When we think about teaching in role, or putting participants in role it can be easy to assume that must be done in ‘full role’ – where the person in role moves, walks, talks and responds exactly like someone would in real life. However, that’s only one option. Dorothy Heathcote suggested 33 different ways of bringing someone from the imagined world ‘to life’ in the classroom. Here’s her list, in a colour coded version that was a handout at the 2009 Weaving our Stories Conference (thanks to Allana Taylor for this version). For more explanation of the colour coding, check out this post


The resource is a great way to think creatively about how roles can be represented by the teacher or by participants during drama activities.

For example, imagine you want to explore an event from New Zealand history – such as the chopping down of the flagpole in Kororāreka. You might think “I want to use teacher in role for this”. Now, you could go into full role as Hone Heke (convention 1) but to add a bit more frame distance and artistry, and to show some respect to this culturally significant figure, you might choose one of the more abstract conventions, such as slowly creating in front of the children a drawing of Heke beside the damaged flagpole (convention 9) and using the ‘teacher-in-role’ voice to narrate events from his perspective… “Aue – I had my reasons, and they were good ones…” Another option would be to invite children to close their eyes and ‘listen in’ to account of Heke’s deeds reported next day by one of his followers (convention 25). These are still examples of “teaching in role” but in a more abstract form.

Tim Taylor has recently written a blog post with an excellent guide to Heathcote’s role conventions (which he refers to as the conventions of dramatic action). The guide includes lots of illustrated examples of how the conventions can be used to select roles for the teacher AND participants. Find Tim’s guide here.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *