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!



If you enjoy listening to / learning from podcasts, how about joining a listening / study group based around the Introduction to Mantle of the Expert podcast series, starting August 29th. It’s free of charge and open to anyone who is interested.

Read on for a bit more context and if you’re keen to be part of the group, send an email to and I’ll send through the zoom links.

Background context

In 2021-2 during the second Covid lockdown Tim Taylor (UK) Whakarongo Tauranga (NZ) and I started getting together to record a podcast series An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert. You can read more about the presenters here. This was our second podcast. The previous series Effective Teaching and Learning in Mantle of the Expert was created in 2020 and released to a group of subscribers who paid to be part of a study group.

An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert  was created to align with the Foundations in Mantle of the Expert course at the Mantle of the Expert Winter School 2022/3. The first big idea was to have ten episodes, each based around one of the core elements (whenu) of Mantle of the Expert. The second big idea was to illustrate the discussion with reference to The Wooden Arms; a Mantle of the Expert experience planned and taught by staff at Knighton Normal School and also shared at the Mantle of the Expert Winter School. 

We recorded ten episodes, which I’ve been painstakingly editing over the last two years. This process is still ongoing. To date, episodes 1-5 are completed and episodes 6-10 are still in development. As each episode is completed I upload it to the ‘Buy Me a Coffee’ platform, where listeners can access them and, if they wish, pay a small donation (the price of a coffee – or several coffees) towards the cost of production.

Episodes are around 20-30 minutes long. Sound quality is mixed – but I reckon the quality of content  makes up for this! So far there’s also been a bonus track alongside each main episode, containing material that deviated away from the main topic, but was too good to delete! Each episode has accompanying notes. 

Rationale for the group

While the podcast is available to anyone to access at any time, the Dramatic Inquiry Trust is funding a free study / listening group starting on Tuesday 29th August, to provide:

  • Follow up and deeper learning for Winter School participants
  • Opportunities for ongoing planning support in Mantle of the Expert
  • Opportunities to reflect more deeply and discuss the core elements in more detail
  • A sense of community – get togethers over zoom with like minded teachers around the country
  • Focus and ‘accountability’ – a reason to listen to the next episodes and complete the series in a certain time
  • Opportunities to ask questions and chat live with the presenters and teachers featured in the episodes
  • Incentive for me to get the rest of the episodes edited and uploaded!

Dates and format

All sessions will be one hour long, held over zoom. Note, the times are NZ local time. I’ll be facilitating the sessions and Whakarongo and Tim will be dropping in from time to time as well. We’d love for you to join us.

To enrol, just email  and I’ll send you full information and the links.

This is a gentle invitation to listen / study at your own pace and interest level with no obligation and no pressure … if you can’t make it to one of the sessions – no problem. And if you haven’t finished listening to the podcast episodes in a particular week you can still come along, enjoy the chats, and catch up later!

The listening / study group is being offered with the support of Networks of Expertise funding through the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust.

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.

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.

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.

This new book by Viv Aitken, is available from NZCER from 14th April 2021

Drawing on a decade of classroom practice, research and professional development, the book will be of interest to teachers and researchers around the world. However, it is written specifically with the local education context in mind, with references to the New Zealand curriculum, and familiar metaphors of weaving used throughout.

Viv explains that the book’s title emerged from a classroom conversation:

‘A few years ago I was teaching a Mantle of the Expert experience to a class of 9-year olds. One of the children asked whether what we were doing was real or made up and I replied, “we’re creating a story together using imagination”. The child seemed satisfied with this clarification. Just then another boy in the class spoke up:  “It’s real” he said quietly and emphatically, “in all the ways that matter.” His words capture the depth and complexity of Mantle of the Expert so perfectly I could think of no better title for this book.’

The text is wide ranging, including chapters on the history and development of Mantle of the Expert, the steps required to plan and implement a Mantle of the Expert experience, tools for enhancing teaching, tips and advice for getting started, and a section on why Mantle of the Expert is such a good fit for the goals of twenty-first century education.

Real in all the ways that matter has received very positive comments from reviewers, including this from Prof Brian Edmiston (Ohio State)

“Open this book to discover why and how you can transform your classroom with the Mantle of the Expert approach to dramatic inquiry. The theoretical sections and the descriptions of practice are as carefully created, presented, and engaging as Viv’s masterful teaching. Inquire, savor, and then share this gem with your teaching colleagues.”

Copies of Real in all the ways that matter can be ordered from NZCER at this link. Cost is $55.00 NZ

Thanks to the editors for permission to share this article: Real Learning in Imagined Worlds: Supporting Literacy Learning with Dramatic Inquiry, recently published in Literacy Forum: the journal of the New Zealand Literacy Association. Here’s a link to their website where you can find out more about this publication and the work of the Association.

The article gives an introduction to the dramatic inquiry spectrum – which includes Mantle of the Expert as well as child-structured dramatic play, process drama, and drama for learning – and discusses how each approach can support literacy learning.

I especially like the way the article includes quotes and examples from real teachers in real classrooms. Thank you to colleagues from Hillcrest Normal and Knighton Normal Schools for contributing these. Identities have been changed for privacy reasons, but I’m sure those involved will recognise themselves and their words!

At the end of the article there’s some planning for a simple process drama with play elements, written for New Entrants by myself and Keirryn Hintz in 2019. It is based on the big book “Monster’s Lunch” by Janice Marriott, illustrated by Scott Pearson (images used with permission).

Viv Aitken December 2020

I’m delighted to share this resource created by the fabulous year two teaching team at Hillcrest Normal School: Catherine Blewden, Jordyn Lye, Ashley Patterson, Anna Harrison, and Tina ter Ellen. The planning was inspired by other home learning adventures “Dog Squad”, and “Troll Hunters”. The teachers originally designed the resource for use during home learning in Lockdown, but found it worked equally well back in the classroom.

Teachers worked so hard to craft this adventure, particularly Catherine who did the research and Jordyn who created the slides. It was inspiring to see the effort and care the teachers put in to the process, and to see how obsessed children and teachers alike became with the life story and achievements of NZ science legend Joan Wiffen! This is just the kind of local content we need more of in our classrooms, I reckon…

The team have generously made their planning available to others through this website. Links to the first two episodes are given below, with an overview of the rest of the unit. Please email Viv if you’re interested in accessing more. It’s freely available for individual teachers who wish to use / adapt it.

I understand Catherine and the team have moved on to writing a new adventure based on Antarctic exploration. Good luck – and we look forward to hearing how that one goes…

CLICK HERE for link to “Fossil Hunters” overview

CLICK HERE for chapter one

CLICK HERE for chapter two

In term 2 and 3 2020, the Dramatic Inquiry team at Knighton Normal School in Hamilton collaborated to create these lovely teaching resources based on the book Wooden Arms by Sarah Johnson.

The team rose to the challenge of using the same source material (the quality picture book) to create a collaborative play-based experience for New Entrants / year ones AND a full-blown Mantle of the Expert experience for more senior students. The results are something to be very proud of – exploring themes of identity and belonging in the context of New Zealand history.

Those new to dramatic inquiry will enjoy the detail in the planning, which include step by step instructions and questions etc. Those more experienced in the approach will appreciate the use of various finessing tools including the three teacher voices, the dimensions of dramatic imagination, the teacher compass and a range of drama conventions.

Many thanks to the teachers Jacki Paea, Chrissy Cottingham, Katie McLean, Nicole Antoniadis, David Hannah, Diane Cooper & Whakarongo Tauranga for generously making these resources available. Thanks also to Sarah Johnson who gave her enthusiastic support for this planning.