Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 Home go

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Japanese: Happy New Year!
Connect to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • What routines and materials do you use in your classroom to create an atmosphere that reflects the target language culture?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of using the jigsaw and other cooperative- learning techniques for group work in your classes?
  • When organizing student group work, what is your role before, during, and after the activity?
  • How do you build and maintain your own understanding of the target culture? How do you build and maintain your understanding of U.S. culture and other cultures represented by your students, so that you can help students make comparisons?
  • If you teach a language spoken by people from different cultures, such as Spanish, how do you build and maintain your students' understanding of those cultures?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you've just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

Politics of Art (Spanish) features students debating political and cultural issues in multiple group arrangements, and Holidays and Seasons (German) illustrates students making cultural comparisons at the elementary level.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom.

  • Create opportunities for students to explore the practices and products of your target language culture, then lead them to think about the perspectives the products and practices reflect. It takes time to establish the perspectives (the values and attitudes) of a culture, but they become clearer the more you explore them. For example, Ms. Birkland's students first looked at the products (food, cards, songs, etc.) and practices (eating a special meal, giving money, etc.) associated with the Japanese New Year's celebration. At the end of the lesson, Ms. Birkland led a discussion about the perspectives reflected by these customs. Student responses showed that they were beginning to see that structure was a value of Japanese culture. When planning a cultural lesson around the "three Ps," begin by listing the possible products and practices. Then consider how you might lead students to hypothesize about the perspectives, making sure you avoid generalities or conclusions not supported by the evidence.
  • Try using a jigsaw technique for group activities that involve the exchange of information. Ms. Birkland designed activities to teach students about four aspects of the Japanese New Year's celebration: food, cards, decorations, and money. First, members of each group became experts in that group's content area (see Chart 1). Next, the students in each group were assigned a number 1, 2, 3, or 4 (see Chart 2). The students then formed four new groups according to their assigned number and shared their expert knowledge with their new group members (see Chart 3).


Chart 1
Group A: Food Group B: Cards Group C: Decorations Group D: Money
4 students 4 students 4 students 4 students



Chart 2
Group A: Food Group B: Cards Group C: Decorations Group D: Money
Student 1

Student 2

Student 3

Student 4

Student 1

Student 2

Student 3

Student 4

Student 1

Student 2

Student 3

Student 4

Student 1

Student 2

Student 3

Student 4




Chart 3
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
Student 1: Food

Student 1: Cards

Student 1: Decorations

Student 1: Money

Student 2: Food

Student 2: Cards

Student 2: Decorations

Student 2: Money

Student 3: Food

Student 3: Cards

Student 3: Decorations

Student 3: Money

Student 4: Food

Student 4: Cards

Student 4: Decorations

Student 4: Money




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