Te Kura Hōtoke Winter school is something of a highlight in the PLD calendar for the DI community in Aotearoa, with its focus on Mantle of the Expert. This year was the first time we included three course levels in the one event. We were delighted to have Tim Taylor from the UK joining us to lead the Advanced Practitioners group. Tim’s group focussed on deepening their theoretical and practical understandings of Mantle. Whakarongo Tauranga from Knighton School (also our most gracious host) led the Effective Teaching group with an introduction to teaching tools and strategies. And I took the Foundations group through the fundamentals of planning.

All three groups came together for a shared Mantle experience based around the picture book The Wooden Arms by Sarah Johnstone. In a previous post, I’ve shared the original planning around this book as created by KNS staff. The planning is also discussed as part of  the podcast series Introduction to Mantle of the Expert. For Winter school 2023 Tim, Whakarongo and I revisited and reworked the original planning, as shown here. It was a real treat to share the teaching with Whakarongo and Tim and it allowed participants to experience our three very different teaching styles within the one Mantle experience.

Thanks to everyone involved in making Winter School such a success, including the Ministry of Education for NEX funding, the DI Trust for organisation, our hosts at Knighton School for their generous manaakitanga, and to all the participants for investing their time over the holidays. I really valued the opportunity to be spend time with old friends,  connect with new colleagues, and deepen my understanding of Mantle of the Expert. It appears others felt the same. Here are some of the lovely comments we received from participants:

What a special time filled with manaakitanga thank you.

It was exciting to begin to understand the process and how it could change the way I teach in a way that is not only engaging for the students but for myself.

I enjoyed identifying the techniques and strategies being used and thinking more deeply about the “craft” of teaching a Mantle.

From Day one it influenced my perspective on teaching, demonstrating how combining imaginative storytelling with thoughtful questioning can unlock the full potential of the learning process. I am excited to learn how to integrate these new insights into my teaching practice and start on the dramatic inquiry journey.

Gaining the tools and insights into the planning process was invaluable. Planning with the group gave us a range of ideas and a good foundational understanding to move forward.

Learning how to integrate the core values into a mantle was great. It was great to see how the core values fitted into a mantle and seeing how these become a guiding compass that not only drives the teaching but the learning as well.

Participating in the workshop was a transformative experience that deepened my understanding of effective teaching methods and the power of blending fiction and reality in the learning process. As a student teacher, I found this approach to be enlightening, as it offered new perspectives on engaging students.

As I reflect on this workshop, I am inspired to incorporate Dramatic Inquiry into my teaching practice. I believe this method will empower my students to become active learners, enabling them to develop a deeper understanding of various subjects and their practical applications. By immersing them in engaging narratives and encouraging them to question and explore, I hope to nurture their curiosity and passion for learning.

The facilitators were all amazing and each brought their own flavour and expertise, which was lovely.

Wonderful! It was an incredible welcoming, inclusive, friendly, inspiring and supportive PLD experience.

Everything was amazing – as such the atmosphere was warm, inviting and friendly. I look forward to continuing my journey with Mantle of the Expert!

For five weeks over July and the start of August 2023 I had the pleasure of hosting my friend and mentor Tim Taylor on a tour of the North Island of Aotearoa. We visited Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Plimmerton and Auckland’s North Shore. We taught in schools, we presented workshops on our new book Try This, and we teamed up with Whakarongo Tauranga as co-facilitators of the DI Trust’s Mantle of the Expert winter school. It was a delight to connect with colleagues from around the country and a privilege to be invited into classrooms. In other posts I’ll share more detail about the content of the workshops some feedback from participants, and news about exciting new PLD opportunities and projects that have grown out of the tour. For now, though, a brief reflection on the experience of working alongside a master teacher.

I learned so much from observing and teaching Tim’s practice. I know all the teachers we worked with felt the same way – the children too. Great teachers open spaces for exploration and meaning-making that imprint in the memory and stay with you long afterwards. And where a great teacher is also a master in Dramatic Inquiry, as Tim is, something even more powerful can happen. It’s to do with the conscious conjuring of the aesthetic through embodiment and the senses; it’s about the paying of deep serious attention; it’s about authenticity and reciprocity; and it’s about sensing connection between what’s happening in the room right now and big human experiences in the past, present and future. It can be hard to put into words, at least in the English language. With my limited understanding of te re Māori I find myself reaching for kupu like ‘wairua’ and ‘ako’ to express these concepts and their transformative potential.

Great teaching is also ephemeral. While people in the room might remember it forever, the moment passes without trace. Sometimes we can capture a flavour of it through sound or visual recording. And sometimes, if the master teacher is generous and reflective, as Tim is, we can invite them to explain and demystify their practice for others to learn from. I’m thrilled that with the support of teachers, parents and tamariki, we were able to take dozens of photos and video clips during our tour. I’m also pleased to report that I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be working with Tim to craft these into learning stories, videos and other materials to share with you. Here be riches, folks … Watch this space!

Photo by Michelle Hall, Makaraka School, Gisborne

Just a few days to go till I collect my friend, mentor and co-author Tim Taylor from Auckland airport. It’s so exciting to be able to say this after several previous false starts due to Covid. Tim’s coming to teach on the Mantle of the Expert Winter school. He’ll also be joining me for a workshop tour around Te ika a Māui – North Island based on our new teaching resource Try This: Unlocking Learning with imagination.

Try This consists of a selection of forty tried and tested sequences, or ‘keys’ that can be adapted to teach across the curriculum. The keys have been trialled around the world, with great results. Colleagues here in Aotearoa are finding the keys particularly useful for planning with the new Histories curriculum.

Thanks to our generous hosts, we’re offering six Try This workshops – in Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Wellington and Auckland. The Hamilton workshop is full but places are still available on the others. We are keen to support Beginner Teachers and Student Teachers to attend  and we know times are tough, so we’re offering places for BTs and Students at half price. If you know anyone who might be keen to take up one of these, please let them know (they can sign up using the standard form and mention the special offer to receive half price).

And if you’ve been waiting for news of the books themselves … they are due to arrive soon – about the same time as Tim! Copies can be pre-ordered at our website www.trythisbook.org or grab one at the workshops. I’ve just received my approval copy and it’s gorgeous … big, hefty, and beautifully designed (thanks to illustrator Virginia, designer Emily and publisher Charlie!) I love looking at it, turning the pages and imagining the planning teachers are going to create with it.

Local history examples in Try This were crafted with input from THEN-Histories of Pāmutana, Virginia Warbrick (Pākeha) and Warren Warbrick (Rangitāne ki Manawatū, Te Arawa), who also provided invaluable cultural guidance.




Have you enrolled for the 2023 Mantle of the Expert Winter School yet? Last year’s participants described the experience as,

‘powerful, eye-opening learning’ …. ‘wonderful and inspiring’ … ‘Exciting and heartening’ … with ‘a strong sense of passion, perspective and purpose.’

This year’s event will be all of those things again. Indeed it will be extra special with three levels on offer: Foundations, Effective Teaching, and Advanced Practice. Whether you’re an absolute beginner to Mantle of the Expert, or an experienced practitioner andWinter School returnee there’s something for everyone. We’re particularly excited to welcome UK-based Tim Taylor to join us as part of the teaching team. Tim is author of Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert and a long-standing mentor to many in the Dramatic Inquiry community around the world. Tim will be teaching alongside myself and Whakarongo Tauranga. Whakarongo is well known to many in Aotearoa as co-chair Māori of the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust and an experienced classroom practitioner. We’d love you to join us!


For full details about the event (which is being held at Knighton Normal School in Hamilton from 10-12 July) see the flyer below, then click here to register! 

The cost is very reasonable thanks to support from NEX funding from the Ministry of Education. The fee for two days + introduction / welcome evening is only $120 plus GST. That includes catering and resources.

Winter School is always such a highlight – I love how it provides a bright spot of connection and professional reinvigoration during those colder winter months. This year Tim and I are extending the fun with a road trip of workshops to promote our new book Try This More about that in another post …

Hope to see you in July


I’m so looking forward to a July / August road trip with my friend, mentor and co-author Tim Taylor from the UK!

We are travelling around te Ika a Māui North Island to launch and celebrate our new book Try This: Unlocking Learning with Imagination.

Thanks to our generous hosts, we are offering six full-day workshops in six different centres.

Suitable for beginners to experienced practitioners, the workshops will be active, fun, practical and participatory. You’ll learn how to use the forty ‘keys’ in the book to plan, sequence and implement learning experiences that are engaging, safe, and effective.

While the keys can be used across the curriculum, the workshops will focus on how to meet the requirements of the Aotearoa Histories Curriculum. Each workshop will be different – with activities based around a story or local history event specific to that location.

We’ve kept enrolment fees as low as possible (bring your own lunch!)

Copies of Try This will be available at a special discounted rate at the workshops.

Please sign up now to join us in Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Wellington or Auckland on the dates below.

Early bird rate is available until 1st May.

PLEASE NOTE: Hamilton workshop is now FULL

Full flyer below. Email learningwithimagination@gmail.com for further information or


Try This – New Dramatic Inquiry resource for teachers

I’m proud and excited to tell you about a new book I’ve just finished writing with Tim Taylor. Try This … is published by Singular Publishing UK. It has fabulous illustrations by Virginia Warbrick and expert input on local history from Warren Warbrick and Virginia Warbrick: THEN – histories of Pāmutana.

Put simply, Try This … is a set of forty flexible sequences, or ‘keys’ that can be adapted for lots of different contexts. It’s a really practical handbook. For those new to Dramatic Inquiry it’s a gentle introduction. For those with more experience, it provides ways to refresh and deepen your practice.

We asked teachers from all round the world to trial the keys in Try This … See the end of this post to read some of their feedback. Colleagues in Aotearoa have found the keys especially helpful when planning to meet the requirements of the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum.

Each key in Try This … is illustrated with two examples – one from the UK and one from Aotearoa New Zealand. You can use these as a guide and adapt to your own content. With tips on planning and emotional and cultural safety, you’ll have all you need to create hundreds of hours of quality planning using Dramatic Inquiry in your classroom.

Try This … is currently with the printers and will be available for purchase in just a few weeks’ time – watch this space! Tim and I will officially launch it during a North Island workshop tour in July (more about that in a separate post). We’re also developing a dedicated website featuring support material, videos, and a space for teachers to share planning ideas www.trythisbook.org.

Email learningwithimagination@gmail.com for a free sample key to trial in your classroom, or pre-order your copy of Try This

What teachers are saying about Try This – New Dramatic Inquiry resource for Teachers

What a wonderful occasion … Around 30 kaiako from all over Aotearoa gathered this week at Knighton Normal School in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, for two full days of learning in Mantle of the Expert. The weather was soggy, the setting was beautiful, the wairua and manaaki were incredible, and the ako was mighty.

We began with a shared immersive experience of Mantle of the Expert, using the opening from the Wooden Arms experience that was planned and taught at Knighton two years ago. Then we divided into two groups. The foundation course led by Whakarongo Tauranga and Nicole Antoniadis focussed on identifying the core elements of Mantle of the Expert and exploring how the Wooden Arms plan could support the teaching of migration stories as part of the New Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum. This group also explored the first stages of planning. Meanwhile in the other room, I led the effective teaching course as we dived deep into teaching tools, microplanning, and strategies for critical reflection.

It’s always so humbling to see kaiako prepared to give up their precious non-contact time to come and do professional development. It seemed like everyone participated eagerly and took something away to try: a new plan, a new way of looking at a familiar tool or strategy, a deepened interest in Mantle of the Expert. It was super satisfying.

Huge thanks to Whakarongo, Nicole, Jacki and the rest of the team at Knighton who provided the venue and fed and hosted us so well. Thanks to the principals and school leaders who supported their staff to attend. Thanks to the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust who ran the event – with support from the Ministry of Education. And last but not least, thanks to everyone who travelled from all over the country to be there.

If you are reading this and attended Winter School, please feel free to share your own reflections below – it would be good to hear other perspectives. If you were one of those who wanted to come but had your plans disrupted by Covid, please know we missed you and felt you with us in spirit!

Plans are already afoot for the next Winter School around the same time next year. We aim to repeat the ‘Foundation’ course and the ‘Effective Teaching tools’ course, as well as adding a third layer focussed on assessment and whole school change. This wonderful event is becoming a tradition and I for one am already looking forward to it.

Now we’re finally coming out Covid restrictions, it’s great to be experiencing face-to-face workshops again. There’s nothing like the buzz of spending time with colleagues at a really practical, fun workshop, and knowing you’ll go away with new ideas and inspiration for teaching.

The 2022 series of four Maker Day workshops from the DI Aotearoa Network (July – Sept) is going to be something rather special.

The presenters are experienced kaiako who use process drama, drama for learning, Mantle of the Expert and play regularly in their practice. And not only are the workshops face to face, they are also run over a full day, with time and materials provided so you can craft the planning and resources you need to teach back in your own setting. You’ll have a creative, hands-on day and you’ll leave with what you need to implement what you’ve learned straight away.

Full promotion materials are still in development. These will be out on the DI website and Facebook Page next week, but here’s a sneak preview including a link to the enrolment form. Cost is just $50 + GST (subsidised by Networks of Expertise funding from the Ministry of Education)

Maker day workshops are being held in a range of locations across Te Ika a Māui: 22nd July (Whangārei), 30th July (Kirikiriroa), 20th August (Whanganui-a-tara) and 10th September (Kirikiriroa).

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.

2022 sees the first official celebration of Matariki as a public holiday. Here are two teaching resources to support you to explore the meaning of this special festival with your class.

First, a lovely playful learning adventure for younger children, created by Whakarongo Tauranga. This one is loosely based on the book Tirama Tirama Matariki. In this learning adventure, tamariki are asked to help Kiwi and friends search for Matariki, and discover the stories told about the stars. The planning supports inquiries into lots of different aspects of Matariki. Whakarongo created this for teachers in her own kura, and has generously made it available to others who may be looking for ideas. Kia ora Whakarongo! If you use or adapt this plan, please acknowledge Whakarongo and also Rebecca Larsen who wrote and illustrated the book.

Secondly, we have this resource, written by myself. It is based on the story Matariki Breakfast by Andrē Ngāpō & Rozel Pharazyn – a text from the “Ready to Read” series, which is readily available in most schools. In this plan, children step into role as Kara and her family as they prepare their special breakfast – choosing details like what’s in the pot, and what warm clothes to wear. The plan also uses simple paper cut outs and a waiata to bring a sense of magic to the retelling of a traditional story of Matariki and her children.

I wrote this plan last year, and have really enjoyed teaching it in a number of classes from year 1-6. You’ll see the planning is very detailed as it’s designed to be picked up and used by kaiako with little or no prior knowledge of DI. It also includes some information on how the planning was developed. If you use and adapt this plan, please acknowledge myself as original author and the writer and illustrator of the text.

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.