When teaching, regardless of which year group, I really enjoy using drama as a hook to foster children's interest in writing. Within this post I recall a previous lesson where I used a drama conversion called 'the mantle of the expert'. I would like to take the time to thank my host class teacher from my second year placement, for recommending this approach and inspiring me to take a more creative approach to my teaching. I am sorry for the length of the post, but I hope this in depth analysis will inspire you to use a similar example within your classroom.
What is the Mantle of the Expert?
The mantle of the expert is where pupils within a class are made to believe they are working for a real life company, or project. They are seen as the experts in the selected field and are working for a 'real life' client, who is in fact completely fictional. In this activity the teacher is seen as a knowledgeable colleague, working alongside and guiding the children through the process. Everyone must take part in the fictional scenario to deliver the results needed for the client in a set time scale, this approach to learning can often take a series of drama based lessons to complete the task set.
Year Four Scenario- Naturalist Team
When I was on placement teaching a year four class, they were doing a topic based around explanation texts in literacy and mini beasts in science. Therefore I thought it would be nice to approach this topic in a cross-curricular manner. I set up a scenario where the local library had unfortunately suffered a fire and their mini beast records were destroyed. I made a fictional client called, 'Professor Spark' and set the children off on the task of recreating explanation texts about mini beasts for the library.
To begin with I started the literacy lesson as normal, like every other day, but little did my class know I had placed a dummy phone on my desk. During the starter to the lesson I unexpectedly played a ringtone through the classroom speakers and began to head towards the dummy phone. As I walked to the phone on the other side of the classroom, it stopped ringing. I told my class that I had received a voice mail and I questioned them to see if we should listen to it. They were keen to hear it, so I played the message through the classroom speakers. This was recorded by a teaching assistant prior to the lesson, explaining the task to the children and asking for their help. As you can imagine this generated excitement, as it was not like an ordinary school day. We then discussed if we should accept or reject the task.
We decided to accept the task:
I pretended to phone Professor Spark to let him know the news that we were eager to complete the task for him, this motivated the children and they seemed very keen to write. Professor Spark then sent us an email enclosing the contract that the class had to agree to and sign in order to carry out the task. A key reason why this was used was to deal with behaviour management issues during the drama based lessons. After this we discussed a class plan of action and agreed that the literacy lessons this week would follow this structure:
Monday - Planning task
Tuesday - Research (book based)
Wednesday - Research (internet based)
Thursday - Plan/first draft of explanation writing
Friday - Big write, final version of explanation text.
During the lessons I gave the children name badges to make them feel important and part of a team, as well as help them interact with the drama activity. I created an email address for Professor Spark and pretended that he was emailing us to see how the project was progressing. We would then email him at the end of each lesson to inform him of how we were coping with the job in hand.
Finally at the end of the week once the finished pieces of explanation text were completed in the form of a big write, Professor Spark turned up to collect them. This was a teaching assistant at the school in a fancy dress outfit. We shared examples of our work, in addition we discussed and reviewed the project as a whole. The children really enjoyed this as they finally saw all their hard work pay off.
Overall we all had great fun learning in this way and I really enjoyed teaching through the use of drama. The children had a clear stimulus for their writing, therefore I believe this improved the quality of their written work as they were motivated, engaged and passionate about the task in hand. It was also great to hear some of the discussions that were initiated within the classroom as well as seeing the children working together effectively.
I hope you have as much of a success using this fantastic teaching and learning strategy within your classroom.
All the best,