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Who's To Blame?

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Writers:Chris Walsh & Evelyn Mann

This drama was written to explore the effects of crisis on families and the wider community. The context can be changed by using a different form of crisis within this well structured process drama.

Key Question: What is it about consequences that make them vary in magnitude around any one event?

Key Understandings:

  • There are consequences for every action.
  • Many people may be affected by the consequences of any one event.
  • Consequences vary in magnitude.
  • People have differing perceptions of the same event.

Connected Curriculum Areas: Health and Physical Education, Social Studies, English. Key Competencies - Managing Self, Relating to Others, Participating and Contributing, and Thinking.

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 are a variety of ways for collecting evidence to support learning.

Level Three

Possible Drama Learning Intentions:
Students will be able to

  • Work in more than one role to provide different perspectives on an experience involving serious consequences. PK DI
  • Discuss the way working in different roles allowed students to see different perspectives. CI
  • Work in small groups, or a whole class, in a variety of conventions to create an intended atmosphere or emotion. PK DI
  • Describe how the drama provided learning for them. UC

Develop Indicators with the students for Learning Intentions. Here is an example of indicators, which will provide a focus for assessment, for the Learning Intention: Work in small groups, or a whole class, in a variety of conventions to create an intended atmosphere or emotion. PK DI
Indicators: Students can

  • Contribute to discussion of ideas in preparing drama work.
  • Work in role within conventions in a convincing way.
  • Trial and refine drama work to achieve an intended atmosphere or emotion.
  • Describe the way their drama work is planned to create an intended atmosphere or emotion.
  • Discuss the ways groups used drama to achieve an intended atmosphere or emotion.

Teacher In Role (referred to as TIR)

  • TIR as President of the NZ Road Safety Council - a role used to motivate student's interest, create tension, and introduce the context.
  • TIR as a Bus Driver - a role that builds tension by provoking discussion around apportioning blame.

See Playing Our Stories, p.21/22 for notes on Teacher In Role.

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.
Other Resources:
  • Dunne, J. and O'Toole, J. 2002. Pretending To Learn. Pearson Education, Australia.
Learning Experiences Teaching Notes
Forming links to our own lives.In pairs share a personal story about misbehaviour from your past. Discuss who got the blame and what the consequences were.The group stands in a circle and brainstorms words about feelings experienced in these stories. Be sure to tell students they should tell a story they are comfortable about sharing, not something that will embarrass or humiliate them.This links the new learning in the drama to the prior understandings of the students.Limit these to two or three words from each student. You might record the words for later reflection, or work in dramatic action through a Collage of Voices accompanied by gesture.
Motivating the Work and Setting the ContextTheatre Piece: TIR as Presid e nt of the NZ Road Safety Council is preparing for the emergency meeting called to address the issues around the School Bus Drivers Strike that began yesterday. The piece is to be heard as an Overheard Conversation. It could be delivered either as the President pacing the room voicing his thoughts aloud before anyone arrives or as one side of a phone conversation."... They declared the strike yesterday ... This morning not one school bus driver was on the road. It has caused bedlam up and down the country... I know there are two sides to every story... A minute's silence might be appropriate ... We really need to discuss the issues, I mean, can you blame the bus drivers for their stance... It is one of their number and considering the high feelings about the sentence I wonder how this meeting will go. The TIR theatre piece provides a motivating pre-text. There are two different ways of doing it. Select whichever is more suitable to you.After presenting the work allow time for the students to discuss what they have overheard and what it might mean. Questions you might ask include: "I wonder what has happened.""Who might be involved in the situation?""What might the problem be?"If you have used the phone conversation students could work in pairs discussing the missing parts of the conversation.Leaving gaps and mysteries helps the dramatic tension and ensures that the students do not just rely on you knowing everything. (O'Toole & Dunne, 2002, p.44)
Negotiating Role: Introducing the students to the role they will assume as they enter the drama. They are the council hearing the viewpoint of the bus driver who is on strike following a serious accident.Defining the Space:The students discuss and negotiate the setting for the meeting of the NZ Road Safety Council and organize the room. Negotiate with the students their blanket role as members of the NZ Road Safety Council. This will involve ensuring they understand what committee members are and what the work of the NZ Road Safety Council might be. This blanket role provides a distance frame i.e. their role is not within the actual event but is positioned outside the event distancing them from the emotional content of the work.( See Telling Our Stories, p.21 and/or Playing Our Stories p.23)The teacher should let the students organize the room themselves. The instruction might sound like this, "You have four minutes to discuss, negotiate and arrange the meeting place using only the chairs in this room. There must be a place for a special guest. Any arrangement of the chairs should be accepted. There will be time later in the drama to reflect on this.

 Building the Narrative

InterviewTIR: as a Bus Driver from the same company as the convicted driver , students in role as the NZ Road Safety Council. This interview takes place in the meeting.Prior to the meeting beginning the students enter the space in role and take their seats.Teacher enters the meeting in role.Information for TIR to impart: no other vehicles involved, number of children on board at the time was 30, 2 were killed and 14 injured, the bus driver wasn't injured. He had complained about the bad behaviour of students on the bus in the past and all through the trial claimed he was distracted by the bad behaviour. The driver has been convicted of careless driving causing death and has been given a jail sentence.Close the role by saying "I will leave some photographs showing behaviour of children on buses to show you what bus drivers often have to put up with.

It may be appropriate at this point to discuss meeting protocol and to discuss the kind of questions they might ask the bus driver.Instruct the students that when the teacher in role enters and sits down they can begin the interview.When working as TIR you can come out of role (by leaving the seat and removing your prop if you are using one) at any time to discuss and reflect on the questions you are being asked. Try not to give a whole lot of information, be subtle and bait the council.Part of the trick of successful teacher in role is making the task nearly, but not quite, impossible - like any good puzzle. (O'Toole & Dunne, 2002, p.49)See Drama Posters - Poster 1, Image 8 & 9.After the interview in the meeting allow time for reflective discussion out of role. Questions you might use: "What has happened?" "How did it happen?" "I wonder who might be feeling the effects of this?" "Thinking about what you have just heard from bus driver how do you think he is feeling?""Do you like this way of working? Why?""How does it help you?"
Freeze Frames: In groups of 4 or 5 students create a frozen image to illustrate the photographs provided by the bus driver. See Telling Our Stories, p.18 and/or Playing Our Stories p.21Drama Posters - Poster 1, Image 3 & 11. Poster 3, Images 4 & 8Allow only two minutes to discuss and two minutes to make the frozen images.
Circular TIR: The TIR as bus driver from the interview moves from image to image speaking his concerns about each image.

This requires you to look at each image and make some interpretation about what you as the bus driver is seeing to justify the strike.

See Playing Our Stories, p. 38

Meeting: The students use the Think, Pair, Share strategy in role as the council members after they have seen the photographs. The whole group within the meeting will need to come together for the 'Share'. Think, pair, share is a co-operative learning activity where students have a few moments to think about what has happened, sit with a partner and share their interpretations with each other and then contribute to a whole group share of the important points or facts.Questions you could consider to drive the think, pair, share: "I wonder how bus drivers might have reacted when these things happened." "Suppose you were a bus driver what might you have done about these things?" "If the students in these photographs saw them how do you think they would react?"
Overheard Telephone Conversations: The conversations of the students in pairs in role as the news reporter at the scene of the accident and the TV news writer back in the studio are overheard. In preparing for this activity you might discuss the questions the writer back in the TV studio would have.
TV News Reports : individually students write their own report for TV news about the accident. Students choose and underline the best sentence in the clip. Each child takes up a position in the space as though a newsreader. Teacher orchestrates by moving from reader to reader one at a time until everyone has read their one sentence. In reflection questions you might ask: "What effect do the media have on current events?""What role do the media play?""I wonder if everyone believes everything they hear on the news?" "I wonder how people feel when they hear the news."
Alter Ego: Brainstorm those who might be in the waiting room at the hospital anxious to hear news of the children on the bus e.g. schoolteachers, parents, grandparents, carers.Each student writes one sentence of dialogue, something that might have been said in that room at that time.Sentences are then exchanged with someone else.In pairs choose one of the two sentences and discuss who said it, why it was said, how it was said, and to whom. One person in the pair speaks the sentence. As soon as the first person finishes the sentence they freeze, the second person steps out and speaks the inner thoughts of the same role, freezing when they finish to complete the picture. Questions you might ask in reflection: "Which of these images was powerful for you and why?""What was it in the image that gave you this message?""Think about what you have just heard. I wonder what the consequences might be on different people involved.""How did the convention help you to see that?""Who else might be affected who wasn't in the waiting room? How?"
Overheard Conversations: between family members on the return from hospital. Students work in small groups to decide which family members they are and place themselves as though sitting around the kitchen table. They decide how their family has been affected (death, injury or non-injury) and apportion blame. With the whole class listening the teacher moves around the groups and the group they are standing beside continues their conversation. In preparation for this activity talk to the students about the emotions that might be felt by these people, and think about how people present themselves when they are feeling that way.The teacher moves around the groups in turn so all have the opportunity to share their conversations.
Wall of Thought: the bus driver was present at the cemetery the day one of the children was buried. The students form two lines facing each other. The teacher moves down the line representing the role of the Bus Driver. As the teacher passes through the lines each child speaks from the point of view of someone at the cemetery about the Bus Driver. See Drama Posters - Poster 3, Image 10.And Drama Poster Notes .
Chorus of Voice and Movement: Divide the class in half. One half are fellow discontented bus drivers, the other side are supporters of the bus driver's conviction and jail sentence. Write three slogans to gain public empathy for your point of view. Prepare the slogans as a chant with chorused movement. Orchestrate in waves from one perspective to the other and carry out the demonstration/protest. When the students are writing the three slogans it may be appropriate to divide into smaller groups within their half class group. Then they come together into their half class group and select three slogans to use.See Drama Posters - Poster 3, Image 9.And Drama Poster Notes.
Working in role reflecting on the issues of the drama and bringing the drama to conclusion.Meeting: In role as members of the NZ Road Safety Council, students work in small groups to prepare proposals for safe buses that protect both the students traveling on the buses and the bus drivers. At a meeting they present and debate the proposals. The proposals need to be debated and only two chosen for the whole group. This is an opportunity to group and refine proposals and maybe even rework in order to have a group consensus.
Statementing: Ten years after the accident a group of people assemble at the cemetery to remember that tragic day.Place three chairs in a row to represent the headstones of the three who died. Ask the students to think about whom they might be, a person who thought it important to be there, that day 10 years after the accident. Ask them to move and stand in relation to the chairs as that person. Each person steps forward and talks about what they have learned from their experience of this tragic accident. In reflection discuss what they feel they have learned from the drama?

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