So, you want to introduce the class to the enterprise you have chosen. You can’t simply say to the class, ‘Today we are going to be brain surgeons’ or ‘Today we are going to be expert shoemakers.’ You need first to engage their interest in the enterprise, and the topic as a whole. You also want to give them a feeling from the start, that their ideas matter; and we are all working together on something. So it’s a good idea to introduce materials that the class find intriguing – that they need to investigate a little, and speculate about. This is sometimes called a ‘lure.’ Here are some examples…
Museum of Myths and Legends
The curriculum area for a Y5 class in a UK school was myths and legends. The focus was on Cherokee myths. The chosen enterprise was: people running a Museum of Myths and Legends. Pupils began by examining a large ‘plan’ of a building. There were certain clues to suggest what the building might be – e.g. a Gift Shop. After some speculation, the class agreed it was a museum. The teacher explained that each section in the museum had a title: ‘Monsters,' ‘Gods and Goddesses,' (etc.) Pupils looked at short summaries of a number of different myths and legends, and decided where each one would be displayed in the museum.
The curriculum area for a Y6 class in a UK school was: transitions in life (preparing them for the move from primary to secondary school). The chosen enterprise was Life Coaches. Pupils began by examining objects which, they were told, belonged on someone’s desk where they worked. This included a telephone, some files, a notepad, a calendar and diary, etc. They were asked to arrange the items on a desk. Then they speculated about the kind of job the person did, who worked here. (They were a Life Coach, and the objects included letters from some of their clients.)
Materials you might use as a ‘lure’ include a piece of film, a photo, a page from a diary, a story, a map, etc. The important thing is that it should not just get the class’s attention, but it should give them something to investigate. So torn pages from a diary with bits missing, is better (more intriguing) than simply complete pages for the class to read. This is a principle for ALL Mantle work: materials are there for the class to work on, to make sense of, to use.
Introducing the 'Enterprise'
'Do you think we could be...?'
Once their interest has been engaged, you will get to a point when you can say to them, ‘Do you think we could agree to think of ourselves as if we are people running a [National Trust property / museum / travel agency etc.]? We won’t be a real company of course – but we can agree to talk as if we are…’
If the stimulus or ‘lure’ has been engaging enough for them, you can expect to get their enthusiastic agreement!
'Teacher talk' and 'colleague talk'
Working in Mantle requires a shift in the language we use in talking to children. Within the fictional context, we have to talk to them as if they are staff in a team, rather than as children. As soon as you refer to them as children, they are back to being the class, and you the teacher - the ‘fiction’ is broken and they are no longer an ‘expert’ team.
Agree the rules
It’s a good idea in Mantle work, to establish and agree a set of ‘rules’ with the class, early on in the process. You can do this outside the fictional context. Then, at any time, if anyone behaves inappropriately, you can stop the Mantle, and remind everyone about the rules once more.