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Ko e ta‘u taha ‘o Tomi' - teacher support material

by ‘Anahina ‘Aipolo Sikalu

Ko e Ta‘u Taha‘o Tomi' supports the following units from Faufaua!

  • Unit 7 Ko e taimi'/time
  • Unit 8 Kātoanga‘i/celebrating

Schools, ECE centres and education providers can order the set of six Faufaua! Tongan Pasifika storybooks from Down the back of the chair. Enter item number MOE11626 into the search box.

Text features

Language features

The language features of this story include:

  • use of lea tavale (everyday language), for example, ‘Oua ‘e tangi', Tomi / don’t cry,Tomi
  • the pronoun marker nau used for a mass plural (three or more people) for they, for example, ‘Oku nau omi mo e me‘a‘ofa kia Tomi / they (lots of people) bring gifts for Tomi
  • use of words transliterated from English, for example, pāti/party; Siulai/July; taimi/time
  • use of te as a future tense marker, for example, Te ke tau‘olunga he pāti'?/will you dance at the party?
  • prepositional phrases of time, for example,‘I he Tokonaki' / on Saturday; Fakafokifā/suddenly
  • use of the definitive accent to indicate specificity – a particular item rather than the generic, for example, Ko e ta‘u taha ia‘o Tomi'/It is Tomi’s first birthday (Tomi rather than some other child); ‘o Siulai' / in July (a particular July / next July)
  • descriptors placed after the word being described, for example, ta‘u taha / year one (one year old); tamasi‘i fai‘aho / boy birthday (birthday boy)
  • use of formulaic expressions, for example, ‘Oua ‘e tangi' / don’t cry; Mālie, tamasi‘i fai‘aho/well done, birthday boy
  • use of words that are similar to those used in other Polynesian languages, for example, ako/learn; tangi/cry; tu‘u/stand; taha/one
  • duplication in verbs to indicate extended or repeated action, for example, pasipasi/clap; malimali/smile.

Cultural features

The cultural features in this story include:

  • the importance of particular birthdays in Tongan culture. Traditionally, Tongans celebrated only the first birthday and a girl’s twenty-first birthday. While such traditions are changing, this story highlights the extensive efforts that go into celebrating a first birthday party – Liki prepares and performs a solo dance in traditional costume; lots of family and friends, as well as the church minister, attend the celebration, wearing their best clothes (even the birthday child will be in full formal attire); the birthday guests attend a lavish meal, with tables loaded with food (including an impressive birthday cake) and a separate table heaped with gifts from all guests; the most important guests and the birthday child will be seated at a main table; and the church minister blesses the food with a Christian prayer before everyone starts eating
  • the performance of the tau‘olunga. The tau‘olunga can be a solo dance, or two or more dancers can perform it, but normally not more than ten take part. Traditionally, the tau‘olunga was considered to be a female dance. A young woman would tell a story using only her hands. She wore a flowing knee-length dress and had flowers through her hair and on her wrists and ankles. A man often danced behind her, making no effort to stay in time. His “bad” dancing highlighted the skill and delicacy of the woman’s dancing. These days, parents encourage their sons to dance. In this story, Liki, as Tomi’s uncle, has been asked to perform. The tau‘olunga is performed at family, village, church, and government functions, and a young woman will sometimes perform it at her wedding
  • the seating arrangement at the main table, with Tomi, as the guest of honour, seated between the church minister, who is at the centre of the table, and Tomi’s mehekitanga (his aunt, specifically his father’s sister and a woman of high rank in the family)
  • the celebratory clothes that the people wear for this special occasion: many of the women are wearing tekiteki/hair ornaments, some of the men are wearing tupenu/lavalava, wraparound skirt, and the minister is shown wearing a ta‘avola/fine woven mat around his waist. For his performance, Liki wears a feathered tekiteki in his hair and a kahoa/necklace or garland made from flowers, beads, or shells, as well as a manafau. The manafau is like a grass skirt, but it is made from a dense collection of thin strands of fau/hibiscus bark fibre, some left natural and some dyed different colours. The fau strands are attached to a long plaited rope at the waist and fall as a thick curtain to well below the knee – often just above the ankle
  • the importance of ‘ofa/love. Liki puts himself into an uncomfortable situation, yet he perseveres as this dance explains his lower ranking as fā‘e tangata/mother’s brother to his ‘ilamutu / sister’s child and is his gift to show his love for Tomi. Guests bring me‘a‘ofa, a word that literally means “some love” but can be translated as “gifts”. Me‘a‘ofa includes the work people put into preparing an event, including the food and entertainment they provide, the people attending the special birthday celebration, and any material gifts that the guests bring. Traditionally, gift giving is a public affair, and gifts are presented at the actual celebration. Ngatu, kie / fine mats, and kahoa are traditional gifts, though sometimes items such as blankets and quilts can be presented as gifts.

Links to the New Zealand Curriculum

Key competencies

Reading and working with Ko e Ta‘u Taha ‘o Tomi'could help students develop key competencies set out in the New Zealand Curriculum: Key Competencies


The story illustrates many values that relate to the New Zealand Curriculum: Values and are fundamental to Tongan culture, including the importance of community, faka‘apa‘apa/respect, fevahevahe‘aki/sharing, ‘ofa/love, and fakatu‘utu‘unga/rank. 

Cross-curricular links

Learners who are working at levels 1–2 in lea faka-Tonga may be working at higher curriculum levels in other learning areas. You will need to consider this in order to make effective cross-curricular links. Here are two examples of cross-curricular achievement objectives that could be linked to this story:

The arts, dance, level 4

Understanding dance in context

Students will:

  • Explore and describe how dance is used for different purposes in a variety of cultures and contexts.

Social sciences, level 4

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experience to:

  • Understand how people pass on and sustain culture and heritage for different reasons and that this has consequences for people.

Learning languages: Achievement objectives

Students will:

(Communication strand, relating to selected linguistic and sociocultural contexts)

  • receive and produce information
  • produce and respond to questions and requests
  • show social awareness when interacting with others.

(Language knowledge strand)

  • recognise that the target language is organised in particular ways
  • make connections with their own language(s).

(Cultural knowledge strand)

  • recognise that the target culture is organised in particular ways
  • make connections with known culture(s).

Ko e Fakahinohino ki he Lea Faka-Tonga: The Tongan Language Guidelines, levels 1 and 2

Students should be able to:

  • recognise and express number, time, and location (1.4)
  • use language, positioning, and movement to show respect (1.8)
  • communicate about people, places, and things (2.1).

Learning outcomes

Below are some possible learning outcomes for reading this story. Select from and adapt these to meet the needs of your students and share the outcomes with them.

After reading and working with this story, I will be able to:

  • read the story aloud reasonably fluently, pronouncing all words clearly
  • recognise and use Tongan expressions of time and expressions relating to celebrations
  • identify prepositions, prepositional phrases, and verb forms used for the present and future tense
  • link the cultural practices and the language relating to the celebration of first birthdays and understand the importance of these practices to the people of Tonga.