Playbuilding with Aboriginal Pedagogies

This learning sequence draws on Aboriginal Pedagogies (ways of learning, thinking, knowing and doing) to explore playbuilding in Stage 5 drama.

The NSW Department of Education recognise the traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways where we work and live. We celebrate the First Peoples' unique cultural and spiritual relationship to Country, through cultural expressions reflective of Australian heritage through Aboriginal ways of learning and knowing. We respect the work of Aboriginal performing artists, their aspirations and expressions.

It is designed as a starting point for teachers to regularly embed Aboriginal perspectives and thinking routines in drama lessons by making explicit connections between Aboriginal processes and systems of learning and approaches to the core component of playbuilding. By embedding this awareness in the everyday culture of the drama classroom, teachers can help students to see relevance and make personal connections with Aboriginal ways of learning, thinking, knowing and doing. Through engagement in drama activities, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students are encouraged to develop empathetic understanding, discover similarities with their own learning routines and recognise the value of Aboriginal learning, thinking, knowing and doing. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students are encouraged to acknowledge the creative potential and significance of these processes as they engage in playbuilding and reflective activities.

Before using this resource, teachers are encouraged to investigate 8 ways online, explore the ways other school communities have adapted these pedagogies for their unique learning communities, and create their own community links by connecting with and consulting local Aboriginal communities about the learning pedagogies of the land on which they teach and learn. This is outlined in the Partnership Agreement with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc.

In this way, teachers can take responsibility for ensuring a cultural exchange, avoid cultural appropriation and make their students aware of the importance of seeking permissions, following cultural protocols and connecting with community. The map of Indigenous Australia is a useful resource for teachers wishing to explore this process with students. The video, Our Ways – Effective Practice in Aboriginal Education in NSW public schools, is one example of how Aboriginal Pedagogies has been adapted and adopted as a whole school approach to learning.

In this learning sequence students learn the skills of improvisation, playbuilding and reflection as they explore a significant place as stimulus for a piece of original group devised theatre.


  • 5.1.2 contributes, selects, develops and structures ideas in improvisation and playbuilding
  • 5.1.4 explores, structures and refines ideas using dramatic forms, performance styles, dramatic techniques, theatrical conventions and technologies.

  • 5.2.1 applies acting and performance techniques expressively and collaboratively to communicate dramatic meaning.
  • 5.3.1 responds to, reflects on and evaluates elements of drama, dramatic forms, performance styles, dramatic techniques and theatrical conventions.


8-10 weeks.

Driving question

How do the elements of dance enhance an overall composition?

Learning intentions

  • acknowledge and value the connections between Aboriginal ways of learning, thinking, knowing and doing and the playbuilding process
  • share stories with each other and with an audience
  • use symbols and images to communicate ideas
  • make community links when considering purpose and audience response
  • discuss land links when exploring significant places and performance spaces outside the classroom
  • deconstruct and reconstruct improvised scenes to create an original devised performance
  • use learning maps to plan, refine and reflect on the playbuilding process
  • practise non-linear thinking when generating and selecting group devised material
  • develop non-verbal communication skills by experimenting with movement and the elements of production
  • value the contribution of each individual to the creation of a whole performance
  • collaborate effectively to produce a group devised performance.

Cross-curriculum content

Key competencies


  • Formative teacher assessment and peer feedback collected throughout the group devising process, can be recorded and reflected upon in students’ logbooks and shared in regular yarning circles (whole class or group).
  • A summative assessment task, including performance and written components, is provided.


  • If possible, organise an incursion or online consultation with the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) representatives to establish genuine links with local community.
  • Utilise the expertise of the school Aboriginal Education Officer (AEO) or/and Aboriginal School Learning Support Officer (SLSO) and/or Aboriginal Education Committee where possible.
  • Consider organising a visiting local Aboriginal community member to facilitate a yarning circle about the Aboriginal meaning of place and teach students about culturally significant places in the local area.
  • Investigate the possibility of working with local Aboriginal community representatives and other schools in the area to build a google site resource that can be accessed by schools.
  • Balanced groups should be formed to ensure student achievement through peer and teacher support/extension.
  • Teachers may choose one locally significant place as stimulus for all groups.
  • Teachers may suggest specific structure/scaffolds for non-linear scene creation.
  • Teachers could supply specific objects from the natural world to be incorporated into the group devised works.
  • When working in groups, students could be supplied with non-verbal activities (drawing, colouring, plasticine, pipe-cleaner sculptures) to engage in while brainstorming and discussing.
  • Student discussion of place and Country may be extended by viewing and reflecting on the Uluru Statement from the Heart (04:20) or reading suitable excerpts from First Nations plays such as ‘The Drover’s Wife’ by Leah Purcell, ‘The 7 Stages of Grieving’ by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, ‘Bran Nue Dae’ by Jimmy Chi and Kuckles, or ‘The Cake Man’ by Robert Merritt.
  • Teachers are encouraged to undertake their own prior learning about the Aboriginal meaning of place before beginning this learning sequence with students. Nicole Ma’s documentary, PUTUPARRI and the Rainmakers, and the short film, One Country, One People - Ngurra Kuju Walyja (01:20:47), both offer great insight into the relationship between Aboriginal people and place.

Teaching and learning activities

Throughout this learning sequence, teachers are encouraged to make explicit links between the learning activities in each phase of the playbuilding process and Aboriginal Pedagogies. Based on their own prior learning, teachers should introduce Aboriginal Pedagogies to their students before beginning the teaching strategies in the learning sequence. It is important for teachers and students to acknowledge Aboriginal ownership of these processes and engage in open conversations about issues of cultural appropriation in the creative and performing arts. Australian Plays Transform has many helpful resource links on the Blackstage page of the website. Narragunnawali also has curriculum resources and guides for embedding Reconciliation action and Aboriginal perspectives in teaching and learning activities.

Teachers are encouraged to permanently display the ‘8 Ways’ Aboriginal Pedagogies image (or an Aboriginal Pedagogies model developed by/with the local community) in the drama classroom and refer students to these symbols as they engage in the activities connected to these ways of learning.

‘The 8ways framework is expressed as eight interconnected pedagogies involving narrative-driven learning, visualised learning processes, hands-on/reflective techniques, use of symbols/metaphors, land-based learning, indirect/ synergistic logic, modelled/scaffolded genre mastery, and connectedness to community.’ 2016 Aboriginal pedagogy book - 8 WAYS by Dr Tyson Yunkaporta

While the focus of this learning sequence is place-based playbuilding, many of these teaching strategies (story sharing, learning maps, non-verbal) can be adopted and adapted to fit any drama focus. By crediting these processes as Aboriginal ways of learning, teachers can explicitly acknowledge and reinforce the value of Aboriginal Pedagogies in the drama classroom.

Image: Diagram of the eight interrelated Aboriginal ways of learning from

Digital lesson sequences

Move through each phase of the playbuilding process below:


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Drama 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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