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Working through Tasks

Dorothy Heathcote always worked through tasks; she stated that, in planning, she could always picture in her mind what the class would be doing. In her article “Dramatic Imagination” she wrote:


The nature of dramatic imagination involves the contemplation of visualizing classes doing. It is the root of planning for learning through drama systems. The "flowering’"[into action] then, requires the engagement and participation of everyone teacher and class in the tasks which will sustain the learning. (NATD Journal Vol. 26, No.2)

This chart was produced by Dorothy, outlining the “stages of attraction” in a Mantle project – moving through tasks, from initial interest and attention, to “productive obsession”. (It is notable that she states that the whole purpose of the work is “REFLECTION.”)

Mantle of the Expert is based upon tasks, which carry all the learning. So think of all doing things together – teacher as manager of the workforce working for the “client” in collaboration.

Tasks begin very simply – no matter what the children actually know when they begin, the first task will start everyone off into the “enterprise” they will service.

Task 1 – attracts so must be built so all can “deal with it”

Task 2 – gains a bit of attention.

Task level 3 gains interest in working things out.

Level 4, begins engagement with “getting things moving”

Level 5. This then brings about bonding all together because we are getting attached to wanting us to be successful. We begin to be “really pleased with ourselves.”

Level 6. We begin to be invested in our enterprise and the existence of our client and our workplace.

Level 7. This starts concern so everything is working well.

Level 8. We become really committed to the work.

Level 9. We are now productively obsessed. This is when parents begin to notice how much their children are “full of it.”

And finally REFLECTION, the whole purpose!

Mantle tasks.jpg

Dorothy spoke about the need for a “varied rich variety of learning tasks” in Mantle – and also, by extension, in the Commission Model, Rolling Role etc. She used the example of a Mantle she did, about people restoring a vineyard; in it, she “was able to vary every session in the way each task appeared very different - so they followed the vineyard line but did a huge range of thinking and doing tasks. It was like a kaleidoscope and shaking it up to make a different lens view.” (From a letter to David Allen, 13.2.08)

This is the transcript of an unpublished chart (produced by Dorothy), showing tasks which children might do in Mantle or other drama work, with examples:


1 Sorting - letters in the name “Atlantis” / also sets of things

2 Completing - filling in forms / gaps

3 Matching – “Raphael” - a thought goes with a picture.

4 Noting - archaeologists at their dig briefing .

5 Sketching - sketch map from a description.

6 Arranging – inventor’s desk [crossed out: Laura Ashley's desk]

7 Selecting - fabrics for hotel curtains.

8 Constructing - public map. - Earl's House tunnel.

9 Listing - kinds of - trees, animals, birds, cloth, thread, wood, glass.

10 Ordering - detective work - a series of incidents “which came first?” Process in production.

11 Numbering - tree inventory / location

12 Placing - trees in appropriate places on a map.

13 Unscrambling - gravestones mixed up. - puzzle.

14 Deciphering - messages (scripted / coded). A letter and its meaning.


The other is never an object but is that which engages them - thus involving some kind of process.


(In each of these tasks, there is an implied “other”: something which is a focus for the work. In each case, the “other” demands some kind of action or “process”: gravestones that need unscrambling, trees that have to be placed on the map, messages that have to be deciphered, and so on.)

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