top of page

How the work "rolls"

This is Dorothy Heathcote's example of how work can “roll” from one class to another, in a “Rolling Role” project. A paper skeleton had been prepared in advance, for use with a Year 8 class.


So when we’ve made this skeleton, we know it isn't for just one lesson. You can see it's a pretty crude skeleton. It was for a class that would probably tear it up the first time they used it so, we didn't dare spend too much time on it. However, they didn't tear it up, and it worked quite well.

So I want to try to run through you through what I call “recycling.” And Rolling Role is not saying: OK, I'll do this lesson with this class, then I'll do that lesson with that class, and that lesson with that class.


What we're saying is: there will be something “in the bank,” as a result of this one lesson; and it's what's “in the bank” we recycle. We don't take the lesson again somewhere else.

So first of all, we have some paper bones. Now, the children have to be framed in some way. In this case, they were framed as people who discovered the skeleton. So they were workmen who were digging a pavement; and when they lifted the pavement, of course, they found the skeleton.

They had no surprises. They knew there was a skeleton there. They helped arrange it; and then, we covered it with a cloth, and we said: we don’t know just when we’ll find this skeleton, and it's when we do - what will we do? Not: what will we find? That isn't productive tension. It's knowing what we’ll find, but not knowing when, and how, and not knowing what we’ll do - we might decide to cover it up, we don't know.

So there they are. Now, their tasks at the beginning, therefore, are not to take picks and shovels, and find a skeleton in the first 2 seconds. Their tasks, with their foreman, were to look at a pavement - a broken marble pavement - and prepare estimates: “How many hours will it take us to lift this up, and re-lay it, and put new marble down where we need new marble? We’ll have to send a note or telephone somebody, to tell them about our estimate.”


This builds the belief in the [marble] floor, you see, and our capacity to do jobs; because if you dig marble pavements up, you've got some sense of how long it will take you, and how many tools you’ll need on site, and under what conditions you can work. … And of course, being responsible for the estimate, was what they had to do. …


They then worked through finding the skeleton. When they’d done that, they made a report of the discovery. That [report] was the “in the bank.” They reported to me, who was [in role as] the local press, what they’d found. So what we have now [in the bank] is: a report. It then moves to another class … and they have the paper bones, not laid down as a skeleton now - but they have reports with the bones.


The second class was framed as police trainees, given the task of investigating the discovery.

They write a report as evidence: were any bones missing? Can we trust the first report? Are there any discrepancies? (This goes "in the bank.")


This report is passed to a third class, who are framed as forensic scientists, who scrutinise the bones, relate them to the police report, check for age, texture, soil particles, any damage or injury. They write a forensic report, which goes "in the bank." The report is passed to the fourth class, who are framed as reporters on a national newspaper.

“Rolling Role and the National Curriculum” video, Tape 10 (University of Newcastle, 1993)

skeleton 2.jpg
bottom of page