Creative Lesson Planning

A Project for Community Involvement

II. Getting Students to Recognize Issues

Inahara Kyoko

Japanese-language Teacher (High School, the American School in Japan)


Starting my "Making a Difference" project, I realized that getting students to come up with themes that addresses problems was going to be difficult.

This isn't a Japanese Language issue. I had one student come to me saying that he chose "Garbage Disposal" as his theme and said that he was going to make posters telling people not to litter. I then asked about his theme:

"I think Tokyo has a garbage disposal problem ", he said.
"What do you think the problem is? not enough recycling? ", I asked.
"Uh, I don't know", he replied.
"Is there a garbage disposal problem around where you live? "
"No. "
"Did you see something about it on the news? "
"No. I don't really know what the problem is. "

What was I going to do. At this rate we weren't going to make any progress.

I told him that he first has to start with defining what is Tokyo's garbage disposal problem.

"Okay, I'll go look it up on Tokyo's web page", he said.

The first step is to have them compile their facts. Before finding the small lettered English word translations here and there, I want them to notice the Japanese, and learn from there.

"Sensei, there are just too many kanji. I can't read them! ", students complain. To those who are about to give up, I try to encourage them, "There are also a lot of kanji that we studied in there. "

It's opportunities like this that I have them try to guess the meanings. Of course, there are vocabulary that are essential to the overall meaning of the text, and in these cases I have them prepare vocabulary lists, but outside of this, I have them guess the meaning from the context. I encouragingly guide the students while they cautiously make their way through. Their expression changes as they gradually understand the contents. In the end, they get the information they need.

"See, you didn't need to read all the kanji to get the important points", I say.

Each day, I don't know what type of problems I will face. It's a bit scary, but enjoyable at the same time. There isn't a fail safe set of tracks that I can just roll out my lesson plan on, rather, I am riding upon the students' tracks. It's fulfilling to see how I can help them on their journey. They also make me think about many different problems. Next time, when a student asks me why I became a teacher, I will answer, "Because it's fun to think together with you! "

Inahara Kyoko Inahara Kyoko
Japanese-language Teacher (High School, the American School in Japan)

Ms. Inahara grapples constantly with the questions of what skills students will need when they become adult members of society and how activities in Japanese-language class can develop those skills. Regarding her role as that of a facilitator, she incorporates a variety of activities into her lessons with the aim of bringing out the students’ latent abilities.
B.A. in education, Aoyama Gakuin University. MA in education (educational administration), Aoyama Gakuin University. Served as faculty head of the Japanese-language center, Hanoi University of Technology, Vietnam. Took up current position in 1998. Coauthor of Doraemon no dokodemo Nihongo [Doraemon’s Magic Door to Japanese] (Shogakukan, 2009).

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