Sequencing: How to Lesson Plan for Mantle of the Expert

22nd February 2020

By Tim Taylor

The purpose of this paper is to give you some guidance on how to plan a sequence of steps which you might use during a session of Mantle of the Expert. It is not a recipe or a prescribed method, but rather a framework which you can use and adapt to meet your own style.

Please start by creating a long-term plan using the MoE Planning Flowchart on the website. This will generate the background to the fictional context you are going to use and give you a clear idea of the learning outcomes you hope to develop with your class.

Once that is complete the next stage is to create a sequence of steps that will introduce your class to the context and the role they will play as an expert team within the fiction.

There is a lot to consider during this process but the main thing to bear in mind is how the sequence will appear to your students. Age will matter, as will prior knowledge so give these some thought at the beginning. If you are introducing a context they are likely to already know a lot about – animals (especially, pets), parks, or dinosaurs, for example – then you won’t need to include a step telling them about those things. If, on the other hand, the topic is likely to be an entirely new one then you will need to consider how it will be introduced. One method, by far the easiest (but not necessarily the most engaging), is to do a couple of Topic type lessons before your sequence starts – this method is called ‘front-loading’. Another, more difficult method is to integrate it into the fiction as one of the Mantle steps. For example, as a briefing to the team or through the use of the narrator’s voice – “The Titanic was a ship built to amaze the world…”

The next thing to consider is what Dorothy Heathcote called ‘internal coherence’. Internal coherence is how the story is constructed to make sense within the fictional world it is operating in. If, for example, the fictional world includes living dinosaurs then you’ll need to think about how they managed to survive unnoticed for millions of years – perhaps on an island wrapped in a strange mist (King Kong) or through the use of a time portal (Prehistoric Park). The point is, the story doesn’t have to be real, but it does need to make sense. This also applies to the facts of the context. If you want children to learn about dinosaurs and other living things, then apart from the story contrivance of dinosaurs being alive, everything else will be the same as the real world – otherwise the children will end up learning nonsense.

As you know Mantle of the Expert is an approach that uses stories to create contexts for learning. Within the story one of the points of view (the most prevalent) the children will adopt is that of an expert team with responsibilities to a client to perform a commission. The commission creates a coherent context to generate activities that will create opportunities for the students to develop curriculum knowledge, skills and understanding. So, by the end of your first sequence you will want to have all these elements in place.

Stories in Mantle of the Expert are constructed of five elements: character, location, events, time, and tensions. When planning a sequence, you will aim to get all these elements established early. There is no formula for this, and you can introduce them in any order, but by the end of the first few steps it will important the children are clear about what’s going on.

The next thing to do is take a look at the ‘Strategies List’. The purpose of this list to give you a range of ideas about how to start and which direction to take the next step when planning a sequence. For example, imagine you are planning  to introduce a class of year 1 children to the context of a dinosaur island where a team of scientists are travelling to investigate rumours of live dinosaurs. Here are some of the ways you might start, using the strategies list for inspiration:

Strategy 1: reading a book or watching a film about a dinosaur island.
Strategy 2: reading the start of a story that has the team landing on the island by parachute.
Strategy 3: an adult in role as a survivor of a shipwreck with an incredible story.
Strategy 4: the same, but the role represented by the teacher; followed by strategy 2: showing the class a damaged map of an island surrounded by mist. (Made in advance by the teacher).
Strategy 5: the same, but made by the teacher in front on the students with their help – “what else would we expect to find on an island?”
Strategy 6: using a picture of a dinosaur made by one or more of the children.
Strategy 7: asking the children to take on the role of people in the story – “if we were the crew of a ship sailing into a fog on a dark night…”

Any of these strategies would do, some maybe better than others, your choice of which to start with will be based on a number of factors including your own enthusiasm and confidence in using the work. By joining more than one of the strategies together into a coherent thread you can create a sequence. For example: 3, 5, and 7 might work quite nicely to set the scene, create some tension and get the students inside the fiction. The choices are yours.

Here’s an example to illustrate how the strategies can be used to bring the students into a context:

Step 1 [Strategy 2 – partial narrative: photograph] Show the class this photograph of Captain Scott writing in his diary and ask the children what they notice – the logbooks on the shelves, the family photos, the balaclavas, etc…

2. [Strategy 2 – partial narrative: text – using a narrator’s voice] “This is Captain Scott, the year is 1911. Scott and his team are in the Antarctic waiting for the weather to improve so they can start their expedition to the pole. It’s been a hard winter…” Etc

3. [Setting up strategy 4 – Teacher in Role]. “If you could talk to Scott, what questions would you like to ask him?” (The children can’t talk directly to Scott because they are not in his world).

4. [Strategy 4 – Teacher in Role] “If I sit on this chair I could represent Scott, just for a little while, and you could hear what he’s thinking. Shall we have a go at that? Listen and see if he answers any of your questions.”

5. [Strategy 4 – Teacher in Role; combined with Strategy 2 – partial narrative: text, using the voice of the role] Teacher sits in a chair next to a table, picks up an imaginary pen and begins to write as Scott in the photo. As the teacher writes she voices the words: “12th December 1911, weather still bad. Last night the wind blew so hard I thought our cabin would collapse…”
– She continues in this way, trying to incorporate answers to some of the children’s questions but doesn’t force it. Coherence is important. Once she’s finished she comes out of role and stands up: “So what did you get, did he answer of any of your questions?”

6. [Strategy 7 – Interacting with the students representing one or more points of view] “He mentioned a team – I guess he must have thought long and hard about the qualities of a team going on such a dangerous expedition. What sort of qualities do you think they must have had?” Brave, strong, etc…
– “Could I ask you to stand. Could you stand just for a moment as someone going with Scott to the Antarctic as one of his team – let’s see how they look: Here’s one who has the look of determination; here’s one who would stand by you in a fix…” Etc

– Now the children are in the same world as Scott they can converse with him inside the story “Team, the weather has been worse than we expected, the delays longer than we hoped but soon we will be setting off on the last stage of our adventure – the walk to the South Pole. I know many of you are eager to get going…

– “I can’t emphasise enough the dangers we face – blasting winds, sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms – safety must always be our first priority. I’m going to ask you once again to check your equipment, get everything ready – nothing must be left behind – maybe we leave tomorrow.”

7. [Strategy 6 – Students create images and resources] The children set to work on their first task – drawing and labelling their equipment for the journey. Later they will write letters home on the eve of the expedition. And keep a logbook like the one Scott keeps.

As you can see some of the strategies are used in combination – as in Step 5 – and some are used more than once. The key is to introduce and develop the context in a coherent way that captures the children’s imagination and gives them a clear understanding of what is going on.

The next thing to highlight is the use of different ‘voices’ in this work. There are, fundamentally, three: teacher/facilitator; teacher-in-role; and teacher-narrator:

1. Teacher/Facilitator: The purpose of the teacher/facilitator is to get things organised, involve the students in decision-making, and facilitate inquiry. On the whole you want to avoid sounding like a traditional ‘bossy’ teacher so when using this voice try to imagine you are working with a group of highly competent fellow workers. Something like:

– [Organising] “Could I ask you to stand.”; “I’ve laid out some paper on the table you might like to use.”; “It looks like this is going to be a tough job, we’d better get started.”
– [Decision-making] “How should we go about this?”; “How do you want the room arranged for this meeting?”; “What should we tackle first – the map or the letter?”
– [Inquiry] “Are there any questions you would like to ask?”; “Can I ask you to say a bit more about that?”; “I’m not sure I completely understand, could you explain?”

2. Teacher-in-role: The purpose of the teacher-in-role is to create someone in the fiction for the students to interact with – this might be a named person who is clearly defined (as in Scott in the example above) or it might be someone without a name who is ill-defined – a work colleague for example. If the teacher is representing someone in the fiction with a clear well-defined aspect this is called ‘full-role’. Scott in the example above is a full-role and it is clear when he talks to the children they are no longer children but people inside the fiction:
– “Team, the weather has been worse than we expected, the delays longer than we hoped but soon we will be setting off…”

It is less clear, however, who the voice belongs to in the step before: “Here’s one who has the look of determination; here’s one who would stand by you in a fix…” It’s not obviously Scott (although it might be) and it’s no longer the teacher/facilitator at the start of the sentence: “Could you stand just for a moment as someone going with Scott to the Antarctic as one of his team – let’s see how they look:” there is a shift after the colon into the fiction, but without making it clear who is speaking. This is called a ‘twilight role’. Twilight roles are one of the more subtle strategies in Mantle of the Expert and one of the most useful. They are hard to describe but when used coherently they work almost without the children noticing. Their purpose is to shift the children into the fiction and then to give them help and support. Here are some examples of Twilight-Role:

– “How are we going to get close enough to see him, without being seen? None of us want to end up as breakfast for a giant!”
– “Have you got everything packed? You remember what the captain said, it’s a long way to the pole and we can’t come back for something we’ve forgotten.”
– “This report is not going to write itself, is there anything I can do to help us get started? I’ve created this writing frame that might help, what do you think?”
(Twilight-Role and Teacher/Facilitator can often sound very similar, don’t worry! that’s why it is called ‘twilight’ role).

3. Teacher/Narrator: The purpose of the narrator’s voice is to move the story on, provide tension, and to evoke the atmosphere of the story:
– “12th December 1911, weather still bad. Last night the wind blew so hard I thought our cabin would collapse…”
– “Jim managed to escape by hiding in the shadows, by running, and keeping ahead of his pursuers. And eventually he made his way to the city. There he met both people who helped him and people who treated him cruelly, but eventually he found a place where he could be safe and away from danger – the place he found was called Dr Barnardo.”
– “Not everyone was as rich and privileged as Lady Cavendish, many people – the majority – were much poorer and had to get there by train and then on foot. Here comes one now…”

Much the same as the Strategies List, the Three Voices are often used in combination always with the intention of supporting the students and making the story interesting:
– [Narrator] “The next day the weather improved, and the team began to pack, making sure they left nothing behind.”
– [Teacher-in-role: Twilight] “Could I ask you to look at your list and begin to pack your rucksack.”
– [Facilitator: Inquiry] “Which things do you think should go at the bottom?”
– [Facilitator: decision-making] “I’ve made these rucksack pictures which I thought might help for this part of the story, what do you think?”
– [Facilitator: organising] “You can use the pencils, please don’t use the pens, they’re no good for this kind of work.”
– [Teacher-in-role: Twilight] “I’m putting my rope near the top – you never know when you might need a bit of rope.”
– [Narrator] When the team were packed they stood and waited for the captain, they knew he was a hard-task master; but they didn’t mind – their lives depended on it.”
– [Teacher-in-role: Full Role] “Team, the day has come, the day we have all been waiting for…

Teachers who use Mantle of the Expert, much like teachers of all kinds, have their own ways and methods of planning. My way has changed over the years as I have become more familiar with the approach and how it works. In the early days I used to write everything down, almost like a play-script (see Mountain Rescue) but now I can work from a short list, improvising and making adjustments as I go along. Whatever method you end up using I would recommend you start by using a script – you don’t have to write down everything and it doesn’t have to be anything like as detailed as Mountain Rescue, but the process will help you and it will give you support when you get into the classroom (even if you don’t look at it).

Sequencing is one the most difficult and also one of the most interesting aspects of Mantle of the Expert. There are lots of interlinking parts and lots of subtle strategies which can enhance and make your planning work well. Learning how to use them and how to combine them is a matter of practice and a matter of trial and error. Not everything will work first time, but as your experience grows so will your success rate and your enjoyment – Mantle of the Expert should be a fun way for children to learn and it should also be a fun way for you to teach: so have fun!



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