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May PD in Mantle in Whangarei and Christchurch

Kia ora colleagues

I’m excited to tell you about two mantle PD opportunities coming up in May at opposite ends of the country – one in Northland and the other in Christchurch.

Saturday 20th May Te Tai Tokerau Literacy association is holding its seminar day. Details are on the flier below. As well as my keynote, I happen to know that one of the workshops is a drama-related one, to be led by the lovely Renee Downey. The organisers tell me that everyone is welcome to attend so please contact them if you’d like to sign up. Their email is

Tai Tokerau Literacy Association Seminar Success for All 2017 (1)

But wait, there’s more!

Monday 22nd May Drama New Zealand Canterbury is hosting the second of its Mantle of the Expert introduction sessions. This long form workshop will take you through a step by step process for planning a Mantle of the Expert experience. It will be suitable for interested beginners or more experienced practitioners. For more information, see the flier below.

DNZ planning workshop 22.5


Interview with Tim Taylor on podcast

Enjoy this podcast from The Teachers’ Education Review Forum (an Australian podcast channel) in which Dan Haesler interviews Tim Taylor about Mantle of the Expert.

Tim talks about:

  • His first introduction to Mantle of the Expert through Luke Abbott and Dorothy Heathcote [26.51]
  • What Mantle is and how it works [31.23]
  • The ‘paradox’ of Mantle – real vs fictional expertise [33.00]
  • Engaging all students in the fiction [35.00]
  • Negotiating with students – asking permission & preparing for work in role [37.00]
  • Importance of collaboration and dialogue [40.45]
  • Possibilities for teacher in role – 1) as collaborator  2) as an ‘other’ from the fiction with a different point of view or status position 3) as helper [42.30]
  • Impacts of Teacher in role on learning – power shifting, safe risk-taking, exploration, dialogue and collaboration [46.25]
  • Using Mantle with different ages [51.30]
  • An example of Mantle with older students – Titanic [54.33]
  • Practical activities for Titanic context – creating artefacts, using drama conventions [58.55]
  • How drama conventions work – setting limits & prompting philosophical discussion [1.03.29]
  • How long should a Mantle be, and how is learning assessed? [1.05.50]
  • How Mantle enhances learning dispositions – authentic purpose, student agency, enduring understandings and passion for learning [1.10.10]

After the interview, Dan continues with his own reflections on learning through Mantle of the Expert and suggests it’s the sense of emotional attachment that deepens memories and retention of content. He muses on the importance of narrative in sense-making and concludes with a personal anecdote of how using role and positioning strategies helped him engage an unwilling class in a novel study. Well worth a listen.


Two Mantle of the expert PD opportunities in Whangarei – next week!

Thanks to Renee Downey and the team from Otaika Valley in Whangarei who are hosting two PD sessions for local teachers with an interest in Mantle of the Expert. It’s short notice (sorry) and places are limited but here’s the information in case colleagues from the Northland region would be interested in a last minute registration … Haere mai – all welcome.

Thursday 23rd March is a session focussed on Mantle in the Junior school…. This will follow on from our session in November last year – with an introduction to planning and some further drama conventions. Even if you didn’t make the previous one, it would be great to have you along.

Tuesday 28th March is a session designed for those with a little more experience in Mantle… though once again, anyone is welcome to attend. Participants are asked to bring questions or problems of practice, which we will explore together.

For more information about either of these workshops, including cost, start & finish times and directions to the school, please contact Renee on 



Process drama from picture books

I had the great pleasure of presenting a workshop for the Canterbury Literacy Association this week – entitled ‘dramatically enhancing the teaching of literacy in years 1-8’. The workshop focussed on how classroom drama can be used to bring picture books to life and set up opportunities for authentic literacy tasks.

I promised the participants I would share my planning. So here goes…

Two resources are attached:

The first is a plan originally developed for beginner teachers. It will be familiar to my former students as I used it for several years in preservice courses. It’s adapted from one of the units in the excellent ‘Playing our Stories’ resource (Learning Media 2001 – now sadly out of print) based on The Lighthouse Keeper’s Rescue by Rhonda and David Armitage. It’s a fairly straightforward drama designed for those trying teacher in role and drama conventions for the first time. It’s fully ‘scripted’ with links to curriculum etc.

Mrs Grinlings problem 2017

The second resource follows on from the first and gives a set of 12 steps to follow to create your own drama using the same structure with a different picture book. Again, this is a resource I developed and trialled with student teachers over many years. It seems to work pretty well, with many fabulous original dramas developed using these steps. An advantage of developing your own drama is you can choose books that suit your context (for example using texts in te reo, or more complex sophisticated picture books for senior students). As someone at the workshop pointed out, the same structure could be adapted for other books too, including novels or playtexts.

Creating drama from a picture book 2017

I do hope you find these resources useful. Just to clarify, they are not ‘mantle’ plans in the sense of setting up full-length cross curricula dramatic inquiry … but they may be useful in developing the drama skills needed for mantle teaching.



Mantle with adults – a learning story

We don’t see too many examples of Mantle used with adult learners – we tend to assume it’s for teaching young people – after all, doesn’t the imagination ‘fade’ as we get older and don’t adults tend to feel bashful and unwilling to buy in to the ‘pretend’ or ‘make believe’…? Well …… not always! It’s a pleasure to share this learning story from a course I facilitated recently through Tātai Angitu e3 @ Massey  for a group of five officials from the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. The objective was to spend two weeks learning about the New Zealand Education system, with a particular focus on project management at secondary school level.

The learning story shared here covers only part of the two weeks: I have edited out pages on field trips to schools and sessions where we learned about the NZ education system: they are not directly mantle-related and I don’t have permission to share images etc.  However, I do have permission from the group to share these pages recording our time as “Hidden Treasures” – International project management consults.

It wasn’t perfect planning or teaching on my part (is it ever?) but I do believe the use of Mantle as a pedagogy allowed these visitors to draw on their rich existing knowledge of project management (far more extensive than their facilitator’s) and make real-world links through the fictional context of the Mantle. There was strong buy-in and a real willingness to work in role. Participants readily employed drama conventions and adopted multiple perspectives despite this being a new way of working for them. There were plenty of intense discussions arising from tensions in the drama and opportunities for writing and reading of complex texts – all carried out in English as a second language.  And there were some profound moments of reflection, particularly on the last day where the team represented the impacts of their fictional project on the stakeholders. Here are the words of appeal from a community member on the fictional island, as spoken by one member of the group standing in effigy: I hold out my hands like a scale – to remind you to please balance the realities of your work with the quality of your documents and planning. This is my environment, my land, my culture – my future I am handing to you…”

The Learning story was written as we went along as an ongoing record of our learning and a place to double check and consolidate understanding of the ‘worlds’ we were operating in. It’s shared as a google slide show via the link below. Please don’t distribute or share more widely without permission – thanks!

My thanks to Sayed, Majibur, Minhaj, Nazmul and Rizwanul for permission to use their images and words and for providing such clear evidence of adults’ willingness and ability to learn through dramatic inquiry. 


Workshops coming up in Christchurch

Kia Ora Colleagues

I’m excited to tell you about three workshops coming up in Christchurch shortly. Drama NZ is promoting two opportunities to learn about Mantle of the Expert – a ‘taster session’ on March 7th and a more in-depth planning workshop on May 22nd. Meanwhile, Canterbury Literacy Association is hosting a session focussed on using drama to enhance literacy teaching. This is on March 9th. Further details are on the attached fliers. Huge thanks to Annette Thompson and Sophie O’Rourke for their energies in making these events happen.  Christchurch flyer March May 2017     Literacy flyer March 2017


Books on Mantle available

Kia Ora colleagues

Many of you will be familiar with these Mantle-related books. Thanks to the generous publishers, I have a few copies for sale at a discounted price (within New Zealand only)

Connecting Curriculum, Linking Learning (2013) by Deb Fraser, Barb Whyte and myself. It shares examples of practice from by NZ primary teachers using Arts-based integration approaches. The book includes several examples of Mantle of the Expert and has a separate chapter introducing Mantle. Usual price $44.95. Available for $40 incl postage within NZ


A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert (2016) is by UK-based practitioner Tim Taylor. You may remember Tim from his wonderful presentations at Weaving our stories conference 2009 or follow him as ‘imagineinquiry’ on twitter. This is a very accessible book with practical advice on planning and teaching. Usual price around $60 from UK. Available for $55 incl postage within NZ.

To purchase copies for yourself or your school please email 




Speaking truth to power

This short clip is something rather special. It was captured at the recent Te Aho Tapu symposium, in Hamilton (October 2016) and shows the climax of a teaching demonstration by Prof Peter O’Connor and a group of young people from Rototuna Junior High School. Peter and the children worked together over two sessions exploring ideas and moments from John Marsden’s Home and Away – a quality picture book about the experience of young children caught up in conflict and taken to a refugee camp.

The children were ‘distanced’ from the material by taking on a variety of roles and perspectives. Here we see them in role as advocates for Toby – a five year old boy whose application for entry  is being considered by the Minister for Immigration (Peter in role). See how Peter uses his high status position  to pose complex questions, model elevated language and press for commitment… and see how he trusts the silence – and the children. And look how well the children listen to each other, appeal for empathy and reach for poetic language to express their views… Some of the children said afterwards they were so absorbed in the moment they forgot about the circle of onlookers. Some also reflected how this experience had made them want to learn more about refugees and reach out to refugee families in their own community. Powerful stuff!

Thanks to Miguel Garcia who shot the footage and to Peter and the children for permission to share it here.

Click here for video


Photos from Te aho Tapu


Here’s an album of photos from the Te Aho Tapu Symposium held in Hamilton in October. Huge thanks to everyone who was involved in this fantastic event including the presenters, organisers, student helpers and children.


A full list of presentations is included on the ‘research’ page of the Mantle Aoteroa website.

The symposium was a wonderful opportunity to connect and reconnect with like-minded educators from around the country and share ideas, stories, tips and new research. I have received several emails from participants saying they went home feeling re-inspired in their practice … that’s great to hear!

Photo credits: Viv Aitken and Miguel Garcia