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Improving Math & Science Learning:
The Land of the Rising Sun

The Land of the Rising Sun - Japan

Lesson 1--KWL chart


          Begin a social studies unit on Japan.  Find out what the students already know, what they want to know, and how we can find out.  This information becomes the basis for their research throughout the unit.


Chart paper, loose-leaf paper, Inspiration software program

Books and videos from Bibliography



          Give a homework assignment a day or two before asking the class to write down what they know about Japan and what they want to know about Japan.

          Gather the class in meeting area.  Ask the class what they already know about Japan either from their homework or other sources and write it on the chart paper.  List the child's name next to his/her information.   Some responses may include: They eat sushi; The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; it's am island; They speak Japanese.

          Then do the same with their list of questions about things they'd like to know or learn about Japan.  Hang the charts in a visible place in the classroom for future reference.   Responses may vary from simple to complex: Where is Japan?; What kind of money do they have?; Do they have McDonalds there?; What is school like?; What is the biggest city?


Using Inspiration, students in pairs will create KWL webs on information gathered about Japan.  (See sample)

Give small groups of children the questions typed onto paper.  Have the groups cut and paste the questions into different categories of their choosing.  Then rewrite the chart of questions reflecting the categories of the children.   Some categories may be: transportation, education, daily life, American things in Japan, food, geography, history, clothing.  Each group may create different categories.  As the teacher, you need to combine their answers with the others and with your own as well.

  What children know about Japan - brainstorming

Lesson 2--Geography


          The children will draw conclusions about Japan's unique geography and how it effects the Japanese lifestyle by looking at maps and reading literature based in Japan.



The Big Wave  by Pearl S. Buck

physical maps of Japan

vocabulary words on chart paper


chart paper  

compare and contrast chart



          Look at the physical maps of Japan and discuss with the class what things they notice (i.e. Japan is an island, mountain ranges...)

          Begin the read aloud of The Big Wave .  While reading the book, put post-its in places where the children notice lifestyle choices dictated by the geography (i.e. farming and fishing).  Also, descriptions of Japanese life will come up.  They live on a farm that is terraced.  What does that mean?  Why?  What are the houses like?  They have paper walls.  Post it on a large chart later and keep it hanging while the book is being read.

            As vocabulary comes up, share the words and definitions with the class.   Examples: tsunami, volcano, tatami mat...Each class will come up with their own list of words depending upon their prior knowledge.  See our list.
Teachers will have an idea about prior knowledge from Lesson 1.

 Lesson 3--Japanese Poetry



          The students will learn different styles of Japanese poetry (haiku) while incorporating arts and writing.


book(s) of haiku poetry or samples from The Shiki Internet Haiku Salon (http://mikan.cc.matsuyama-u.ac.jp/~shiki/ )

haiku worksheet

writer's notebook

watercolor paints and paper

KidPix software program



          Share some haiku poetry and see if children notice the syllabic pattern of 5-7-5.  Discuss what other elements make up haiku poetry like the topic of nature, the seasons, without telling the reader exactly what the specific topic is.

          Have children brainstorm lists of topics in their writer's notebooks and then pick one topic to brainstorm descriptive words that go with that topic.   Example 1:  Snow - wet, cold, snowmen, blizzard, storm, blanketing the ground.  Example 2:  Frogs -  green, brown, slimy, tongue, warts, toads, eat flies, hops lily pad.

          Using their lists let children write as many haiku poems as they want.  Suggest that they write more than one about a specific topic.

           Once the poetry has been written, children should illustrate the poem using either watercolors or KidPix.  The poem can then be written onto the picture using calligraphy.


Final Project:

          Have students pick one or two of their illustrated poems to contribute to the class book of haiku poetry.


Lesson 4--Origami       



       Using literature, children will learn about a small part of Japanese history and origami.  The time period covered is after WWII.  The children will be able to relate to the other Japanese children in the book by learning this Japanese art.



Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes  by Eleanor Coerr

origami paper or colorful paper cut into perfect squares

How to Fold a Paper Crane  - Video
origami directions  
origami books with directions for many different origami creations

Web resources:

Joseph Wu's Origami Page   http://origami.vancouver.bc.ca/
Eric's Origami Page  http://paperfolding.com  
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
http://sadako.com/contents.html - hear Liv Ullman narrate the story


          After reading the book, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, discuss the relevance of origami in Japanese life.  Discussions during and after the book may include:

  • why Sadako believes so strongly in the cranes;

  • the Japanese belief in folktales;

  • the atomic bomb;

  • the art of origami.


Final Project:

          Use the children's paper cranes and display them in the room, like Sadako's brother did in the book;  or use them as a bulletin border.


Lessons 6-8--Shake, Rattle and Roll: Understanding the role of  Plate Tectonics

Objective:  Students will be able to understand the forces that contribute to natural disasters, specifically those in Japan.



Windows on Science: Earth Science, vol. I.

AMNH web site:  http:// www.amnh.org (Search Earthquakes and other sites related to hall of Planet Earth - information about earth processes and formation.)


 Our Dynamic Planet, The American Museum of Natural History

 Worksheets from Earth Movements, DSMII (Delta Education, Inc.)

  Styrofoam (one thick piece, one thinner )



1.  Students will look at laser disc sections describing the structure of the earth.  Student will complete worksheet: Our Earth.

2.  Students will look at laser disc program on plate tectonics. They will observe how the plates have moved away from each other over time. Without access to Windows on Science, teachers can make their own models of plates and show how they shifted on a globe.

     Students will complete Continents Adrift activity sheet.    This is a worksheet with the continents shapes on it.  Students are directed to cut them out and try to fit together to form one large land mass.  The name of this "supercontinent" is:  ?


3.  Using Windows on Science (or teacher presentation) students discuss different results of shifting of plates.

          Students can perform Earthquake Shake.


4.  Ask students to recall previous lesson.  Predict what would happen when a continental and an oceanic plate collide.  Students then work at stations set up with styrofoam "plates."  Have them move "plates" together and record observations.


Station set up for lesson #4:


 Final Activity:  Students are assigned to be newscasters.  Working in teams they can report the occurrence of an earthquake.  They can be assigned various roles.  They can give current news, provide background news and historical events, show charts, maps, explain the science behind the news.  They can then act out their roles.


 Lessons 9-12--Research



          Teach research skills while having the children answer their questions about Japan (lesson 1).



books about Japan - fiction, non-fiction (see bibliography)

Post-it notes

computers with Internet access

Web sites: 
 http://yahooligans.com - direct students to search "countries" keyword "japan" - there are a lot of great sites for each topic.

http://jinjapan.org/kidsweb/ - Kids Web Japan

CD-ROM encyclopedias- Grolier's or Encarta's

Inspiration program

HyperStudio, Kid Pix or ClarisWorks



          Using their categories, break the class up into small groups and give each group a category to research.  Some topics are daily life, clothing, transportation, education, food, geography, history...

          To help the children organize their ideas and questions, they will make webs using Inspiration so they will know what information they are looking for.

          Through the readings in books, on Grolier's or Encarta's CD-ROM, and from different web sites, the class will learn to take notes and rewrite them in their own words.  Then the information will be rewritten onto post-it notes and  organized into an order that makes sense to the children.  

Researching Japan!


Final Project Ideas:

Using their information, each group can

¥  make a travel brochure about their topic. (See Sample Brochure Requirements)

¥  make up a test about Japan and give it to the class. (See Sample of test)

¥  make up Jeopardy questions for a class Jeopardy game.

And the answer is . . .

Playing Japan Jeopardy


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