Book review (1)

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

Looking back on the long years I have involved in drama in education, I still find myself yet to see its effect. All the efforts my colleagues and I have made to spread drama education to schools have borne little fruit so far. I must admit that this is due not only to the obstinacy of the school system but also to the technical immaturity on our side.

Roughly speaking, the aim of this book is to introduce drama conventions to the classroom so that lessons will be deeper, richer and more lively. Here, the term “drama activities” refers to “a set of tools and conventions with which learners travel between fiction and reality, deepening the learning with the help of their entire body and senses.”

The authours say there are over a hundred kinds of drama activities abroad, from which they carefully selected five (sic) to call “the core”. The core activities are explained and practiced first, followed by other frequently used ones. Part 3 reports how these individual activities can be combined. The merit of this book is the minute reports on classroom practices after an introduction of each activity.

Books of this kind are usually a mere compilation of the works of separate authours whose parts are assigned by the editor. This, however, is not the case with this book.

It differs from others in that the authours went through the following four stages. First, they experienced the activities themselves at their regular meetings, and then tried them in their classrooms. The results were reported next via e-mail, asking others for comments. Finally, the manuscripts were written on the basis of the discussion.

All these steps give the reader a sense of carefully planned practices. Not only practices, the reader will realize how deliberately the book is designed.

Not to mention the layout, everything is calculated to make it readable and easy to use.

For one, we can point out the frequent use of photos. For instance, those used to illustrate “freeze frame (still image)” at the beginning of the book are superb. They offer clear cut images of “reating a 3-D picture at a workshop for teachers”, “tug of war”, and “ball-toss game”. These are proof of the rich practices of the authours.

As I read, I started to feel the activities introduced in the book would be an effective means to “enter” schools. Soon I came to a conviction that this was the kind of book that would “open doors to a deeper, richer world of learning” and “make learning more lively.”

The proverb says, “He who first suggests it should be the first to do it.” I suggest that all those who are interested in drama in education try following the book. Your interests will be well served.

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

25/11/2010 “Jidou Engeki (Children’s Theatre)” No.600, p.1