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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Jaimie MacArthur (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 7
Lesson 2: Role-playing Activity: Survivor Island
Time: 2 x 45 minutes

Topic: Students will examine the historical experience of Aboriginals (of present day Canada) upon arrival of Europeans.

Rationale: Students will grasp a better understanding of the perspective of Aboriginal history through role-playing, as they are encouraged to take on the role of Aboriginals trying to protect their culture and live peacefully.

Through these hands on, discovery learning activities, such as the role drama, students are provided with an opportunity to take a personal approach to the issues. Their involvement on such a personal level is likely to cause thoughtful discussion and may easily lead to further discovery in other curricular areas.

Materials and Resources

  • Survivor Island: Role-Playing Backdrop
  • Haseman, Brad, & O’Toole, John. (1987). Dramawise. Heinemann.
  • Tarlington, C. & Verriour, P. (1991). Role Drama. Pembroke.

Main Concepts
To create an understanding of the early history of Aboriginals.

Intended Learning Outcomes
The students will:

  • Demonstrate respect for the perspectives of self and others.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationships among roles within dramatic work.
  • Analyze the role of drama in a variety of historical and cultural contexts.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how social values are communicated in dramatic presentations.


taking on the role of a person or group, and enacting specific experiences or situations affecting that person or group. In participating in role-playing, one gains a better understanding of the situation or experience as well as an understanding for the feelings and attitudes of those being portrayed.
when the teacher takes on a role in the drama in order to direct students in a particular manner, to question students as they act in role, and to maintain control and focus during the activity.

Planned Learning Activities

  1. Define and discuss role-playing.
  2. Discuss role playing format:
    1. A story will be read and all students will be expected to visualize and believe in what is being said.
    2. Students will agree to participate in the drama: agree to take on a role and maintain it convincingly and seriously.
    3. Students will participate in four activities in role.
    4. Students will discuss their feelings regarding the role-play.
  3. Discuss teacher-in-role. Ensure that students understand why the teacher is taking on the role and how this role may alter the teacher’s behaviour during the activities.
  4. Read Backdrop.
  5. Ask students: “will you all agree to take on the role of the island people, and discover their experience?”
  6. Complete activities 1-4 (included in Lesson Plan). Each group of students presents their “skit” or presentation to the rest of the class who maintains their roles and listen and watch respectfully.
  7. Discuss activities upon completion. Students respond in role.
    1. How did you feel about landing on the island? Were you scared?
    2. How did you get along?
    3. Did you pick a leader?
    4. How did you feel when the newcomer arrived?
    5. What did you do?
    6. How did you feel when you had to live on a smaller section of your island?
    7. How did you plan to resolve the conflict?
  8. Thank students for taking part in the role-play, and tell them that they are no longer required to maintain their roles. Engage them in a discussion:
    1. How did you feel as an islander?
    2. How is this like the history of the Aboriginals? How is it unlike?
    3. How might things have been done differently?

Assessment and Evaluation
The students will be assessed using a 4-point rubric according to the following criteria:

  • Willingness to immerse in role.
  • Creation and development of a character.
  • Exploration of the values and attitudes of the character.
  • Use of language to express feelings and thoughts.
  • Use of the voice with clarity and emphasis.
  • Use of the body as a means of dramatic expression.
  • Use of dramatic forms to convey meaning.
  • Manipulation of time and space for dramatic effect.
  • Willingness to reflect on the dramatic experience.

As students become familiar with the use of role-play, the teacher may wish to introduce dramatic conventions such as:

  • Interviewing: the students find a partner, designate one to be the interviewer and one to be the interviewee, and therein discover the deeper elements of the characters portrayed.
  • Tapping in: the teacher physically taps the students in turn on the shoulder in order to signal the student to reveal his or her thoughts in role.
  • Flashback: students may wish to portray the situation of their character prior to the events in the role drama, as a kind of memory or flashback.

Other Integration Opportunities
This lesson may be integrated into the following subjects:

  • Language Arts: Students may write their own plays/stories/poems/journal entries based on the role drama or on the history of Aboriginals.
  • Social Studies: Students may present a formal report on the history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Resources Used and Other Supplementary Material Available

  1. Haseman, Brad, & O’Toole, John. (1987). Dramawise. Heinemann.
  2. Tarlington, C. & Verriour, P. (1991). Role Drama. Pembroke.

Survivor Island: Role-Playing Activities

Directions: Have students make groups of four or five for the activities. Each activity is to be completed in sequence, following the reading of the Backdrop. Encourage each student to maintain his or her role as a member of the island, to be convincing and take the role seriously. Students should be given at least 5 minutes to “discover” each activity and each group will present their role-play to the other students who will watch respectfully. These activities should be followed up with a discussion, in role, about feelings and reactions.

Ensure that students understand that the teacher will take on a role (as newcomer) and that once in role, will no longer be “teacher” and will act according to role. It is important that students do not take on this role, as it may lead to misrepresentation of facts, and may cause offense to other students. Remember: teacher-in-role maintains control and direction of role-playing.

First Activity: Imagine now that you and your classmates have just arrived on the island. How do you go about determining the roles each person plays? How do you cooperate together?

Second Activity: Portray the island now that you have learned to live together cooperatively. What does the island look like? What kinds of activities do you participate in?

Third Activity: This may completed as an entire class, or as the teacher walks through to each group. Portray the island as the newcomers (teacher in role) arrive. How do you react? How do you welcome the newcomer? How do your behaviors change after the newcomer arrives?

Fourth Activity: Imagine that you and your classmates have determined a solution to the conflict. What is it? How will you present it to the newcomers?

Role Drama Rubric

Mark Scale: 4=Powerful  3=Good  2=Basic  1=Beginning
The student is able to: Mark
Willingly immerse self in role.  
Create and develop a character.  
Explore the values and attitudes of the character.  
Use language to express feelings and thoughts.  
Use the voice with clarity and emphasis.  
Use the body as a means of dramatic expression.  
Use dramatic forms to convey meaning.  
Manipulate time and space for dramatic effect.  
Willingly reflect on the dramatic experience.