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Writers:Chris Walsh & Evelyn Mann

When working this drama consider ". . . that curriculum content is the vehicle to teach students to understand, value, reflect, and create. Is curriculum about providing marketable skills - assuming such a market exists - or opening minds?" (Robertson, 1998: 5) cited in Morgan & Saxton, Chapter 12.

This drama has been designed to promote student questioning skills. Jonothan Neelands designed the format of the lesson that is a combination of conducting an enquiry and role taking. The emotional and intellectual engagement of the students is deepened through the enrichment of the complex task.

This format would work well with other age groups by just changing the pre-text.

Key Question: How do the types of questions we ask affect the type of information we gain?

Key Understandings:

  • People tend to make assumptions on the basis of a few facts.
  • Different people have different perceptions of the same event.
  • By knowing how to ask more substantial questions more useful information can be gained.

Connected Curriculum Areas: English - Questioning

Possible Learning Intentions and indicators are offered for this drama. We acknowledge that there are many other possible learning intentions and that you might prefer to write your own in response to the needs of your students. The learning intentions offered are examples to choose from and to guide teachers new to drama in writing learning intentions. There is a variety of ways for collecting evidence to support learning.

Level Three

Possible Drama Learning Intentions:
The students will be able to:

  • Through questioning develop ideas to improvise drama. DI
  • Develop a role with a clear sense of past. PK DI
  • Reflect on how the role developed and changed during the drama. CI
  • Refine and rehearse work for performance. PK DI

Develop Indicators with the students for Learning Intentions.
Here is an example of indicators for the learning intention that will help to focus assessment: Through questioning students will develop ideas to improvise drama. DI Indicators: Students can

  • Contribute to group work by offering questions and taking an active part in refining questions.
  • Ask questions that support a climate of inquiry around identified fact.
  • Ask questions that support and extend the narrative.
  • Ask questions of the hot seat that develop the role of a complex person with a believable past and possible future.
  • If working in the Hot Seat respond to questions in a believable way extending and building the narrative.
Drama Resources available in New Zealand Schools

It is important that you refer to these resources to support the content in these plans.

  • Ministry of Education. 2001. Drama in the Classroom. Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and Video)
  • Ministry of Education. 2007. Drama Posters, 2007. Wellington: Learning Media,
  • Ministry of Education. 2006. Playing Our Stories. Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and DVD)
  • Ministry of Education. 2004. Telling Our Stories, Wellington: Learning Media. (Book and Video)
  • Ministry of Education. 2003. The New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars - The Arts. Wellington: Learning Media and the Learning Centre Trust of New Zealand.
Resources applicable to this drama:
  • Large sheets of paper and felt pens for recording.
  • Jacket or hat to symbolize the role of Jamie.
  • Morgan, N. & Saxton, J. 1994. Asking Better Questions. Stenhouse Publishers, Ontario. 2nd ed. 2006, Pembroke Publishers Ontario, Canada.
Learning Experiences Teaching Notes
Give each student a copy of the information as follows:Jamie Thomas, daughter of Walter and Mary Thomas, left her home in Sekam on July 31 st 2036. She was part of a pioneer group traveling to the planet Amard. The group was led by Dr Stuart O'Neill. Jamie never returned. None of the rest of the group has ever spoken her name and her name does not appear in any records. Her image is not part of the monument built to honour that team.The students read this quietly to themselves. Teacher asks, "What do we know from reading this text? What are the facts?"Brainstorm a list of facts. Ensure students are only relating facts.Ensure that students know they are sorting assumptions from facts.
In small groups think about the questions that you are formulating in your mind.Record these questions on your group sheet.Share the questions with the whole class.If the whole class agrees that is a question they want answered then the teacher records this on a chart. This question can be negotiated and reworded. The sharing continues until there are 10 questions on the board the whole class agrees to."All the time the teacher is focusing the students on the way in which the question is phrased e.g. "Is there another way of putting that so that it will open up rather than close down?" "Can we write that another way so that it gets at what we want to know more directly?" "Remember we want to keep the story very open at this point.""Try not to follow one line but rather make these questions so that they cover a breadth of 'territory'."( Morgan & Saxton, p.121)
Teacher says, "We are building a collective story. The story will build out of the questions. You will know who needs to be talked to. You have to be open, NOT build the story. Our job is to ask the kind of questions you need to hear the answers to.""Who might be able to answer these questions?"Hot Seating students form a seated circle. Place four chairs randomly inside the circle facing in different directions.Teacher says to everybody."Thank you for coming today to help discover what happened to Jamie. We want to find out the truth but I need to remind you that you have all signed a contract of confidentiality. Just remember these people may not want to talk about, or cannot disclose information they have no permission to. You will have to question gently and carefully to get the answers you need."Ask for four volunteers prepared to take a role in the Hot Seat.Teacher decides who moves into the Hot Seat first and says, "Thank you for coming. Could you tell us who are you and how you are connected to Jamie? We understand this may be difficult for you but you do not have to answer all of the questions."To the circle "Who has the first question?"Repeat three times after questioning of newcomer to the hot seat. Once selected the four volunteers stand outside of the circle and wait to be asked to sit in one of the hot seats. These volunteers can select which role they want to take but need to realize this will be dependent on what has occurred previously.The volunteers need to remember facts other people give as they are on the hot seat but may question or contradict this information in their role once they sit on the hot seat.The teacher decides when to move on to the next Hot Seat and follows the same format. The people remain in role in the Hot Seats throughout.
"If you have other questions to ask you may now approach any one of these people (who are still in role in the chairs) and ask them one on one." This happens after all four Hot Seats are completed.The group breaks up and moves among the chairs either asking or just listening.Finish by thanking the people in role for their co-operation and allowing them to leave the chairs.
Everyone now joins the large circle and teacher asks "Is there anything new that you have learned that you would like to share?" Encourage the students to share the new information they have.
Allow each of the people who took the roles to talk about how it was for them and what they learned about the story.  
Prepared Improvisation: Working in small groups investigate what may have happened to Jamie. Prepare a short improvisation that shows some time from Jamie's life that might be significant.Whoever takes the role of Jamie has a prop (maybe a scarf or hat) that belonged to Jamie during the piece. If Jamie is not present in the piece the prop remains on the floor in front of the presentation.Allow time for students to rehearse and refine the work.Share the improvisations one after the other.Begin by stating the age Jamie is in her life at the time of the improvisation. You might organize the improvisations in chronological order for sharing. Questions you might ask in reflection after the prepared improvisation:Having seen these improvisations what new information do you have? Are there any comments about what we have seen? Were surprised by what we have seen?Was there anything you didn't understand?
Statementing: Place the prop for Jamie on a chair in the centre of the room.Those who worked in role earlier position themselves somewhere in the space that shows the relationship with Jamie.The others question those in position."If there is anything you don't understand ask any of these people a question."The remaining students take the role of someone in Jamie's life and one at a time they place themselves in role as that person somewhere in the space and freeze."Close your eyes and think about what question is still in your mind?"The teacher moves quietly around the group and as they touch each of the students on the shoulder the student voices their question.With someone who was positioned near you sit together and discuss the experience.  
Writing:All students now (maybe as homework) write their version of the story. Remind them to include the facts that have already been decided but to write the story as they see it.Give students the option to write the story as a diary, letter, newspaper article, or short story.Once the first draft is completed give students the opportunity to work in pairs or small groups to share their stories and edit them.Write the final version of the story in published form. Once you have learned to ask questions - relevant and appropriate and substantial questions - you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you need to know.(Postman and Wein Gartner, 1969:23) as cited in Morgan and Saxton 1994, p.134.

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