Archive | Classroom examples – Secondary

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


Digital rolling role project. Secondary teachers should check this out!

In my report from the Heathcote conference I mentioned the digital rolling role project that had been trialled by teachers from a range of countries.

Of particular interest to secondary colleagues, this project is an exciting example of how online spaces can be used for drama collaboration. Sue Davis has now kindly shared her slides on slideshare. Well worth a look.


Article on Mantle of the Expert used to teach Macbeth

Thanks to Gaenor Stoate for drawing this article to our attention. It will be of particular interest to secondary English and drama teachers. A lovely account of MOTE used to engage and empower unwilling students at a more senior level.

Check out the student’s incredibly insightful comments on why they prefer working in role…

Check out also the creative ideas for letting them do their exams in role…

Most of all, check out what these teachers managed to achieve with a bunch of students who (according to their own teachers) were ‘thugs’ and would never ‘get it’.

Click here for link



Exploration of a NZ issue through MOTE – collaborative arts

Spent a fulfilling day this week with a small group of university students exploring a NZ issue – in this case Kahikatea deforestation – through Mantle of the Expert.

The objective was to set up opportunities for solo work and collaboration in the Visual Arts, using drama as a pedagogy – and based around a social issue of strong local resonance

First, we explored an old photograph showing men digging a huge muddy ditch. We explored the thoughts and feelings of these men at these moment in their lives. Students were asked to remember this image and consider, as the day went on, what it might have to do with our ‘company’.

Then, students were enrolled as “Arts on the Street” – public Art makers. Their particular speciality – large scale public representations of local history. Through drama, we discovered that past successes of the company included a painted mural in the town of Russell, depicting the social history of the place (we knew we must have done a good job because we received a letter from the rate payers organisation thanking us for our attention to detail and our historical accuracy). We also recreated the moment that the mural was unveiled, and heard the various reactions.

Once we had built belief in our company (a bit of a rush job, as this was a ‘mini mantle’ only), we received the commission: Hamilton Civic Arts Trust were inviting us to enter a video for a new project….

Commission letter

Hamilton city has a well known and very ugly grey concrete wall in the city centre known as ‘wintec wall’. The commission described how this wall was to become a screen for projected art videos. We were asked to create a 30 second video exploring the history of Kahikatea forests in Hamilton.

Next it was off in the cars to check out the wall, take measurements and consider the best use of our video.We also visited a Kahikatea forest fragment (Claudeland’s bush). First, students collected images and samples and got to know the look and feel of the forest. Then they were invited to sit down on the edge of the forest as they were going to meet someone closely associated with these trees. I put on a mask and stood, simply doing a ‘wiri’ with my hands. From this, the students inferred that I was playing the role of Kaitiaki (or spiritual guardian) of the trees.

The students thought about what questions they might have for the Kaitiaki. I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to speak ‘as’ Kaitiaki. Instead I used Trevor Sharp’s very nifty convention from his ‘Huia Beak’  drama. I distributed pieces of paper containing fragments of historical information – then I asked the questions to the Kaitiaki (now represented simply by the mask lying on the ground). The students then spoke the answers, drawing on the information in front of them. We discovered how this 800 acre forest had been reduced to a tiny remnant the wetlands drained and how the 300 year old trees were struggling to cope. At this point, students made the connection with the photograph we had seen at the start. We even located the actual drainage ditch at the site. The stories of the settlers working hard to make the land productive, were placed alongside the story of destruction and loss as told by the Kaitiaki.

Armed with this information, we travelled back to the campus and  began working on some ideas for the video. The commission required simple power point and luckily we were able to get some ‘professional development’ (aka straight skills teaching) from Donn, one of our Arts lecturers. Working in collage, the team came up with some abstract responses to what they had seen, heard and gathered.

Students have taken materials home to continue their work on the commission….

Not a full Mantle, but satisfying as a way to spark interest and commitment in a shared project. Nice, too, to link with Arts making as I more often find myself involved with science, technology and suchlike.

Attaching the plan for this mini mantle if anyone is interested. Feel free to use however you see fit, but please acknowledge the original author. (NB the plan is formatted for A3 – thanks Nat for the template!)


Claudelands – answers from the Kaitiaki


Planning for term four

A successful planning session was held in Hamilton last week where local teachers came together to brainstorm ideas and share advice for term four:

Amongst others, we generated the following ideas:

  • A Mantle of the expert approach to the story Jack and the Beanstalk, for year two primary students. In this case, the teacher has decided to place a strong emphasis on the drama for learning / process drama side with teacher going into role as the giant’s wife, very distressed at the stealing of her golden hen…. The teacher really wanted to work with this theme after experiencing some petty theft within the classroom.
  • A MOTE for senior high school students involving a company that regulates new technologies in the marketplace [this one can be seen as working in the ‘regulatory’ mode from Heathcote’s list]. This one is going to be used as a starting point for a senior drama unit and the students will be challenged to explore ethical and political issues arising from secretive surveillence in society. Students’ ideas will be used as the basis for a devised performance.
  • For a senior primary class, a mantle of the expert exploration of the environmental damage from ‘Rena’ (the cargo ship currently aground off the Bay of Plenty). We discussed how important it would be with this one to take care with ‘frame distance’, as this is a real life issue, currently unfolding. We talked about how we could enrol the students as a company commissioned to clean out and recycle the shipping containers that have floated off the ship… this will take the class into science, design and math learning.

The gathering was useful not only to touch base with other teachers but also to remind ourselves of some of planning steps and guiding principles of planning in MOTE. Again, it was impressive to see primary, early years and secondary teachers sharing ideas. Kia Ora team!


MOTE in the English classroom

Received this email from Esther at Auckland Girl’s Grammar – she’s been bravely trying some drama strategies she learned in the IFTE conference workshop within her Secondary English classroom. Well done Esther – sounds like you are taking some risks and creating rich learning experiences for the students!
Great to see the collaboration between teachers within the school too – we need more of this at secondary!

Just to let you know, that with some nervous excitement, we are both trying out some techniques we learnt from you!  Fortunately, we have also had the help of our school drama teacher  to help guide us.

So far I have got my Year 9 English class to become a team of investigative journalists following up on a story animal cruelty and a strange rebellion on Manor Farm [aka Animal Farm] – where I ended up impersonating the drunken Mr Jones languishing at the Red Lion pub as they interrogated me!
This week I am getting my Year 12 English class to become a Trauma team  who are going to work with a family where domestic violence and murder have occurred (from the novel ‘Purple Hibiscus’) and interview then prepare psychological assessments of each character for a meeting with a lawyer.
Before the year is out I would like to think about how I can apply MoTE to my low stream class and my Art History class too.
Its all very scary and I feel like a first year teacher all over again but it is reinvigorating my teaching and certainly impacting student engagement in my classroom. Many thanks for providing the inspiration in your workshop that ignited this professional growth!
Best wishes
Esther Graham
Auckland Girls’  Grammar School.