top of page

Preparing materials

“An absolute radical shift in the way the teacher prepares work”


"Initial materials of sound quality must be prepared before the work begins. These initial materials must be displayed in some central area for all children to consult as needed. With classroom computers available now it could be possible for each team member to hold these prepared materials for use in their own class spaces." Dorothy Heathcote, unpublished notes

In the Rolling Role video series, Dorothy Heathcote talks about the creation of “non-negotiable” materials for a Rolling Role project. She stated:

I wouldn't like you to think that what Claire and I are thinking about here, is a sort of “play way” for learning, you know – “Here are all these lovely pretty things. All we need to do now is enjoy them.” I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about an absolute radical shift in the way the teacher prepares work that engages the children, and through that engagement, produces products that are learning product. So that's really what - what this is all about.

She used the example of a manuscript that had been prepared by a history teacher. It was written as if from the point-of-view of someone who witnessed the Norman invasion; and so there was an “indirect implanting” of historical information – the “essential historical imprint” (with information, for example, about dates, important people, etc.). The “manuscript” was artificially aged, and it was presented to the class, wrapped in a fire-damaged parcel, as if this was how this “lost” manuscript had been rediscovered.

But it's got dimension in it, because it's offered in a mucky-looking parcel with, you know, with strange markings to age it, and so on.

Dorothy also noted:

He's put a personalising voice into this. It’s spoken through the mind and words of an elderly person ...But this personalising voice is a very important aspect of this, because you see, the thing that's missing in the school textbook is the personalising voice. They may have to quote people; but basically, it's the third person stuff.

Screenshot (7695).png

But suddenly, you have this coming at you, through somebody who lived through feudal times. He's still living through feudal times. He's adjusting to the Normans. You'll not get that in a textbook.

And of course, the other clever thing is: by hindsight, you can see a pattern. By memory, you can reflect upon things. So this story isn't living forward. It's living backward. And, you know, I'm really impressed by that. And that's how we study history. The living forward part is hard to realise - we're making it at this minute, we're living through the making of history. By hindsight is how we study history. So what he's got here is a metaphor for how history is for people.

(Source: Rolling Role and the National Curriculum, Tape 14; University of Newcastle, 1993)

This is a document prepared by Dorothy, on "Processing materials to be of use with students."

1. Making appearance significant in general effect.

2. Creating a valid believable context for perusing them.

3. Giving any evidence of previous readers’ input to documents.

This must indicate previous readers concerns. ...

4. Always being truthful regarding the source of our documentary provision. (i.e. children can see that docs in raw form are photocopies)

My personal preference is never to use textbook organisation (it's been pre-selected by [the] writer, remember!) until class context is firmly established...

5. Documents (may be maps, story, accounts, commentaries, pictures etc.) should be sufficient for many people to consult for a variety of reasons as work progresses. They become reference “libraries.” Storage, organisation and display a part of the “signing” of the enterprise workspace.

DH Preparation of materials.jpg

You can read about an example of teaching materials produced for a project here.

bottom of page