness of elements and techniques work to sustain mood and atmosphere effectively. PK DI CI
  • Identify and discuss the place of Nāga Toi Māori in our lives. UC

Develop Indicators with the students for Learning Intentions. Here is an example of indicators that will also be used to focus the assessment for the learning intention: Engage confidently in a range of dramatic conventions, structured by the teacher. PK DI CI
Indicators: Students can

  • Contribute to discussing ideas and preparing drama work.
  • Portray role convincingly within a variety of conventions using appropriate techniques.
  • Identify strengths within drama work and discuss their effects.
  • Respond appropriately when interacting with others in role contributing to developing narrative.

Teacher In Role: (Referred to as TIR) In this drama the teacher will work in role sometimes as Matakauri.

Drama Resources available in New Zealand Schools
It is important that you refer to these resources to support the content in these plans.

  • Ministry of Education. 2001. Drama in the Classroom. Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and Video)
  • Ministry of Education. 2007. Drama Posters, 2007. Wellington: Learning Media,
  • Ministry of Education. 2006. Playing Our Stories. Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and DVD)
  • Ministry of Education. 2004. Telling Our Stories, Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and Video)
  • Ministry of Education. 2003. The New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars - The Arts. Wellington: Learning Media and the Learning Centre Trust of New Zealand.
Resources applicable to this drama:
  • Cartwright, P. 1992. Matau - The Giant of Wakatipu
Optional Resources:
  • Waka Huia Toi Māori - Māori Visual culture in visual arts education - Years 7 - 10, 2004. Ministry of Education. Learning Media, New Zealand.
  • Kiwi Kidsongs 15 - He Waiata mo nga Kaupapa Ake, 2006 , Ministry of Education, Learning Media, New Zealand
Learning Experiences Teaching Notes

Forming Links To Our Own Lives

Brainstorm the Māori legends known by the students.

In small groups they choose a legend and create Freeze Frames depicting a courageous moment from the story.

Share the images and collect Spoken Thoughts. The audience group create a Caption for each image.

This is the time to discuss what a legend is and why they have sustained the passage of time.

Motivating the work and setting the context.

Read and display for the students p.3 of the text.

"In the South Island there is a lake whose waters, by day and by night, rise and fall, rise and fall."

Brainstorm the lakes of the South Island and locate them on a map.

Chorus of Movement:

Students sit in a circle.
Pass a ball of string around the circle unrolling it as it goes. When it returns to the first person holding the end cut and tie into a big loop.
Ask the students to move the string on the floor and make the shape of Lake Wakatipu.
All the students move and sit inside the shape.
Ask the students to begin to breathe deeply in unison and continue to do so until the whole group is breathing together as one.

Tell the students it is Wakatipu that we will be looking at in our drama. Locate Wakatipu and look at its shape.The chorus of movement is to enable the students to create a mysterious atmosphere to motivate interest in the legend.The breathing in and out is to replicate the movement of the lake.The teacher might add to the chorus once established by beating a heartbeat with a small drum, or hand to the chest. Questions you might ask in reflection: I wonder why we did this?What thoughts have come into your mind?

Building the Narrative

Read the story to end of p.19Alternatively 'tell' the story which is outlined here:

  • Manata was a beautiful girl, the daughter of a chief in the Queenstown area and Matakauri loved her.
  • Matakauri wanted to marry Manata but her father would not allow it as he was a common man.
  • One night Matau the giant came to the village and stole the sleeping Manata.
  • Her father ordered warriors to go get her, he even offered her in marriage, but they were too afraid.
  • Matakauri went alone to get her because he loved her and wanted to marry her.
  • After a long hard journey he found her tied with thong from the skin of the two-headed dog and he could not cut through it.
  • Manata was afraid Matau the giant would wake when the nor' west wind stopped and she begged Matakauri to leave her.
  • Her tears dropped on the thong and it broke in two. He took her home and decided to go back to kill the giant and prevent him from frightening them like this again. No one would go with him, they were too frightened.

Divide the class into 5 groups
Matakauri's whanau
Manata and her father
Matakauri's friends
Some people from the village who don't know Matakauri well

Each group establishes themselves discussing the plan, voicing their concerns about Matakauri's plan to return to the giant and kill him.

Once the groups have established their discussion everyone freezes for circular teacher in role.

Circular Teacher In Role: TIR as Matakauri now moves through the group one at a time and talks to them about what is happening. They respond in role and let Matakauri know how they feel about his challenge and voice their fears about what he wants to do.

Each group, in their role, needs to establish a time and space for their discussion to take place.Once the TIR has spoken with all groups s/he stands still poised in thought, show hesitancy in making the decision. Voice thoughts e.g. I wonder if I can do it. They probably are right but it is worth it to protect her etc.Once considerable tension has built around this decision announce you have decided to go.

Class in role as villagers have decided that they will have a farewell for Matakauri and gift him something that will add to his luck and his strength. Work in small groups to discuss what it is they could give him and why it will help him.

Defining Space: Out of role, decide how this presentation is going to happen, where they will be and whether there will be a dance, waiata or art work as part of the farewell occasion. Organise the space for this farewell ritual to take place.

Ritual: TIR as Matakauri receives the gifts making comments and asking questions of the villagers to clarify the reasons they have brought this particular gift.

Wall of Thought: As the Teacher moves between the two facing lines, the students voice the thoughts Matakauri is thinking as he is leaving.

At this point there is the possibility for teaching in music, dance and visual art.See Optional Resources.

Game: Play Keeper of the Keys

Students sit in a circle.
Place a chair in the centre with a large key under it.
A volunteer sits in the chair with their eyes closed.
Students have turns trying to sneak up on the giant in the chair to get the key.
If the student creeping up on the giant is heard by the giant he successfully points in their direction and they return to their seat and another tries.
If the key is reached that students becomes the new giant.

Read p. 20, or tell the part of the story where Matakauri is creeping up on the giant as he sleeps, placing dried wood and flax around him, setting a huge fire.This is an example of how to use a game within the context of a drama. The focus is on experiencing tension, as it would be in the story.

Freeze Frames:

The students form a circle around the outer edge of the room with a smaller shape of Wakatipu in string in the centre of the room.

The teacher describes a series of frozen images one at a time to be demonstrated by all students in unison. After each image, everyone moves a step closer to the Wakatipu shape in the centre of the room.

Image 1 - Matakauri leaves the village not knowing if he will ever return. 3, 2, 1, freeze.

Image 2 - He looked back momentarily at those he loved. 3, 2, 1, freeze.

Image 3 - Stealthily he moved through the night and the day approaching the sleeping giant. 3, 2, 1, freeze.

Image 4 - On finding the giant sleeping he gathered dried ferns, branches and brackens to use to make a fire. 3, 2, 1, freeze.

Image 5 - Very cautiously he piled the dried ferns, branches and brackens around the sleeping giant. 3, 2, 1, freeze

Image 6 - At last he was ready. He stood back and looked at the sleeping giant who was totally by the surrounded by the makings of a great fire.3, 2, 1, freeze.

The students hold this last freeze and the teacher moves around the group collecting

Spoken Thoughts.

It is important the narration of the images is spoken in a tone that enhances the atmosphere. Allow a few moments in each freeze before beginning the next narrated part. Instruct the students you will be collecting spoken thoughts on the final image.In reflection ask:I wonder what thoughts you have about Matakauri now?

Read, or tell the remainder of the story.

  • Matakauri burns the sleeping giant. It gets so hot it burns a deep hole into the ground.
  • Long after Matakauri had left and returned to the village the rains came and filled the great hole creating Wakatipu.
  • And today it rises and falls and they say it is because the heart of Matau beats still at the bottom of the lake.


Hot Seating: Working in small groups provide the opportunity for several students to be in the Hot Seat as Matakauri. Teacher puts the Key Question "What drives people to be courageous where there is a huge danger to them?" up on the board and says to the students "We want to be able to answer this question after the Hot Seating. Keep it in mind as you question."At this point the teacher moves around the groups and models appropriate questions.

Reflecting on the issues and bringing the drama to conclusion

Return to the breathing lake exercise created to begin the drama.

Move into the present day in role as tourists in Queenstown wondering about the lake rising and falling. You find a statue that has an inscription explaining the reason.

Sculptures: in small groups make the statue that you see and write the short inscription.

Share the work with the other tourists.


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