<<MyRead Home    List of Guides




Corinne Dorsett-Dand & Margaret King

Monitoring and Assessment

Four Resources Guideposts

Self and Peer Assessment

Read and Retell

Classroom Organisation

Engagement: Empowering Teachers with Successful Strategies

The Reading for Drama Role Play strategy provides teachers with a teaching and learning methodology that is intrinsically motivating for students. The strategy plays a key role in the implementation of integrated units of work and capitalises on the interrelatedness of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The context is provided through the topic of the integrated unit.

The drama role play provides the purpose for the reading and an avenue for the expression of student learning. The writing is the tool for recording and collating information as students develop their role play character. It is the reading that enables the students to participate in the drama role play.

Engagement: Engaging Students in Purposeful Social Practices


Reading for Drama Role Play


A range of texts and text types

  • connects students with real life experiences
  • is contextualised, usually within an integrated unit of work that develops key ideas and concepts
  • provides real purposes for reading a broad range of texts (visual, print and multi-media) and genre
  • involves students in the planning for role play through the processes of tuning in, finding out, sorting out and making conclusions
  • through the dramatisation of real life situations the meaning of the written and spoken word is related to real experience
  • develops literacy as a social practice through cooperative learning and simulation of life experiences
  • provides a stimulus for writing
  • supports students to develop a profile of their role play character
  • uses small drama role plays to scaffold larger, final role plays throughout the unit of work and culminates in a day of living their character
  • scaffolds preparing and conducting interviews
  • uses written, visual, multimedia and oral texts
  • uses a range of genre – recounts, diaries, explanations, narratives, recipes, descriptions, information reports
  • links to research based on above texts
  • links to other learning areas especially SOSE and the Arts
  • uses texts that reflect and connect to their own lives

Four Roles/Resources of the Reader

Based on the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader developed by Freebody and Luke (1990), Reading for Drama Role Play involves students in the following repertoire of purposeful social practices:

Code breaker

Decoding the codes and conventions of written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • uses topic knowledge to predict words and phrases
  • uses knowledge of the structure and language features of the genre to support word identification

Text user

Understanding the purposes of different written, spoken and visual texts for different cultural and social functions, eg:

  • through role plays demonstrates an awareness of how both the cultural context and the author’s purpose shape the nature of texts
  • develops an understanding of the purposes of different texts when researching a character for role play

Text participant

Comprehending written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • activates understandings and background knowledge through tuning in activities
  • understands literal and inferential meanings in the text
  • uses texts to develop knowledge and build on what is already known
  • develops an understanding of characterisation
  • relates reading to own personal situations and experiences and to those of others
  • searches for specific information guided by identified headings and questions
  • cross-checks information using a range of sources and resources

Text analyst

Understanding how texts position readers, viewers and listeners, eg:

  • questions the truth and accuracy of the information in the text
  • critiques information, determining points of view, biases and values
  • compares different texts about the same topic
  • compares fiction and non-fiction texts that relate to the same topic, eg Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park, Grandpa and the Olden Days by Ian Edwards & Rachel Tomkin, My Place by Nadia Wheatley, Seven Little Australians by N.F. Nesbitt, Australia’s Yesterdays by Cyril Pearl
  • identifies how texts reflect the social and cultural aspects of different times
  • explores feelings, attitudes and values within texts
  • explores historical and comparative representations of gender

Four Resources Guideposts

Reading for Drama Role Play Guideposts provide a useful assessment tool.

Implementing the Strategy

Reading for Drama Role Play using a range of texts and genre

This approach builds on the prior knowledge and experience of students. It scaffolds their learning through a series of carefully planned and sequenced activities and role plays, with appropriate levels of support, which actively assist and instruct students.

Establish prior knowledge

  • To engage your students in the topic and activate their background knowledge, set up an interactive display of items such as: photographs, pictures, posters, objects, books and so on. Ask students to interact with the display, and write on pre-cut cards what they know about the topic. These are usually key words.
  • Bundling: Prepare a cleared floor space. Spread out some labelled heading cards on the floor. These headings will be those the teacher has identified as classification headings prior to the session. Students place their cards in the appropriate classifications.
  • Support students to create a concept map from the bundling activity as described above. Create the concept map on the floor using a variety of teacher made arrows and lines. Ask students to place arrows and lines on the floor to connect information and concepts that make sense to them. Provide opportunities for discussion and questioning. Ask students to explain and justify their decisions.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

Students moved around the display area noting aspects of life of the time – the environment, dress, communication, travel, housing, tools and implements.

Household items from 1900

The students wrote down key words on cards and then participated in a bundling activity, classifying their information into sub topics – transport, school, clothing, occupations etc. As a whole class, the students created a concept map on the floor, linking the information in ways that made sense to them. After the activity the concept map was displayed on the wall for future reference.

Concept Map

concept map


Character selection

  • Define and outline the drama role play. Students select their character within the prescribed framework.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

The culminating whole day drama role play was a classroom 100 years ago. Students were asked to become a school student of this time. It was explained to students that the drama role play was an opportunity for them to represent their understandings and learning through role play and would provide an assessment tool for the teacher.



Building a character

  • Provide students with a K-W-L chart.
  • Ask students to complete the chart, asking themselves the following questions:
    • What do I know about my character?
    • What I want to know?
  • Students divide the ‘what I want to know?’ questions into sub-topics for researching.
What I know What I want to know What I learned








Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

Students categorised the topic into purposeful headings, which supported them in building a character profile. The following are some examples of the headings:

  • Types of names of the century
  • My family
  • My parent’s occupations
  • My house
  • Food
  • The church
  • Games we play
  • School
  • Transport
  • Our clothes
  • My responsibilities

  • Set up situations where students are required to be in role so that the information they collect about their character has a purpose. Any situation that relates to the unit context and requires of the students to be their character, supports students to build the character profile. Writing job applications, writing daily journals, completing relevant forms, creating a passport, applying for a loan and writing letters are some examples.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

In role, students kept a daily journal that gave an insight into their character’s life. They also wrote letters to their relatives and friends back in England.


Strategies for teachers to support student research

  • Select a range of fiction texts (including picture books) related to the unit topic.
  • Read the texts and excerpts to students.
  • Ask students to visualise the topic and reflect on their character role.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

The reading of My Place by Nadia Wheatley gave students an insight into what life looked like 100 years ago, as did Papa in the Olden Days by Ian Edwards & Rachel Tomkin. Both picture books enabled students to use the illustrations to gain meaning and sort out information. Excerpts from Penny Pollard’s Diary by Robin Klein were read providing opportunities for students to visualise life of the time.


Guided Reading

  • Link to a detailed outline of the Guided Reading sequence.
  • Use multiple copies of a written text (appropriate to the unit topic) in a small group situation with students of similar reading ability.

Independent Reading


  • Select a short written text.
  • Extract key words and write randomly on an A4 page with a title in the centre.
  • Prior to reading, ask students to make connections between the words that make sense to them by drawing arrows, lines or writing words, sentences, phrases etc. Question mark any words that are unconnected.
  • Set aside opportunity for group sharing of connections.
  • Ask students to read the text with the purpose of making further connections, especially with those words that are unlinked.
  • Finally provide time for class sharing to further the understandings of students.

Reference: Moline, S. I see what you mean (1995)



Excerpt from the text

Slices of time 1888

Each day Fernie Currie rode or walked about five kilometres across the swamp and up the hill to Lardner School. This was a timber building that had been brought from Melbourne on a bullock dray. It was a square room, large enough for thirty children, but when Fernie was in grade 1, there over forty pupils from grade 1 to grade 8 in the schoolroom. The older children sat in fours at long desks while the smaller children sat on long forms. Mr Minahan, the teacher, had a high stool and a large desk and he kept the small collection of books, maps and charts in a cupboard. There were two blackboards and two easels in the schoolroom and two fireplaces to warm the room on cold days.

The girls wore white pinafores over the dark-blue or brown dresses and boots while the boys wore short pants, shirts, jackets and boots. Mr Minahan wore a dark suit with a waistcoat, watch-chain, and the sewing mistress, who also helped the little ones with their work, dress in a long dark-coloured dress...



Read and Retell

  • Link to a detailed outline of the Read and Retell sequence.
  • Students retell the text in one of the following ways:
    1. to someone who has not heard the story before
    2. from the point of view of one of the characters in the text
    3. in a different genre or written form
  • Conclude with sharing and comparing.

Role play

Building the role play

  • Build belief in the student’s role by providing opportunities for small drama role plays.
  • Set up paired and small group improvisations and role plays using sub-topics from the unit topic.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

Small drama role plays supported students to take small steps into role. They also provided the opportunity for students to step into another person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, understanding the beliefs, values, understandings and knowledge of the time.

Paired activities such as lining up at the flagpole, marching exercises, cleanliness inspections, and playground games were used as beginning steps into the role.

A group role play example was the Sunday church gathering. From research students developed knowledge and understanding of the importance of the church, the role it played in people’s lives, and the significance of the one time of the week when people had the opportunity to gather together and chat about the weather, preparing the land for crops, harvesting the crops, animals, drought and so on.


The role play day

  • Plan carefully for the culminating drama role play.
  • Involve students in the planning and preparation.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

The whole class drama was supported by the register being called daily using the student’s role play name for two weeks prior to the ‘role play day’.

From their research, discussions and small role play situations, the students were well informed as to what the day would look like. In period dress, students assembled at the flagpole, sang the National Anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, stood for inspections and marched into the classroom. During the lessons, the school inspector made his visit (the principal in role).



  • Provide opportunities for reflection – oral or written.
  • Ask students to reflect on the drama role play, expressing their feelings and experiences of the role and the context.
  • Ask students to reflect on what they have learned throughout the unit.

Example Looking Back: A study of life 100 years ago

Writing sample


It was great to be able to study this unit on 1900. 0n the 29 of May both grade 6 classes participated in 1900 school life.

Tuesday came and we sang God Save the Queen and saluted the flag and we had to be inspected. I had been working in the potato fields and had dirty nails. I got my head bitten off by the teacher.

We marched into class and started work. We had to say our tables, which I found boring. As we read the tables off the board, I could not get my eye off the cane. It looked like it was staring back at me as if to say, ‘I’ll get you.’

‘Beeeeep!’ The bell went. I thought thank goodness. I said to my friend, ‘I can’t take much more of this’. I was hot and scared as we came back into class. The cane was still staring at me, sweat ran down my forehead, then the inspector came in. ‘Things can’t get any worse,’ I said. But they did! Oh they did!

‘You’ve been playing up!’ roared the inspector as he glared at Harold.

‘Boy!’ yelled Miss Johnstone.

‘Yes Sir,’ he cried out.

Whack! The cane came down!

Pain filled the air! The dunce’s hat laughed as the boy put it on his head. He sat ashamed.

Slam went the door. Relief was on everyone’s face as they relaxed, except the teacher, the dreaded teacher Miss Johnstone. The little girl behind me got an ink blob on her work. She got the cane! I talked and got the cane. Ouch! The pain was terrible.

Out we went to the shed to get chalk to draw a bowl of fruit, a still life we call it.

Out of role, the teacher said we did a great job going the whole day session in role.

Teacher – Mrs King 10/10
Teacher’s pet – Kelcie 5/10, I don’t think she knew it was her.
Us the kids – 10/10
Canings: Jarrod – 2, Ali – 1, Kayla – 1, Daniel – 1.

by Jarrod




Last Tuesday both grade 6’s had a once of a lifetime experience to go back 100 years ago to reflect on schooling 100 years ago.

The best part of the day was the lunch and recess. In the first five minutes a TRAGEDY occurred. Trevor Thomas Warne stood up and when his chair hit the table he KNOCKED over the ink.

I did not know what to do when he knocked over the ink. I felt terrified because if I told the teacher he might get into trouble so I just left it.

Finally Miss Johnstone noticed the ink on the table. By the way Miss Johnstone was Mrs King in role. Miss Johnstone told me to go out to the back shed, but it was really the kitchen. When I got back with the cloth, I set to work to fix the mess up and I did and I also made a mess of my hands. The inspector named Mr Wilson-Jones was next door and was set to come in at any given moment. I tried to get the ink off my hands but it did not come off so the only thing I could do was to sit back and hope for the best.

I didn’t know what to do. The door SWUNG open and it was the inspector. That was Mr Price in role. He had a very deep voice. I was now sweating and I did not know what to do when the inspector asked me to show my hands, I could not believe that the ink was not there. I was thinking that it might have come off because of the sweat so I was VERY lucky.

By Mark



Students’ Comments

You are able to express yourself because you are somebody else, making it like another life. Mark

Even though you are not that person in the role, you still feel like you are. Jarrod

I enjoy building up my character before the role. The challenge is believing you are the person. John

You forget about your own personality. You feel more like an adult-sophisticated in how you behave in that role. Ryan

Drama helped my writing because I am able to express my feelings better for writing. I write in role and this makes you want to write. Peter

The reflection we do at the end of the drama is important because it gives us a chance to review what has happened gives me a chance to put some order into my mind for when I begin to write. Jason



The Drama role play day

roleplay image

roleplay image

roleplay image

roleplay image


Edwards, Ian & Tomkin, Rachel. (1989). Papa and the Olden Days. Heinemann: Australia.

Klein, Robin. (1999). Penny Pollard’s Diary. Hodder Headline: Australia.

Moline, Steve. (1995). I see what you mean. Longman: Australia.

Park, Ruth. (1982). Playing Beattie Bow. Penguin: UK.

Pearl, Cyril. (1974). Australia’s Yesterdays. Readers Digest Services: Australia.

Wheatley, Nadia & Rawlings, Donna. (1987). My Place. Harper Collins: Australia.

<< top