Are Drama Journals Still Relevant?
Inspired by a recent comment on The Drama Teacher by an ex-student, I am interested to know how teachers today use drama journals with their students and to what effect?
I certainly remember keeping a regular drama journal back at high school in the 80s and then asking my own students to keep them through the 90s and early 2000s. Over the past decade, however, I have placed far less importance on the journal. A few years ago my junior drama students were keeping a journal for just the occasional reflection and today the journal has disappeared altogether. Has this meant a drop in standard or understanding of drama as a result? No! If anything, students are more actively engaged in drama now that a journal is used very infrequently and with purpose, or not at all.
Traditionally, a drama journal comprises reflective comments about work undertaken in class, often with a new entry after each drama lesson. While I hope few would doubt reflection is a key part of a students’ understanding of drama and theatre, can reflection be just as effective if it is shared with others in class discussion (transient), rather than written in a student’s workbook or journal (permanent)?
If a drama teacher pitches it right, quality reflective discussion can be engaging and valuable at any year level. The benefit of class discussion is that reflective comments by students can be heard by others to further generate ideas, but of course the disadvantage is even if academic, reflections often demand only one person as the audience (teacher), not the entire class.
As more and more educational institutions in various countries become laptop or iPad schools … alternative means of shaping the form of drama journals is necessary
In recent years I have been blogging with my senior drama students. It sometimes serves as a midway point between personal reflection and shared reflection. While a student’s blog may be able to be read by the whole class, few students bother to read other students’ blogs unless instructed to do so because this generation is usually so absorbed in their own blog!
Of course, not everyone is aware that blogs such as those using the WordPress platform can be password protected. This can be handy if a teacher wishes for students to use all the Web 2.0 (such an old term!) functions an online blog offers, but still have the privacy of just the teacher reading the drama reflections. Although I was an early adopter of using blogs as student drama journals (2005), soon these blogs will lose their appeal with students who could (should?) be using a more recent type of technology. My colleague at school has her Year 10s send her video journals as weekly reflections of their performance making as yet another way of getting students to reflect in drama.
As more and more educational institutions in various countries become laptop or iPad schools, thus reducing the number of writing books for students, alternative means of shaping the form of drama journals is necessary. These are exciting times for many of our students. Why not incorporate online technologies into the drama journal if you can? Harness the social media skills of your students to create engaging ways for today’s type of drama journal.
It would be great to hear what others are doing with the drama journal and if it is still relevant and effective? Please add your comments below.