Book review (3)

‘Change the way you teach with drama conventions’
Watanabe, Jun. & Kakutokugata Kyoiku Kenkyukai (eds.) Junposha.

Having introduced this book in Vol.600 of ‘Children’s Theatre’, I read it again. Repeating the same thing would be nonsense.

Now that I’ve read it for the second time, I heartily feel that it is well written. Every care has been taken so that it will be easy for the reader to use it.

Let’s take for example the ‘Goals of this book’ in the introduction at the beginning of this volume. According to it, this book proposes cultivating a deep and rich world of learning by employing dramatic activities in everyday lessons. It could not be more concise. Following are ‘Reasons for dramatic methods’, ‘Features of this book’, ‘Organisation of this book’, ‘Hints for practice’, ‘The history of this book’, ‘Procedures for writing this book’, ‘Introduction of the Kakutokuken series’, with each accompanied by elaborate explanations.

I shall now refer to the details. For instance, ‘1 Freeze frames (still images)’ in Part 1 ‘Core activities’ has an explanatory section before three reports on classroom practices. The explanation is as carefully written as elsewhere. It starts with an account of the definition of ‘Freeze frames (Still images)’, followed by the main features of the activity, preparation and procedures. These are not all. Then comes an item ‘Tips for use’, which gives the reader advice on choosing appropriate scenes for dramatisation. ‘Points to note’ come next, describing what to look for in reading the three reports. Furthermore, there is a section entitled ‘Possible applications to various educational scenes’.

Of all the numerous ‘books’ of this kind that I have read, this is the most elaborate. With novices in mind, the authors must have written the book with extra care. I can only say that attention has been paid to every corner of the book.

That can be felt in ‘the procedures for writing’ in the Introduction. Excuse me for a long quote.

‘As a rule, the drafts of this book were written following the four steps. Step 1: The authors experienced a number of dramatic activities in workshops held at their meetings. Step 2: With the experience, they experimented the activity in their own lessons. Step 3: they reported on their practice on their mailing list, so that they could have comments from other members living in various parts of the country. And finally, Step 4: they wrote the drafts on the basis of the prior steps.’

This is not the end of the story. The work went on. The editorial board compiled the final drafts. They ‘confirmed or revised them in terms of the content and expression before they became the finished artwork’. They ‘needed to guarantee readability on the side of the reader’. The authors followed all these procedures. This is the philosophy of Watanabe Jun & Kakutokugata Kyoiku Kenkyukai.

It is not only the overall structure that is minute. The layout is full of artifice. Of course, font sizes change in accordance with the importance. Screening and transposition reverse are some of the other techniques for better readability.

Frequent use of photography is another device to help the reader grasp the content. All the photographs are used skillfully.

I am among those who have been inspired by this book. In editing Mr Minoda Masaharu’s ‘Scripts of mini dramas for nurses to play Vol.II’, which our organisation published this summer, I almost forcibly insisted on using photographs instead of illustrations until a photography event was set up exclusively for that book. We were able to take good ones, which were included in the publication. To my delight, the book is popular because of them.

Watanabe Jun & Kakutokugata Kyoiku Kenkyukai may say, ‘That’s not the point!’, but the book is suggestive in many regards.

It is true that a large number of our great predecessors have devoted their passion to the spread and improvement of drama in education so that drama education will be rooted in classrooms and the like. But I am sure that I am not the only one to find the effort unrewarded.

Come to think of it, one of the keywords on this book is ‘systematisation’. And it is rightly so. Systematisation of drama in education. Yes, there is a need for systematising the theory and praxis of drama in education. I would like to close this introduction with a hope that Watanabe Jun & Kakutokugata Kyoiku Kenkyukai will do that job for us.

I received their second volume ’70 warm-up activities to learning’ by Watanabe Jun & Kakutokugata Kyoiku Kenkukai just the day before the deadline of this piece. I cannot wait to take a look ……

Mr. Ishizaka Shinji
Secretary General
Japan Children’s Theatre Association, Inc.

31/01/2012 “Jidou Engeki (Children’s Theatre)” Journal of Drama for Children & Adolescence ‘Plays 10’, Bansei Shobo, pp.174-175