Japanese Elementary School Open House

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Sakura's class with all their instruments!

Today I was able to go my host sisters open house at school! It was so much fun! The day started with a performance by each class. They were split into groups of two, for example 2nd year class A and 1st year class B was grouped into a half hour time slot. Kokoro’s class was in the first time slot, and Sakura’s was in the second. This allowed me to see more then just Kokoro and Sakura’s classes sing. The Younger kids were so cute! Some were doing all the motions and dancing, while others just stood there.All were singing though and were on beat. They all would nod two times to all be together when speaking as one. It was impressive.

I remember when I had to sing for my parents it was usually more formal. But here at this program kids were dressed as they usually would for school. Also, since it is Saturday, it started in the morning, and the kids went to their respective classrooms for class afterwards. Parents were then allowed to stand in the back and observe the class. Although my school had a day similar where grandparents could come in, we never had our parents come into our lessons let alone come to school on a Saturday.

I had heard the songs that were sung today a lot at our apartment the past few days, but it was really incredible to see it with all the kids together. The younger kids has teachers playing piano and drums while they sang or played the melodica, sometimes having students additionally play drums and xylophone. The older classes, for example Sakura’s class, had students impressively play the piano,they changed piano players for every song. In addition there was one song where students played recorders, melodica, xylophone, drums, and accordions. The older students in general were also more uniform in how they stood and sang together. They even split into harmony beautifully. I am talking about ten year olds here. They have been practicing a lot, and it sure showed.

After the performance I went to Kokoro’s classroom. They had a fun lesson on sentences or phrases that could be read the same forwards and backwards. One example was “English” but was based on the katakana (Japanese alphabet for foreign words) spelling and not actual English spelling. It was Good Dog, which in Japanese is spelled グッドドッグ (Guddo doggu). It was a really cute and fun lesson to watch.

Sakura’s class was studying math when we went in. They worked on a multiplication question as far as they could. Then they discussed what the answer could be, and were given two options. They had to pick one and write an explanation of why they chose the one they did. Then the teacher had students read their reasoning and ask the class if it made sense. In the end the teacher did explain the correct answer and why. I thought this was a very good technique. Teacher did not just give them a formula of how to from the beginning. But had the students try to reason for themselves before hand. Also by having them write out in words their reasoning, it made the answer not a guess, but a thought out solution.

All in all, it is true Japanese schools are intense even from a young age. Students are expected to study a lot. But they still are just normal kids going to school, and school is school is school. There are the classrooms, the pictures hanging in the hallways, and the little ones who are loud and have messy hair. Japanese kids are not sitting perfectly, getting all the right answers. They are expected to greet their teachers at the beginning and end of class, and to stand when answering a question, but otherwise I think it looked like a regular elementary.
I am happy I was allowed this experience. It was funny that I couldn’t figure out the “English” the teacher was teaching because it was in katakana. I kind of had to laugh at myself.

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