Developing Ideas through Play and Role-Play

Exploring narrative through a range of play-based experiences helps children to step into the world of the picture book and to explore it more completely. This is important throughout the primary school years.

Small World Play
Opportunities for small world play that are based on a known story promote talk about the shape of the story. They encourage children to discuss key elements such as character and plot and to make decisions about how they create the setting. As they play, whether as individual or in cooperation with others, they practise their narrative skills and 'try on' the different characters using different voices to bring them to life

Making puppets helps children to act out ideas for characters and their narratives.  This helps them to rehearse the language and shapes of stories and ensure that dialogue is authentic.

A diorama is a scene that captures a moment in time. It is a way to explore and experiment with ideas for key scenes in a narrative in a small world representation of the story. They allow children to be creative and innovate with ideas and to explore how characters behave in certain settings or scenarios. Dioramas are another tool for developing ideas to enhance writing.

Role Play
Role play and drama provide immediate routes into the world of a story and allow children to explore texts actively. Through role-play and drama, children are encouraged to experiment with the 'what if?' of plot and make it their own. Role-play is a particularly effective way for children to inhabit a fictional world, imagining what the world of the story would be like, and illuminating it with their own experience. It enables children to put themselves into particular characters' shoes and imagine how things would look from that point of view. Through drama and role-play children can imagine characters' body language, behaviour and tones of voice in ways that they can draw on later when they write.

Children being free to improvise ideas through drama is another key tool for exploring how characters behave in imagined scenes and situations. Children can bring their ideas from response to illustration or small world play to life; physically embodying characters and exploring their characteristics, emotions and reactions to story events. Music or soundscape can be used alongside this to add atmosphere or to suggest scenarios.

Freeze-frames are still images or tableaux. They can be used to enable groups of children to examine a key event or situation from a picturebook and decide in detail how it could be represented. When presenting the freeze-frame, one of the group could act as a commentator to talk through what is happening in their version of the scene, or individual characters can be asked to speak their thoughts out loud.

Thought tracking
This technique is often used in conjunction with freeze-frame. Individuals are invited to voice their thoughts or feelings aloud using just a few words. This can be done by tapping each person on the shoulder or holding a cardboard 'thought-bubble' above their head. Alternatively, thought tracking can involve other members of the class speaking a chosen character's thoughts aloud for them.

In hot-seating, one member of the class role-plays a central character from a picturebook and is interviewed by the other children. This activity involves children closely examining a character's motivation and responses. Before the hot-seating, they need to discuss what it is they want to know and identify questions they want answering. If children have no experience of hot-seating, the teachers may initially need to take the role.