Treaty of Waitangi

The purpose of this exercise is to get some sense of how much your students know about the Treaty already.

From here you will be in a better position to structure the rest of your study. You could try a whole-class discussion where ideas are brainstormed on the board or developed as part of small group discussions. Some basic questions could include:

  • When was the Treaty signed?
  • What was New Zealand like when the Treaty was signed?
  • Who was the Treaty between? Who agreed to it? 
  • What is one thing you know about the Treaty of Waitangi? 
  • What do you want to know?

It is really just a case of establishing what students' understanding and awareness are of what New Zealand was like at the time.

Alternatively you could do a more structured brainstorm, using the following frame-up model.

  • Divide your class into groups of four.
  • Give each group a large sheet of paper, and tell each member of the group that they are allowed one edge of the paper each, with the middle of the paper to be kept blank. Ask them to imagine it looking like a picture frame in which they each have a side of the frame to write on.
  • Now give the class two minutes to record everything they can think of or know about what New Zealand was like before 1840. It could be words, dates, images – there is no right or wrong response, and there is no talking.
  • After two minutes tell them to put down their pens and observe what the other members of their group recorded.
  • If there are words or terms that are common to at least two members of the group, record these in the middle of the paper, i.e., where the picture would be in their frame.
  • Ask one member of the group to present the information from the middle of the page to the rest of the class. Someone can compile a list on the board, and as each group adds information highlight the recurring themes and ideas.
  • Now see if you can tease out as a class a couple of sentences that could be used to summarise what New Zealand was like before 1840. One way of helping focus thinking is to imagine you are telling a student from another part of the world who knows absolutely nothing about New Zealand and its past.

Thinking hats and exploring values

The Treaty of Waitangi and what it means to New Zealand society is a topic of intense debate. Some people believe it should be scrapped and that it reflects New Zealand as it was, not as it is, and that it basically divides New Zealanders. Others say it is an important document that creates a unique partnership between Maori as the indigenous settlers of New Zealand and others who have settled here since. These people believe it is the Treaty that makes New Zealand unique and that you can't erase the past.

Six thinking hats

Edward de Bono's six thinking hats is a good technique to use when considering different points of view.

  • Wearing your white hat – look at the statement and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge. Are there things you need to know or find out to help you make sense of this statement?  If so try to fill them or take account of them.
  • Wearing your red hat – consider your feelings. What is wrong with this statement? How does it make you feel?
  • Wearing your black hat – look at all the bad points of this statement. What are the weak points in this statement? 
  • Wearing your yellow hat – consider the good points of this statement and all of the possible benefits and values.
  • Wearing your green hat – think creatively and develop creative responses to this statement. There is no real right or wrong, and there is little criticism of your ideas.
  • Wearing your blue hat – what other thinking is needed here about this statement? 

Newspaper editorial

Use the material on The Treaty of Waitangi and the ideas about the six thinking hats to help you complete this activity.

Imagine you are currently the editor of a New Zealand newspaper. It is Waitangi Day and your newspaper is presenting a feature looking back at the history of the Treaty and Waitangi Day's place in our calendar. Write an editorial, of no more than 200 words, expressing your views on whether or not the Treaty of Waitangi has been a helpful part of the history of our nation and whether it is now time to develop something new to move New Zealand through the 21st century.

Have a look at some examples of editorials to get a sense of the style of writing.

History road

A history road is a type of timeline – you put events in the order they happened, but you don't have to show the even passing of time. A history road:

  • takes the form of a widening road coming towards you 
  • has the oldest event at the beginning of the road and may have symbols or sketches to go with the events.
  1. Use the material  from the Timeline of Treaty events  to help you draw a history road to show what you believe were the six key events leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840.
  2. Make sure things are in chronological order, and use sketches and/or symbols to go with each event or date.
  3. You must be prepared to justify your selections to the class.


  1. This could be completed in groups and each group could present its history road to the rest of the class.
  2. Put the history roads on display. Can a class list of the most commonly selected moments/events be identified?
How to cite this page

'Treaty of Waitangi', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Nov-2021