Something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while is a new strategy I have been using for bringing a fictional ‘other’ into a classroom drama. What do I mean by a fictional ‘other’? Well, that could be a whole post in its own right, but basically a fictional ‘other’ is anyone from the imagined world that we ‘evoke’ within the classroom world. The fictional other could be a story character, the client in a Mantle of the Expert experience, an angry neighbour or an imaginary member of our class who has made a mess of the PE cupboard and got us all into trouble. Fictional ‘others’ allow teachers to present someone else outside of the classroom as an audience, an interested party – or indeed an impediment – to the work of the classroom. Carrie Swanson writes more about fictional others in a journal article that can be found here.

There are lots of strategies we might use to bring a fictional other to the attention of the class. Probably the most familiar are the strategies of ‘teacher in role’ or ‘adult /person in role’ where the teacher or some other adult or person takes on a role as someone from the imagined world. Often this is done as though the role was actually present and able to speak, move and respond, but there are lots of other possibilities. Dorothy Heathcote’s list of 34 role conventions sets out a whole range of ways in which a teacher in role or person in role can be varied, including some in which the role is represented in non human form, though something like a letter, an object or a piece of discarded clothing. For a list of Heathcote’s role conventions, click here

What Heathcote’s list does not include are digital possibilities for evoking a fictional other, and this is something I’ve been experimenting with recently. If you caught up with Miguel’s blog about his Mantle adventures, or my post about working with officials from the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh, you might notice that in both cases we used something called ‘voki’ to evoke the fictional other of the client.

Voki is a free online tool for creating an animation that ‘speaks’ the words you give it to say. Here’s a link to the voki site. And Here’s a quick video of the kind of thing you can produce.

The app gives several options for gender, ethnicity, accent, clothing etc so you can tailor it to suit your situation. My advice would be to keep things realistic and simple rather than going for the more ‘way out’ features – unless that suits your context, of course! One thing I really like about using Voki is how participants could return to the link time and again and revisit it for clarification. It’s also great how you can pull up the voki on a small device like an ipad and thereby ‘evoke’ the role several times over in different parts of the group for different groups. I especially like how when the programmed animation has finished, the fictional other stays ‘present’ with eyes following the cursor: a lovely sense of fictional otherness!

One final tip: Voki can’t always pronounce words correctly so you may find it helpful to spell out some words ‘funnettickly’ !

Here’s something I’ve been working on for some time with input from teachers and colleagues in NZ and beyond. It’s a work in progress that I’m updating and improving as more people contribute their ideas … I’d love to get your thoughts, suggestions and refinements and I can add your name to the long list of acknowledgements…!

The document is an attempt to offer answers to some of the most common questions asked by people who want to understand Mantle of the Expert, especially those wanting to use it across the whole school: “What does it look like in my context?” “How does it relate to other drama in education approaches?” and “What’s the fit with development?”

There’s a diagram on the first page, then a sort of table with definitions and examples. Not perfect, but so far people seem to be finding it pretty useful. Check it out at the link below, and let me know what you think.

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  along with links to further information. If you get a chance to watch the whole documentary, it’s definitely worth it!

I thought I would share this wee handout I have been working on. Created for a recent drama workshop at a local primary school ( I LOVE working with groups like this who are hungry to bring drama into their teaching!!)  Anyway, the handout is adapted from ‘Role Registers’ by Dorothy Heathcote. It extends the list of possible positions a teacher can take, and gives examples of how this can change things for the children. Check it out… and let me know what you think. Smiles,  Viv.

Role registers and positions in drama teaching

Our Hamilton cluster meeting tonight (fantastic as ever) was focussed on assessment within Mantle of the Expert. Teachers shared some strategies they have found useful for keeping assessment “authentic” within a Mantle of the Expert frame. Then we read and viewed some material from the UK website. As promised, I’m re- sharing some of that material here – with thanks and acknowledgement to original authors: 

Here is the handout given out at the meeting ASSESSMENT IDEAS FOR MANTLE OF THE EXPERT – adapted from material on

Click here for link to Assessment as an act of love – article by Debra Kidd

Click here for Mary James’ slides on Third Generation assessment

Follow this link Michael-Questioning for the excellent handout Questions Questions Questions by Michael Bunting, originally published on

Great to see the new faces at our group – Welcome Vicky and Larissa….! Next meeting will be in early August – details to follow.

Check out the new page just inserted into the website under ‘planning in MOTE – teacher resources’  Or click here.  On this page you will find 10 concept ideas for MOTE plans all very different and all with a distinctly NZ theme.

These concepts for Mantle of the Expert units of work were designed by third year students as part of their learning on TEAL 387 at Waikato University. My thanks to these students for agreeing to allow their ideas to be shared with other teachers. They are loosely categorized according to the main curriculum learning areas that they cover – though the ‘incorporated’ approach of MOTE means that each concept gives opportunities to teach right across the curriculum including opportunities for rich learning in Maths, Literacy and ethics / values. Key competencies are not indicated but are core to any MOTE experience.

Please note, these concepts provide only the broad framework for planning – naturally a great deal of micro-planning would be required for individual lessons and to ensure teaching for learning. It is important to note that the concepts as they stand do NOT include indications of drama conventions and other drama for learning strategies which the teacher would need to use.  And naturally, the direction of the inquiry would flex and change depending on the interests of the children in the class. Nonetheless, I think you will agree that these concepts provide a stimulating set of NZ based ideas for MOTE units – and we really need to start building a collection of those!