Using the ‘Rokunin no Tomodachi’ readers:3. Book 1 ‘Nihon wa hajimete desu’.

Using the ‘Rokunin no Tomodachi’ readers: 3

Book 1 ‘Nihon wa hajimete desu’ 

Japanese01 cover lo res  copy                 


Today I will present some ideas for using Book 1 as a whole class activity.

I would probably introduce Book 1 early in Term 2—after the students have learned to read and write all the Hiragana. They will not all be fluent readers or writers as yet, and their vocabularies will be limited, so I would use Book 1 firstly, to encourage students to sound out the hiragana in the variety of combinations that form the words making up the story, thus improving their confidence and fluency in reading. Secondly, I would use Book 1 to develop the students’ skills to infer meaning from text by considering all the clues available—in this case, the context, illustrations and diary entries. Students should be encouraged to examine the illustrations carefully, taking into account the whole scene, setting, body language, relationships between characters etc.

First I will outline a suggested lesson sequence for teaching using Book 1 ‘Nihon wa hajimete desu’.  Then I will give a more detailed lesson plan for each lesson.

Suggested lesson sequence—outline

 1.             Read the story

2.             Cultural research. Japanese family life: slippers and the Japanese bath

3.             Dramatic interpretation of the story

4.             Dramatic interpretation of the story (contd)

5.             Preparation for taste-testing of Japanese snacks

6.             Taste-testing activity—Japanese snacks

7.             Research—typical Japanese family meal

8.             Class activity—a Japanese meal


Reading the story (1 hour)

  1. Students work in pairs. Get the students to go through the book from page 5 to page 29, looking at the illustrations, but not trying to read the Hiragana at this stage. They should discuss the pictures and read the diary entries to get an outline of the story.  I would get 2 or 3 pairs to share their ideas with the class. (Allow 10 minutes max. for this activity.)
  1. Explain about the Katakana words and the Romaji guide to pronunciation. Go through all the Katakana words with the class and teach them how to pronounce them and how to work out the English meaning from that pronunciation. I would probably also look at the type of language on pages 18–21 (introductions and present-giving and –receiving) and page 24 (asking Liam about his age and leisure activities). You may like to get the students to guess what Kenta is doing on page 18 (practising Ninjutsu) and Kazuki on page 10 (practising skiing).  (About 10 minutes).
  1. Students work in pairs. Give each pair a section of the story and get them to sound out the Japanese and work out the meaning of their section. Give each pair a sheet of A4 paper for their English version. I would probably divide the story up as follows:

 Pages 5–7 (13 lines)                                    Page 8 (15 lines)

Page 9 (13 lines)                              Pages 10 & 11 (7 lines)

Page 14 (5 lines)                              Pages 16 & 17 (6 lines)

Page 18 (11 lines)                            Page 19 (9 lines)

Page 20 (10 lines)                            Page 21 (10 lines)

Pages 22 & 23 (11 lines)                 Page 24 (8 lines)

Pages 25–28 (10 lines)

I would give the longer sections to the more able students and the shorter sections to those who need more time. Each pair should work out the meaning of the language in their scene(s), drawing on prior   knowledge and, if necessary, ‘guessing’ the meaning of the text, using clues provided in the illustrations, diary entries and back cover blurb. They then write out an English version of the story, in their own words, without consulting the Word List.

(Allow 15 minutes max. for this activity)

4.         Each pair reports to the class.  They read out their section in Japanese and then they read out their English version. The teacher only needs to query   any glaring errors.  Collect the sheets with the English versions and put on            the class noticeboard.

I estimate that this step could take up to 25 minutes or even more with some classes.  I think it is important to modify the times you allow for each step so that you complete to the end of Step 4 by the end of Lesson 1.


Cultural research

Japanese family life 1: slippers and the Japanese bath

WORKSHEET 1 Everyday customs in a Japanese home



Dramatic interpretation of the story: 1 (1 hour)

1.         Divide the class into 7 groups.  Each group will work on one scene from the story.

Group 1, 3 members.         This group will work on a scene based on page 5 of the story. The characters are Liam and the official, who presents the scholarship plus Liam’s mother, who is in the audience. They act out the scene as it is shown and further suggested on page 5.

Group 2, 2 members.         This pair acts out a scene based on page 7 of  the story. The characters involved are Liam and Riki.

Group 3, 5 members.         This group acts out a scene based on pages 10 & 11 of the story. The characters are Riki, his parents, Ai and Liam.

Group 4, 2 members          The characters are Liam and Riki. They act out a scene based on pages 12, 13 & 14 of the story.

Group 5, 6 members.         The characters are Liam, Riki, Kenta, Kazuki, Emi and Anna. They act out a scene based on pages 18–21 of the story.

Group 6, 5 members.         The characters are Liam, Riki, Yamamoto Sensei, Sa-chan and Ta-chan. They act out a scene based on pages 22 & 23 of the story.

Group 7, 7 members.         The characters are Liam, Riki, Kenta, Kazuki, Emi, Anna and Yamamoto Sensei. They act out a scene based on page 24 of the story.

2.         In groups students discuss how they will act out their scene and who will play which role.  As a group, they should analyse how each of the characters in the scene is feeling at that particular time—taking into consideration each character’s particular circumstances. For example: it is Liam’s second day in Japan—he doesn’t speak much Japanese and everything is strange. He may feel homesick and stressed by this, or he may be fascinated and excited to be in this new, exotic environment. The students then learn their parts, in Japanese, ready to perform in front of the class.  They must also prepare a tableau vivant depicting their particular scene. They will form this tableau vivant when they have finished their role-play. They must also be prepared to answer questions about how their character is feeling, what thoughts are going through his or her head at various times during the role-play or after the formation of the tableau.

I would allow the students the full lesson for this preparation phase. You want each one to ‘step into the shoes’ of the character s/he is portraying; to put her/himself into that character’s situation, in order to gain some understanding of another point of view.

Students also need time to practise their lines in Japanese, to gain confidence with the language and so they feel more comfortable performing in front of the class.


Dramatic interpretation of the story: 2 (1 hour)

1.         Starting with Group1 and proceeding through the story in order, the students perform their role-plays, each group ending in their tableau  vivant. The teacher asks questions of each character in the tableau, such as: ‘How are you feeling right now?’ ‘What did you think/feel when X said/did/asked you Y?’ (What you choose for X and Y will depend on the content of the scene).

2.         Get students to write a brief reflection on their experience. This should be written in their Japanese exercise book, or some notebook that is for their eyes only.

That’s it for today.  Next post I will continue explanations of the next few lessons.



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