Teacher in role (TiR) is an invaluable technique for shaping the dramatic process and developing students’ learning. Simply put, the teacher or facilitator assumes a role in relation to the pupils. This may be as a leader, an equal, or a low-status role – whatever is useful in the development of the lesson. The teacher may ask questions of the students, perhaps putting them into role as members of a specific group and encouraging them to hot-seat her in return.

Why use it?

The teacher is able to directly participate in the dramatic process and influence it from the inside. This makes it possible to present challenging and controversial points of view and to stimulate thought, discussion and action by pupils. Teacher in role validates and supports the children’s involvement in a make-believe situation by enabling the teacher to work and ‘play’ alongside them. It is an instant way of setting a scene and directly involving the pupils. Children are used to stepping into and out of role in everyday play and are likely to be keen to participate.

How to do it

Teacher in Role does not require great acting skills. It can be seen as an extension of the ever-changing role-play that we all experience – whether as parent, child, teacher, student, colleague and so on. The strategy simply involves ‘stepping into somebody else’s shoes’ for a while to put forward their point of view. This can be done by subtly changing your tone of voice and body language to communicate key attitudes, emotions and viewpoints. If you can use different voices for characters when you tell a story then you are certainly able to carry out teacher in role.

A role can be adopted quite simply to communicate the key attitudes and emotions of a particular character. It won’t take much for most children to believe in your character although the use of a token prop or piece of costume will clarify when you are stepping in and out of role: “When I put on this scarf I will be Anne Frank”, or “When I sit in this chair I will be the King”. Although not essential, you may wish to place furniture and props to represent a different place – but keep it simple.

If you are unsure how to begin, try hot-seating first.  This will give you valuable experience of assuming a role in relation to the students and responding to their comments and questions.  You can progress to teacher in role by encouraging the students to participate and becoming more active as the character.  Reply to their questions as though they are also in role and encourage them to become involved in occupational mime activities.

Teacher in role can easily be used right across the curriculum. In Art, you can take the role of a character from a painting; Geography provides opportunities as an aid worker or explorer; History lessons can be livened up by a Roman centurion, an Ancient Egyptian child, a workhouse overseer or an archaeologist; in Literacy, stories provide the greatest source of characters – ranging from the Gruffalo to the Minotaur, from Red Riding Hood to Oliver Twist, from Anansi to Cyclops.

This is an adapted extract from Learning Through Drama in the Primary Years by David Farmer, where many more examples and lesson ideas can be found.