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.

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6 Responses

  1. Jammin Jay says:

    I as a student actually enjoy drama journals- At the beginning of the year I wrote a drama journal entry that was in my eyes inspirational, and right now I am reading through this website to do a journal entry that my teacher assigned. It has to do with why we keep the journal in the first place. I really hope other students see these things the way I see it.

  2. Kimberley says:

    Great article! For years I’ve used these cool journals I’ve developed and re-shaped each year depending on the students/units/assessment. My school is huge on technology (as am I), so I’ve done a big shift and moved to having my students document all of their comments using Google classroom. For more informal day to day short reflections – I will simply pose some questions to them as an “announcement” on Google classroom – and then they answer in the comments field below my questions – they can also all read each other’s comments – which helps with further classroom discussion. For longer more formal reflections, I create an assignment on Google classroom and the students attached a google doc with their reflections to this. It is a fantastic way of keeping track of work, for me to read and then add comments etc. So far so good.

  3. Vicky says:

    Thanks for the insights

  4. Valerie Miller says:

    I struggle to get my students to write journals – they don’t embrace it as I did. You do get the occasional student who loves it and does a brilliant job – usually a female and very rare. I have just started a blog using wordpress for Year 11 Drama and will introduce it next year with Year 10 Drama. For year 7 this year I am giving them a prepared booklet to guide them. As my Year 9 drama are still growing as journal keepers I am going to provide them with a workheet that acts as a guide throughout the term.

    • Mari Adams says:

      Valerie, I am curious how this worked out for you this year – specifically using the prepared booklet and the worksheet. Would you be willing to share what you used? I’m very interested in seeing them!

      Thanks!

  5. Lizzy Simes says:

    This is a really helpful insight. I grew up with drama journals as well, and being a naturally reflective person I have always been a fan. But I think you are right; there are new ways with technology these days to make journalling or blogging more interesting. I think also if the students are asked to comment on each other’s work they will learn more from other’s reflections. It also allows you as a teacher to monitor when the journalling is done (i.e. not all at the last minute!!)

    I think though that developing the skill of being able to write about drama is very important over video blogs. This is a skill that the students will need not just for in class essays but for WACE exams; and it is good for them to be comfortable with writing with drama terminology before then.

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