It’s been so rewarding to see the positive responses to this new resource from teachers in Aotearoa and around the world.

They are selling like hot cakes … around 200 copies so far – and that’s before we have officially launched in the UK!

Try This … is not strictly speaking a book about Mantle of the Expert, though quite a few teachers I know are using it to plan the activities within a Mantle. It’s useful for all kinds of Dramatic Inquiry in all kinds of settings.

To support teachers with planning and exploring the keys, Tim and I will be hosting a series of monthly meetings over zoom, looking at the keys one by one. These will start in October. Invitations are going out to everyone who has purchased or ordered a copy of the book by then. So, head to  to order yours and join the fun!



An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert with Viv Aitken, Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga

I’m so excited to announce the launch of this new podcast which has been a labour of love for the past two years.

Join me as I indulge in a VERY enjoyable and wide ranging conversation with Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga about the ten core elements of Mantle of the Expert; how to plan for them, and how they contribute to effective teaching and learning.

Full information about the podcast series, and access to episodes can be found at this link.

We’ve decided make this project available through a ‘pay what you can afford’ approach using the ‘buy me a coffee’ platform. If you like what you hear please share the link widely.

Introduction and Episodes 1-3 (including bonus episodes) are available now. Click the FOLLOW button on “Buy Me A Coffee” and receive info about future episodes as these are published.

Our other podcast series “Effective Teaching in Mantle of the Expert” will also be republished on the platform in due course.

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.

I am chuffed to report that since its launch in April, sales of my book have been going really well. NZCER tell me they have almost sold out of the first print run. You can still order a copy from them here.

There’s also an e-book version available for Kindle. It can be purchased on Amazon here.

I also have a small number of the hard copy books available if you’d prefer to buy from me (I’ll even include a friendly message inscribed in the cover!) Cost is $50 payable to the publishers plus $10 payable to me to cover postage. Email and I’ll send out to you the same day.

The University of Auckland, NZEI, the Principals Federation and the Sir John Kirwan Foundation have partnered to create an online resource to support teachers to return to school through the arts and wellbeing.

This is a very valuable, and very attractive resource with lots of inspirational ideas for using drama and other arts. The resource was specifically designed for use in the first few weeks after lockdown when we finally return to school.

The activities include several really lovely process dramas – and three connected units of work focussed on Hā Ora. These would be a great way to lay the foundations for the longer term cross-curricula learning in Mantle of the Expert once you are back with your classes.

Highly recommended!

Coming up VERY SOON, Drama New Zealand is offering two FREE workshops for primary and intermediate teachers looking at dramatic inquiry for home learning / distance learning. These will be held over ZOOM and facilitated by Viv Aitken and Renee Downey. Further information below (including full flier and facilitator biographies)

There has already been a lot of interest in these workshops, and they are almost full, so please contact Drama NZ to register your interest (links are shown below). Depending on demand, we may repeat the workshops again in the near future. LINK TO FORM

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!

This process drama plan based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin was originally written by the late Lyn Shillingford with some minor adaptions by myself. I haven’t taught it for years, but dug it out the other day after a teacher mentioned she wanted to explore the poem with her class. As I re-visited the plan, I rediscovered Lyn’s artistry in bringing the poem to life and giving the context a modern ‘feel’. The original author is no longer with us but gave me permission to distribute the plan to anyone who wanted it – so here you go… enjoy this gift from Lyn.

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!




Process drama is a great way to bring stories to life in the classroom – and to become familiar with the conventions and strategies used in Mantle of the Expert. Picture books provide a wonderful starting point for planning, as they provide many of the ‘raw ingredients’ for successful drama. In this post I share two resources:

The first is a plan adapted from one of the units in the excellent ‘Playing our Stories’ resource (Learning Media 2001 – now sadly out of print). It’s a fairly straightforward drama based on The Lighthouse Keeper’s Rescue by Rhonda and David Armitage. Designed to support for those trying teacher in role and drama conventions for the first time, the plan is 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. This is a framework for planning 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). The same structure could be adapted for other books too, including novels or playtexts.

Creating drama from a picture book 2018

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 I hope they may be useful in developing the drama skills needed for mantle teaching.

See other posts on this site for  tips for teaching in role including dealing with uncertainty from participants and the importance of clear signalling.