Author Archive | Viv Aitken

Cluster group and Winter school

Here’s some information about two professional development opportunities coming up in the Waikato & Bay of Plenty.  The first is an informal get together suitable for beginners and those looking for planning ideas and support. The other is a full weekend of professional development for more advanced practitioners, with the amazing Tim Taylor from the UK (author of ‘Beginners Guide to Mantle of the Expert’).

If you’re someone who has been dying to dig deeper into Mantle of the Expert – whether as a beginner or as an experienced teacher looking for that next step in your journey – there is something here for you.

22 May 2018: Bay of Plenty Cluster meeting at Omokoroa Point School, 37 Hamurana Rd, Omokoroa 3114.  3.30pm-5.30pm ish. No charge. Just bring your questions and planning ideas and something to share for afternoon tea. To register attendance or find out more please contact Stephan Hall on shall@omokoroapoint.school.nz  

9-10 July 2018: Mantle of the Expert Winter school with Viv Aitken and Tim Taylor to be held at Institute of Professional Development, Waikato University, Hamilton. Limited places available. This workshop will not be advertised to the public and is suitable for teachers and school leaders with some experience in planning and implementing Mantle of the Expert. Cost is $400. More information on the attached flier or contact iplworkshops@waikato.ac.nz. Enrolment is here http://iplworkshops.ac.nz/workshops/?course_id=5716

Winter School Final

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20 Mantle planning ideas

Check out these neat – and very diverse – Mantle of the Expert planning ideas. They were produced by students from the 2018 Mantle of the Expert summer school and designed for use with participants from early childhood to tertiary level. Many of these plans are being implemented right now in classrooms around Aotearoa!

The table gives only a the ‘bare bones’ of the planning – the full versions included a wide range of other activities and tensions not included here – but we thought this resource may be of interest to colleagues as an illustration of the range of possibilities that can emerge from the same planning process….

Warm thanks to the original authors for allowing me to share these.

PLANNING IDEAS FROM SUMMER SCHOOL 2018

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Miguel’s Mantle of the Expert adventures

Miguel Garcia is a beginning teacher based in New Plymouth. He’s embarking on his second Mantle of the Expert this term.

Check out this blog where Miguel and Viv discuss planning and teaching as the adventures unfold with this class. Should be of particular interest to beginners – though more experienced practitioners are also invited to view, comment and offer advice.

Only a handful of posts to read so far, but if you subscribe (see top right corner of blog) you can stay in touch with updates over the final few weeks…

Please note, as yet the blog doesn’t include any photos – these will be added once all the parent’s permission slips are in.

Thanks Miguel for being brave enough to share the ups and downs of this journey!

 

 

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Article all about the “Mantle Underground”

Some time ago I was invited to write a chapter for a book on University-school partnerships. I had never really thought of our activities as being worthy of academic attention, but I was tickled to be asked and I wrote the chapter – with help from a bunch of other people including Delia Baskerville, Renee Downey, Stephen Hall, Jon Jenner, Robin Kermode, Jodie Moore, Sophie Stevenson, Gaenor Stoate and Carrie Swanson…

After quite a few delays, the book finally came out in October last year. I’ve been given permission to share our chapter on this website… and you’ll find it here . Big thanks to those who helped with comments and input.

P.S. I nearly called the chapter “It’s not what we’re teaching, it’s how we’re teaching!” which was a bit of a catchphrase for the ‘Mantle Underground’ in the early days… but as you’ll see I went with something a bit more conventional in the end. Enjoy!

 

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Check out the updated UK mantle site

Regular visitors to the UK Mantle of the Expert website will have noticed some big changes over the last weekend. After a great detail of work, Tim Taylor, Luke Abbott and the team have launched a whole new-look site. It looks great and sets out all the familiar information – and lots of new stuff – in a much clearer form. Check it out here www.mantleoftheexpert.com

Two further things to mention about the new UK site. First of all, as part of the lead up to the relaunch, Tim asked me to report on the current situation in Mantle of the Expert in Aotearoa for the ‘international’ page of the UK site. I’ve done my best, but I realise I don’t have a complete picture of who is currently using Mantle of the Expert or who is teaching about it. I want to represent everyone so please, if you are a regular user of Mantle of the Expert within Aotearoa or if you are someone who offers workshops or sessions (e.g. as part of a teacher education programme at university or Wānanga or within professional development sessions) do drop me a line with details so I can include them in the summary. You could also add a comment to this post. Second thing to mention is that with the changes to the UK site, some of the links from our NZ site may now have stopped working. I’m working through these and repairing as I can but please if you notice a link that needs fixing, let me know. Cheers!

 

 

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Writing retreat – updates to prezi and a recommended documentary

Just back from a lovely writing retreat in Taupo with 6 colleagues who previously attended the Mantle summer school. It was a  rich time of conversation, reconnection and affirmation of the huge value of our mahi in drama and dramatic inquiry. Not everyone was writing on mantle-related topics but we all found the focus we needed to progress our various writing projects. For my part, I started the planning chapter for book on Mantle I’m writing for NZCER. As part of this I’ve made a few changes to the ‘prezi’ that I know some of you use for pre-planning. Check out the new version here. There’s nothing radically different but I added a new circle for ‘framing / backstory’ and also changed some of the wording here and there, which I hope makes it easier to use. I love how this tool has evolved and changed with the input of lots of people over time. It’s still evolving … so I’d definitely welcome your thoughts on this version.

A very stimulating part of the weekend was the opportunity to re-watch the 2016 documentary HeArt of the Matter. This is a profound and fascinating film about efforts after World War II to introduce ‘thoroughly Arts-rich and bicultural teaching’ in New Zealand. While not specifically related to Mantle of the Expert there is much here to inspire – particularly the advocacy for playful learning, the TIME given to children to create and express through the Arts, the honouring of Maori culture and the evidence of impacts this had on other learning, particularly literacy. Extracts of this documentary can be seen here https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/heart-of-the-matter-2016  along with links to further information. If you get a chance to watch the whole documentary, it’s definitely worth it!

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Drama and maths with new entrants

This video from D4LC (Drama for learning and creativity – a UK-based initiative by Patrice Baldwin) shows classroom teacher Terri English using teacher-in-role to teach maths with her class of new entrants.

While not a full-blown mantle, the video provides a really useful illustration of ‘mantle-esque’ aspects of drama (taking a low status role and asking students for help, introducing a fictional context for learning, using tensions and conventions). A great model lesson to try, especially for student teachers and those taking their first steps into using teacher-in-role.

[Just a couple of things to consider: Terri operates in shadow role and pretends she found a letter in the real world – given my recent post about clear signalling, I’d probably advocate being clearer from the start that Chef Jeff is an imagined character. Also, while the other teachers clearly enjoyed donning their chef outfits, it’s not necessary to hire any special costume to teach in role.]

 

Thanks to Terri and Patrice for a great resource… we need more like this!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0u16p4wyoE 

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Drama in the literacy classroom

This video from the UK-based  ‘Teachers TV’ channel on You Tube introduces a simple but effective process drama based on a sophisticated picture book. The video shows teacher in role, writing in role and various drama conventions in use.

I love how the video moves between a classroom example, the enthusiastic insights offered by the teacher and students and a theoretically-informed commentary from an education advisor. Plenty to enjoy here … a nice bit of advocacy for drama, particularly as a means of ‘energizing’ and ‘extending’ reading and writing.

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Six tips for teaching in role.

A little while ago I shared a post with suggestions on how to introduce children to a teacher in role for the first time. Here’s the promised follow up – six tips for teaching in role. This includes advice on what seems to be many teachers’ greatest fear – what to do when children resist, or reject the teacher in role.

Tip 1 – assume the best. In my experience, children challenge a teacher in role very rarely – much less often than teachers fear they will! So the first piece of advice is not to use your fears as a reason to write off teacher in role as ‘not for me’ or ‘not for this class’. You may be surprised how readily children are prepared to ‘buy in’. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know!

Tip 2 – give it time. Don’t dismiss the approach if children don’t ‘get it’ first time. As with any other new set of skills you ask children to adopt to help their learning (using a new digital device, for example), you need to be prepared to give them time to become familiar  with it. It gets easier with practice!

Tip 3 – explain the rules of the game. Using the three step transition into role will set you and the children up for success. By explaining the rules of the game you make it more likely that children will get on with the game rather than focussing on working out what the rules are – what’s real, what’s not and so on. Often it’s this ‘figuring out’ process that can be disruptive.

Tip 4 – pull out don’t push on. If you’ve clearly signalled the role, you are protected by the ability to transition OUT of role at any time. It doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’. This is not a naturalistic theatre performance where you are on stage and must stay in character. There is no pressure to ensure ‘the show must go on’ in that sense. Rather, it’s a feature of process drama and mantle that the fiction stops and starts. Participants spend more time OUT of role than in it… So, if a child responds to your transition into role by saying “you’re not really a police officer.” DON’T reply “Oh yes I am!” unless you want a power struggle or a chorus of “Oh no you’re not” like an old fashioned panto…! Instead, step out of role for a discussion (see below). This ability to step between the worlds of the fiction and the classroom, renegotiate and revisit is all part of the approach.

Tip 5 – get past the giggles. Children will often respond with giggles or laughter when they experience teacher in role for the first time. This is a natural response to something strange and new. How you respond to giggles is a matter of judgement. If it is only one or two children and if it seems more important to progress the drama (for example, if you are bringing an important message from the client or introducing a key tension) you might trust that the giggles will gradually subside as the children engage with the tension. You could appeal to them from within the role (‘I’m sorry – I thought I was dealing with a professional team here, was I mistaken?’) Or, if the children seem to be stuck you could pause the drama, step out of role and take the opportunity for a discussion about the tricky feelings that come up in drama work. Be careful of your language though. Rather than ‘telling off’ a child for laughing or resisting a role, try asking them what’s going on for them. Acknowledge that it does feel strange at first to work this way (‘It’s tricky, isn’t it?’) and suggest that if they can work out how to use their imagination and work with you within the drama then interesting things might happen. I remember hearing one teacher saying to her class, “You know, I’ve got the feeling that just the other side of that giggle there’s something really interesting, let’s see if we can move on and find it!” – a lovely way to appeal for focus without demeaning the children.

Tip 6 – treat resistance as a teachable moment. Just occasionally, despite your best efforts and clarity, children will resist the role.  This will probably be for one of two reasons. Either a) they genuinely don’t understand what’s going on or b) they are interested in subverting the usual authority structures of the class and having a joke with the teacher. It’s sometimes hard to tell which of these lies behind the resistance but in both cases the situation can be handled in a similar way. The scenario below illustrates this. Imagine a teacher (female) who has just stepped into role as a male (Wiremu). A student (Alex) challenges the role. Here’s how the teacher could respond and turn the situation into a learning opportunity.

Alex: I didn’t know Wiremu wore lipstick and earrings!

Teacher: I’m just going to stop for a moment and come out of role.

Removes signal prop – a hat

Teacher: Now, someone just raised something quite important there that I think we should talk about. Alex, can you repeat what you said a moment ago when I was in role.

Alex: No, it doesn’t matter

Teacher: I think you were saying it’s tricky to see me as Wiremu when I go into role …?

Alex: Well you aren’t Wiremu. You’re not even a man.

Teacher: Alex is quite right, isn’t he? I’m NOT really Wiremu. That’s exactly what ‘taking on a role’ means. Like I said before, this only works if we agree to use our imaginations. And that’s quite tricky … So,  perhaps  there is something else I can do to help you imagine that I am Wiremu. What do you think?

Alex: Maybe use a deeper voice…

Teacher: OK, let’s try that. I’ll put the hat on and use a deeper voice and you remember to work with me as if I’m Wiremu. Ready to try again?

Alex (nods)

Teacher goes back into role….

This example is from a real classroom interaction in which I was the teacher. In this case Alex (not the student’s real name) was very familiar with the teacher in role strategy and I think he was resisting the role as a way to explore his agency in the situation. He was grinning as he spoke and then looked a bit embarrassed when I came out of role and asked him to repeat himself. His statement, ‘no, it doesn’t matter’ was a signal that my authority as teacher had been restored without ‘telling him off’ and we could probably have finished the conversation there. However, the next bit of the conversation also served a purpose. By reframing the exchange as a positive thing (‘that’s exactly right – that’s how role works!’) what could have been a ‘behaviour management’ moment turned into an opportunity for discussion about drama techniques and how these help us work with someone in role. If you re-read the exchange again, I think you’ll see that the same approach would also be appropriate where participants are resisting the role because of genuine confusion. I have certainly used the same tactic in such situations (though this has only occurred a handful of times in many years).

So there you have it – six tips for teaching in role, including what to do if children resist or reject the role. If you have other suggestions or pointers, please share  in the comments!

Summary of key points.

  • Tip 1 – Assume the best Don’t assume children won’t accept the Teacher in role – most do so really well.
  • Tip 2 – Give it time Understand that working with a teacher in role, like any new skill, takes PRACTICE.
  • Tip 3 – Use 3 step transition  Explain the rules of the game so they can get on with the game.
  • Tip 4 – pull out don’t push on If children resist the role – step OUT of role to renegotiate expectations before stepping back in
  • Tip 5 – get past the giggles This might happen naturally or through acknowledging ‘it’s tricky isn’t it!?’
  • Tip 6 – treat resistance as a teachable moment Say ‘yes you’re exactly right’ not ‘no, you’re wrong’. This reasserts your authority AND reinforces how role works without telling children off.
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