A moment from the workshop (photo by Vivien Smith)

I really enjoyed co-presenting with Claire Edwards at the Puketāpapa Kahui Ako gathering at Dominion Road school in Auckland recently. The focus of the day was on the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum, and Claire and I took the opportunity to model how frame distance could be used to explore a story from local history from a range of perspectives.

Our starting point was a newspaper account of a dramatic event that happened just down the road from the school in 1872. By the end of the half-day workshop everyone was really engaged with the content … so much so, we hardly had time to discuss the way we’d used DI to teach it!

I wrote up the planning for the workshop in detail, with an explanation of each step for participants. And I thought other teachers might be interested too. Hope you find it useful … You could teach the plan as is (the story of the Cyrus Hayley affair is absolutely fascinating as a window into New Zealand society at the time). Or you could adapt the steps to explore a story from your own locality. I hope you’ll leave a comment, or get in touch to let me know what you create.

One thing to notice is how the planning deliberately avoids inviting participants to step into the shoes of historical characters. Strategies and conventions like “hotseating” and “teacher in role” may not be appropriate where real historical figures are involved. Instead, we can use frame distance to take roles as people with different viewpoints on the event. This allows us to explore the way different perspectives on an historic event change the way it is perceived. I’m encouraging all the teachers I work with to consider frame distance when teaching local histories. More on this in future posts…

Please note the curriculum links at the start of the document, including the comments about the importance of mana whenua engagement.

Thanks to Claire Edwards for finding the amazing source material about Cyrus Haley and for co-planning and co-presenting – it was great for the teachers to hear from a colleague about the impact DI has had in your school. Thanks also to Vivien Smith for taking video and photo record of the workshop, to Cat Rowlings for coming across town to attend, to participants for choosing the workshop from so many others they could have selected, and to Mike O’Reilly for his invitation to be part of the day.

As with all planning offered freely on this site, these resources belong to the original authors and are not to be on-sold for profit nor distributed in any other form.

When Covid interrupted our planned DI Symposium for October 2021, the organising team initially hoped to reschedule for January. However, the dates were not available, and Covid has continued to spread. So, we are rain checking the event until the October school holidays in 2022 – hopefully back at beautiful Whāngārā.

We are really sorry that we weren’t able to make this event happen, after so much hard work, dedication and generosity from everyone involved. Huge thanks are due to the organising team and all the presenters for all the work preparing the event and creating an incredible range of presentations, workshops, hikoi, stories and other special moments. Here’s the schedule, so you can see what I mean (NB some blurbs and biographies not complete) 


We really look forward to a future where we come through the current uncertainties with Covid. We hope our wonderful presenters will just as keen to present next year – they are definitely all invited! Our keynotes have already recommitted, which is fantastic…

In the meantime, the Dramatic Inquiry Network Trust is determined to offer lots of exciting PLD and networking opportunities to keep us inspired and keep the magic of DI alive. By October 2022 when we finally do come together, there will be even more stories to tell!

Planning is underway for a much anticipated event in the Dramatic Inquiry Network’s calendar for 2021. Our first symposium for many years will be held in Gisborne in the October school holidays (8th – 10th October). Past symposia have been amazing events, in which teachers have shared practice and learned from each other. With so many exciting projects happening in classrooms around Aotearoa, we’re thrilled to be able to set up this opportunity for teachers to come together once again and continue the ako within dramatic play, drama for learning, process drama, Mantle of the Expert and the other DI approaches.

The beautiful setting of Whāngārā marae (40 minutes from Gisborne – the setting for the Whale Rider movie) will provide a special space for us to explore what it means to work with DI in the unique cultural context of Aoteaora. A key focus for the gathering will be considering culturally sustaining practice within our teaching and within our processes as a Trust. To this end, we will be asking everyone who attends to stay on the marae and enjoy the complete experience.

The weekend will also include the AGM of the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust and sessions where we plan for the future activities of the Trust. These are open to anyone interested.

Many thanks to the busy team already working hard to bring this exciting event together. We will be doing all we can to make this a low cost / no cost event for teachers. More information will be shared soon. For now, please put the dates in your diary and please get in touch if you would be interested in presenting on your your practice as part of the symposium.

For expressions of interest or more information, please email dramaticinquirynz@gmail.com and include ‘Symposium’ in the subject line.

The Centre for Arts and Social Transformation is hosting a free public lecture, Te Rito Toi: The Twice Born Seed on the role and place of the arts in education. The lecture will be held at the University of Auckland on November 4th from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm.
The lecture will open with the findings of a 3 year study into the state of creativity in New Zealand schools presented by Professor Peter O’Connor, Director of the Centre. The research paints a compelling picture of the state of New Zealand schools’ creativity.

Click here to visit the Te Rito Toi site for more information and registration

Here’s the planning for a simple process drama based on Robyn Kahukiwa’s beautiful picture book Taniwha. This drama was shared at the Literacy conference and the TRCC course in October 2019, with participants coming up with some really thoughtful responses.

Robyn Kahukiwa’s gorgeous book has enormous potential for rich exploration across the arts and the short lesson offered here only skims the surface of the deeper meanings that could be explored through the text. However, I think it’s a good example of how effective process drama can be created fairly easily using a picture book as pretext.

Here also is the planning framework that was used to create the drama. This handout has been shared on this site before using a different book. It’s amazing how these simple steps can be used to create unique dramas from just about any picture book. Check it out and have a go at writing your own!

The National Literacy conference was held last week at Rangi Ruru school in Christchurch with the theme of “Arts as a Bridge to Literacy”. As promised, here’s a PDF of slides from Viv’s keynote address with notes to help make sense of the visuals. There are also links you can click to further information.

Many many thanks to the fabulous teachers of Knighton Normal and Hillcrest Normal Schools in Hamilton who contributed clips for the video used during the presentation.

Have you heard about the 2019 National Literacy conference in Christchurch? The conference, which is being held Sept 29-Oct 2, has the very inspiring title of “The Arts as a bridge to Literacy” and the programme promises a rich feast of workshops and presentations from across the Arts.

I am privileged enough to be one of the keynote speakers along with Gavin Bishop, Steven Layne, Marcus Akuhata-Brown, Wendy Pye, Mary Chamberlain, Murray Gadd and Mal Keenan. A number of experienced practitioners from the Mantle of the Expert Aotearoa community will be presenting workshops. It looks like being a great event in a beautiful city.


Details of how to register can be found on the conference webpage. Early bird registrations have now been extended until 10th August.

Hope to see you there!

These slides are from Renee Downey’s presentation at Drama New Zealand conference in Christchurch, April 14th 2019, with findings from her Masters research. Renee wanted to know whether students from her class (who had experienced 4 years of learning through Mantle of the Expert) felt prepared for inquiry learning at Intermediate. So, she interviewed them, their teachers and another control group of students who had not experienced drama at primary. Findings are presented here, along with quotes from the students.

This research is an important contribution to the field, offering data to assist teachers and school leaders and reassure parents. We really need more research like this looking at long term impacts of dramatic inquiry

Kia Ora Renee … Hope you will write this one up for publication before long!?

These slides – presented at the Drama New Zealand conference in Christchurch on 14th April, 2019 – reveal exciting new findings from a two year research project exploring dramatic inquiry and culturally responsive pedagogy in a Northland primary school.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s inside:

Slides 1-10 provide background information about the school and research team (names are shared with consent)

Slides 11-16 give findings from the teachers’ TLIF inquiry including this gorgeous poster / metaphor encapsulating the teacher’s understandings of culturally responsive teaching within Mantle of the Expert at their school.

Slides 17-20 give findings from data analysed in a larger research project. These include THIRTY FIVE benefits for students’ writing mentioned by teachers, and more than FIFTY other benefits observed in the key competencies. Non-confirming and surprise findings are also listed.

Slide 21 shows the huge list of new things the teachers tried in the 2 years of the project.

Slides 22-24 discuss implications and possibilities for future research as well as listing references.

You are welcome to share this information but please acknowledge the original authors.

We will be writing up findings for publication in a peer reviewed journal shortly.

On Monday 15th April, Renee Downey and Viv Aitken had the pleasure of presenting a workshop at the primary teacher’s conference in Wellington. We began by offering a taste of a Mantle of the Expert experience. And to keep things simple, we chose the first Mantle of the Expert Renee ever taught, four years ago, with her year 3-4 class.

Renee’s planning (for full size version, see link below)

Teachers were quickly engaged by the hook. They willingly engaged in activities using drama conventions to explore moments from the imagined world. And before long they were firing out questions that could lead to authentic inquiry across the curriculum: “How far is it to Brazil?” “What would the dangers be of heading into the rainforest?” “How would we get there?” “What do they want us to do with the animals we rescue?”

Of course we could only skim the surface of the complexities of the approach in a short workshop like this, but participants were very positive. We’ve had several follow up inquiries and new enrolments on the site. Welcome aboard!

For slides from the presentation, including full size images of Renee’s planning. Please check out this link.