Thursday, March 17, 2011

War Lords of Japan and Spring Break

This week was short due to conferences and teacher's inservice, but we managed to start preparations for our classroom simulation entitled War Lords of Japan. Students are excited and a little anxious. It is a challenging, fun way to learn history. Most students who return to visit always mention it as one of their favorite experiences in class. We will begin actual play on Tuesday, March 29th, after we come back from Spring Break. Students will have quizzes each day of the simulation in order for their team to earn "points". So you might notice your child busy reading and studying the history of Japan. How appropriate it is to be studying Japan at this time when the events of this country are so prominent in the news.

I promised several blogs ago that I would have more pictures of student Chinese writing. Well, I finally had time to take more pictures. So below you will find closer shots of student work.

Hope you have a fun, relaxing break.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Watching an Earthquake and a Tsunami

It is only by coincidence that we started our study of Japan and its geography the day before the greatest earthquake in that country’s history hit. On Friday, my classroom was electric with student interest in the earthquake’s effects and the devastation of the tsunami. On the bulletin board I have my War Lords of Japan maps up ready to begin team competition. One of the team’s names will be Sendai. However, I wonder this year if we will leave it empty.
We are about 17 hours behind in time from Japan.  So on Friday morning my students were listening to tsunami warnings for our coast.  We took time to watch a few YouTube videos of Japanese offices/homes being rocked by the 8.9 earthquake, and to see the effects of rushing waves out of control. Students were captivated. This was a live teaching moment.
I was able to visit Japan as a guest teacher in 1999, and having been teaching about its feudal history for the last 14 years. I have a deep love of Japan. It saddens me to see what has happened there. As with all tragedies the rest of the world goes on while those involved struggle to pick up the pieces. And so we will go on in our classroom to learn about Japanese history. We will learn about emperors, shoguns, and samurai in a simulation called War Lords of Japan. Students love it, and when they come back to visit me they always remember what happened with their team. This is my favorite unit of study.
Below are some pictures of our end of China unit. Students are indicating who they thought said a quote they had to ponder over with team partners. It was a fun lesson.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Halfway Through Our Asia Unit

I can’t believe it, but we are almost through studying China. Next we will study Japan. This week we finish China with a look at the Song Dynasty and how a type of fast growing rice led to an improved economy and urbanization. This is a great chapter to help kids understand how small things in an economy can have huge effects. Students will also have a short quiz on Wednesday, March 9th, over the Chinese history we have done so far. China has such a huge history there is no way we could even begin to scratch the surface of this fascinating country.
Beginning Thursday of this week we will start learning about Japan. We begin every unit by looking at a country’s geography and Japan will be no different.  Japan is an archipelago with a mountainous terrain and little natural resources. This geography played a key role in Japan’s actions during WWII. It is during our study of Japan that classes do a simulation entitled “War Lords of Japan”. It is a favorite of most students. They have a lot of fun trying to take over neighboring clans and become the Shogun of Japan. They also learn a lot of Japanese history in the process.
Below are some pictures of students reading about the different Romanization systems of Chinese, Wade-Giles versus Pinyin. There are also pictures of them trading along the Silk Road and experiencing some of its dangers. My apologies for some blurring of pictures. My iPhone does not capture quick action very well.