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By James Smithformer headteacher

Discover a swashbuckling Key Stage 2 literacy resource that will immerse children in a story of pirates and treasure

Captain Cutlass

Role play in the classroom

Children adore role play – just take a look at all the roles being acted out on the playground at breaktimes, as children play characters from their favourite TV programmes or comic books. As they ‘become’ characters from Hannah Montana, Merlin and Harry Potter they engage in adventure and excitement, often with sound effects and oodles of action and interaction. The skills being used are almost too many to list, but range from physical exercise to skills of a moral nature, from decision making to positive listening, from solving problems to developing complex rules. Both boys and girls are readily engaged in this type of active play.

‘The Cursed Treasure Map’ is an ‘active story’ available exclusively for Child Education PLUS subscribers. Instead of sitting still, listeners are up and about, while also listening to the story. The children play the pirate crew of The Last Mermaid, helping their leader, the infamous Captain Cutlass, to follow a treasure map he has in his possession. As the story unfolds, the children act out parts of the plot: they are playing out the story from the inside rather than being bystanders.

The resources to bring this story alive in your classroom are all available here. There is a Slideshow featuring a treasure map and pirate ‘oath’ to set the scene, a letter from Captain Cutlass, a pirate log and instructions for creating a character, and a five-page script outline that includes the narrator’s speech and role-play guidelines. See below for advice on using the resources and running the actual role-play session.

Preparing for the role-play session

Cursed Treasure Map

The script on Activity sheet, ‘The Cursed Treasure Map – script’ includes full instructions for the role-play session. You lead the role play as the narrator, guiding the children through the adventure – inviting them to make decisions and instructing them to role play certain actions. The children play the part of Captain Cutlass’ crew. A well as the narrator and Captain Cutlass, there is another character involved in the adventure – Princess Nina. You could either act out all three roles yourself, or enlist the help of your TA or a parent.

You will need a good amount of space for the session so clear your classroom or head over to the hall or outside into the playground. To really get into the spirit of the role play, you could invite the children to dress up. Have a few dice handy as throughout they will be rolled to decide certain things.

Before the role play, ask the children to fill in the Activity sheet, ‘Adventure sheet’. This will help them to visualise their pirate character and also decide their Life Points, Luck Points and Pieces of gold that are used throughout the role play. Provide each child with a copy of the Activity sheet, ‘Pirate log’ – they will use this to make notes. You’ll also need to make copies of the map on the Activity sheet, ‘The Cursed Treasure Map’ to hand out during the session.

Set the scene for the adventure by sharing the letter on the Activity sheet, ‘Captain Cutlass’ letter’ and the Slideshow, ‘The Cursed Treasure Map – starting point’ with the children. What curse do the children think has beset Captain Cutlass? The Slideshow features an illustration of Captain Cutlass, cursed map and pirate oath for the the children to take.

‘Active storytelling’

‘Active storytelling’ is all about capturing what children are already doing with great enjoyment on the playground and bringing it into the classroom. Add the storytelling skills of the teacher and the resulting combination ought to be electric. With children’s imaginations captured by the exploits of their character within the story itself, classwork takes on another dimension. Asking children to write an account of their adventures in a pirate log (see Activity sheet, ‘Pirate log’) is an enjoyable and rewarding task because it involves writing about something that they feel they have really experienced.

As the storyteller, you are able to guide the role players towards these learning outcomes, among others:

  • using maps
  • solving problems and making decisions democratically
  • thinking about issues of equality and staying healthy
  • using technology, maths and science to solve real problems.

You will be able to steer learners to work in groups or allow for some individual work to boost confidence and self-esteem in particular learners. And, all this work will be seen in the context of what children enjoy doing best – play.

Creating new adventures

‘Active stories’ allow for deep learning. As well as ‘The Cursed Treasure Map’, there is a fantastic wealth of stories for you to use to create your own adventures, from classic fairytales to contemporary children’s fiction. ‘Active stories’ can energise your topic work, complement your literacy and maths curriculum and support any primary phase curriculum area. They can also be powerful agents in raising self-esteem, building good class relationships and promoting good behaviour. After all, who would want to mess around when you are having such a good time?

Image © Simon Walmesley