No. hp_essay
Deai Enhances and Compliments Curriculum, Materials, Style, and Student Interest @
Date: Country: Author: @
2001/10 US Peggy Hagmann Thill
The School District of Fall Creek Fall Creek, Wisconsin

You don't have to change your established curriculum
As the world begins a new year, we reflect on the past year, and anticipate this new one. Some of us seek change and growth, others are apprehensive and feel that change is not needed, or perhaps too much to handle. Perhaps a comfortable solution is to seek enhancement of our lives. Teachers face this quandary with the start of each school year, semester, curriculum revision, unit of study, or lesson plan. Do we change to improve? Perhaps we have great lessons that work well. Why change them? But perhaps we have lessons that need something more, or something different? Maybe we need a "glue" to tie all of our great techniques, methods, and creations together. Maybe it's your dream to introduce your students to real Japanese young people! But budgets are tight, and time is tighter.

The new materials that The Japan Forum has developed, introduced and distributed is your solution to "big change", "enhancement", or the "glue" that brings it all together. The Deai Kit can work into every lesson and activity that you already have, or that you will develop. It can be worked in on large or small scale. You make the decisions, you create and discover how it fits, and your students meet seven Japanese young people while they acquire the language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and at the same time touch the culture through their new Japanese friends. The seven young people on the panels and on the CDs, come alive, and become a "sometimes surprise" of your students' language experience, or an "everyday, familiar, comfort."

During the 2000/2001 school year I piloted a pre-production version of just one of the seven students panels. I didn't have the final vocabulary lists, the icons, or the CDs. But with just the large size paper photos adhered to card stock and laminated, the student, Yu Mizushima enhanced my lessons, glued them together, and I even ventured with some change! That change proved delightful rather than overwhelming or painful.

How I used Deai in my class
In Japanese level I, Yu was introduced on the first day with a single photo and her name. That's what my students were doing that day as they all received their Japanese names. Already they were curious to know more about this Japanese girl in the photo other than just her name. As they learned common greetings and expressions I found that Yu was "saying" those same things in the photo panels. As they learned verbs, we found that Yu was "doing" those same actions. As we learned pastimes, we saw what Yu's pastimes were. As we learned family members we practiced who Yu's family members were. When my students learned their Japanese names in kanji, they learned Mizushima Yu kanji and meaning at the same time. I referenced the vocabulary list as my students learned hiragana. They learned words from Yu's life that we could point to in the photo panels. Some words only contained the first lines of the alphabet, but as they progressed, they learned longer and more detailed words. They were excited to do the same as they learned the katakana alphabet.

Here was a wealth of vocabulary, large, in context and portrayed real life! I didn't have to go searching through magazines, or gathering items from home. By the end of the first month of school, I picked up my curriculum outline and wrote the single word "Yu" on every page. When I did lesson planning I was reminded that I can use "her" to add to activities and methods that I was already using. It even permitted me to "trash" some of the things that I had been doing out of habit, that weren't very effective. I didn't spend excess time to bring her into my lessons, I didn't spend money, and I didn't get rid of all the great things and materials that I have developed that work well. There was no manual to follow on how to use "her", but that was the magic of it. I could be the creator of ideas, and she was there to help me facilitate those ideas in a realistic way that attracts the attention of my students.

By the end of the year, they still did not have the actual story and life of Yu Mizushima. So during the last week of classes when we were reviewing all that we had learned, I introduced (in English) the story and life of Yu in detail, from the materials provided. Each day they learned more about her. By the time they took their final exams, they were ready to write a one page imaginary letter to Yu, telling her that they enjoyed meeting her and what they think of her life. This was done in English. In Japanese they wrote a bit about themselves using the basic language they had acquired. I told them "Yu will be back next year, along with a friend or two". They clapped! At the start of Japanese II these students will be waiting to see "Yu" again, since they hadn't seen her all summer! What a great way to review.

During the same year, I introduced Yu to my Japanese II classes. At the start of the year we were working with how to ask questions. They formed questions in Japanese, trying to find out about this "mystery girl". I had put about a dozen of the panels on the classroom wall. In another activity, they were in groups, and each group had to write as much as they could about who this girl was, her interests, her family, etc. They could invent the story, since they didn't know all the real information yet. It was wonderful for me and the classes to hear each version of who this Japanese girl is! We used the panels for particle "no" and countless other grammatical points. For a cultural activity I put all the panels of Yu around the room. Each student had some blank note cards in hand, and as they silently walked around the room, they wrote a question about anything they wondered about on each card. I collected all of them, and whenever we had time throughout the year, I would take out the question cards and answer them, or encourage the students to answer if they could. This activity was done in English. Once when I had a guest speaker from Japan, the students were asking some questions, but were timid. The second day, I got the question cards out, and my guest answered the questions about Yu that pertained to Japanese culture and lifestyle. Some examples of the questions the students wrote were: What city is she in? Is her family traditional or modern? Do you know her personally? Do Japanese students steal other people's shoes in school? Do they always have uniforms? Is their math as hard as ours? Is it cool to learn English there?, etc. The panels truly encouraged them to wonder and question.

Yu has been introduced to many other audiences outside of my language classrooms as well. When my students went to explain to the 8th graders what Japanese class is like, they "took Yu along". When I talked to a youth church group about young people in Japan, "Yu helped me". During our school open house night for parents, Yu was displayed all around my room. Visitors asked so many questions, because "she was there", showing her life to them. When I was absent from school and a substitute teacher came to my class, my students used the panels to teach the substitute about Japanese and Japan! They became the knowledgeable senseis.

Yu became the "glue" for my curriculum
After ten years of teaching Japanese, Deai became the way for me to tie together all my bits and pieces. Yu Mizushima became the "glue" for my curriculum, the "glue" for culture pieces, and how to look at culture, the "glue" for vocabulary and grammar, and the "glue" or context for understanding any individual and oneself, or how to look at someone. It was something "extra" that I added, but it tied into everything. The students were held accountable for everything that involved these panels, and by the end of the year they took pride in how much they knew about this real person and her life. Little did they know that I had only scratched the surface with them. There is so much more to discover with the other six students' panels.

The final and complete Deai kit arrived at my house in America on Christmas Eve afternoon. I unwrapped it with excitement. Yu and her friends "jumped out of the box" in full color, ready to go to school with me, to meet my students, and to spread Japanese language and culture to a group of students in a small rural school in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. It is my dream to meet those seven Japanese students someday, and to tell them how they have enhanced my teaching, and the lives of great American kids who love to learn about them. But until then, I am grateful that I have met and know the staff of The Japan Forum. It is their commitment, knowledge, skills, and experience that has made this enormous project a contribution, a gift from their hearts, that will take seven Japanese students on countless journeys and "ENCOUNTERS", meeting young people from all over the world. These materials are awesome, with a quality that is second to none. They adapt to every level, to every classroom, to every style, to every curriculum. This is what we have been asking for. This is a language teachers dream. Use these materials and let them enhance the great job that you're already doing with teaching young people peace through understanding.

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