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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Japanese: Daily Routines

Japanese I, grade 5: This lesson focuses on the daily routines of individuals in Japan and the U.S. Margaret Dyer uses a variety of activities including TPR, modeling, paired practice, and student-led charades to introduce and review new vocabulary and concepts.



Margaret Dyer






Clarendon Elementary School, San Francisco, California

Lesson Date

May 16

Class Size



45 minutes daily

Video Summary

In this lesson, students practice vocabulary related to daily routines in Japan and in the U.S. First, Ms. Dyer uses Total Physical Response and authentic materials to introduce the vocabulary. Next, the class places pictures of daily activities in sequential order, and continues reviewing the vocabulary and reflecting on Japanese culture depicted in large photo panels. Then, in pairs, students use props and drawings to talk about their personal routines. Finally, students compare the daily routines of students living in Japan and in the U.S., using a Venn diagram and a game of charades.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal

Cultures: Practices, Products

Comparisons: Cultural


authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.

Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES)
This elementary school model organizes instruction around a scope and sequence taught by a qualified foreign language teacher. Its goals include developing language proficiency with an emphasis on oral skills, as well as providing a gradual introduction to literacy, building cultural knowledge, and tying language learning to the content of the early grades’ curriculum. FLES programs vary, especially in the number of meetings per week or minutes per session. See also Foreign Language Exploratory Program (FLEX).

heritage speaker
A heritage speaker is a student who is exposed to a language other than English at home. Heritage speakers can be categorized based on the prominence and development of the heritage language in the student’s daily life. Some students have full oral fluency and literacy in the home language; others may have full oral fluency but their written literacy was not developed because they were schooled in English. Another group of students — typically third- or fourth-generation — can speak to a limited degree but cannot express themselves on a wide range of topics. Students from any of these categories may also have gaps in knowledge about their cultural heritage. Teachers who have heritage speakers of the target language in their class should assess which proficiencies need to be maintained and which need to be developed further.

information gap
Information gap is a questioning technique in which learners respond to a question whose answer is unknown to the questioner. This contrasts with “display questions” that seek obvious responses. Example of an information gap question: What did you buy at the mall? Example of a display question: What color is your sweater?

native speaker
A native speaker considers the target language to be his or her first language. Teachers seek opportunities for students to communicate in person or through technology with native speakers. Students in foreign language classes who are first- or second-generation immigrants and who use the language extensively outside the classroom are also considered native speakers. These students typically maintain the cultural norms of their heritage in certain situations.

negotiation of meaning
In this process, teachers and students try to convey information to one another and reach mutual comprehension through restating, clarifying, and confirming information. The teacher may help students get started or work through a stumbling block using linguistic and other approaches.

Realia are materials that are highly visual, contextualized, and culturally authentic. Realia can include posters, advertisements, labels, schedules, tickets, placemats, and more.

Total Physical Response (TPR)
Developed by Asher, Kusudo, and de la Torre (1974), TPR is an approach for teaching vocabulary that appeals to learners’ kinesthetic-sensory system. First, the teacher introduces new vocabulary words and establishes their meaning through corresponding actions and gestures. Students mimic the teacher’s actions as they learn the words, and eventually demonstrate comprehension through the actions and gestures. Ultimately, the language is extended to written forms, and students begin to respond verbally. Research evidence attests to the effectiveness of TPR for learning and retaining vocabulary. See also Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS).

Asher, J., J. Kusudo, and R. de la Torre. “Learning a Second Language Through Commands: The Second Field Test.” Modern Language Journal58 (1974): 24-32.

Venn diagram
A Venn diagram is a type of graphic organizer consisting of two partially overlapping circles. A Venn diagram helps learners see the similarities and differences between two topics. Each circle represents one topic (for example, “U.S.” and “Target Culture”). Common characteristics are recorded in the overlapping area between the circles. Information unique to each topic is recorded in the area outside the overlap. The Venn diagram is a strong visual support for concrete and abstract comparisons.

Connecting to Your Teaching

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

  • Describe a recent lesson you taught that demonstrated a clear learning sequence. How might you determine if a step is missing in the sequence?
  • How might you use TPR, role-playing, and gestures with students at your grade level?
  • When teaching thematically, how do you integrate cultural topics?
  • What kinds of formal and informal assessments do you use to check student progress?

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.

  • How We Spend Our Free Time (Arabic) illustrates a teacher’s approach to help students activate vocabulary they have been learning and make cultural comparisons.
  • U.S. and Italian Homes (Italian) shows students using information about their own homes to connect to class discussions.
  • Routes to Culture (Spanish) demonstrates a rotation technique used for multiple interpersonal exchanges.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Use sequential scaffolding to design a lesson. Begin by describing the outcome you want students to achieve, then outline a series of steps that takes them to that point. Select the key vocabulary, grammatical structures, and cultural aspects that you want to address. Keep in mind any new learning you want students to master at each step. Ms. Dyer began by identifying her end goal — having students state in sequential order the activities that make up their daily routines — then designed the prerequisite steps for students to reach this goal in one class session. (This end goal was also planned to tie in with her intended outcome for the overall unit.)
  • Use visuals to support learning. Visual prompts help students associate language with meaning and keep them focused on productive tasks. Keep in mind that lesson-based visuals are learning tools. Classroom decoration, by contrast, serves a different purpose: to evoke the ambiance of the target culture. Ms. Dyer provided visual support for every activity: realia for her TPR introduction, photo panels for cultural insight, cards and worksheets with drawings for practice exercises, student-created filmstrips to organize students’ own information, and drawings of cultural practices for the Venn diagram. Some of the materials were commercially produced, but Ms. Dyer and her students made the majority. Collect realia that can be used for comprehensible input, and find ways to use drawings to assess student comprehension.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.


Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.


Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

Cultural Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.


Lesson Materials
Photo panel images used in the class are from “Deai: The Lives of Seven Japanese High School Students” maintained by The Japan Forum Photo Data Bank.

Curriculum References
California Department of Education Foreign Language Curriculum Frameworks

Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program

Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program: Scope and Sequence (PDF, 14 K)

Margaret Dyer’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
An active global community of Third Culture Kid (TCK) adults and youth across geographical boundaries.

Journey to Japan: A Day in the Life of a Japanese Child
A project plan for writing a story about Japanese life, including worksheets and reference links

Library of Congress Federal Research Division: Country Studies
Comprehensive information on the history, culture, politics, economy, and geography of over 100 countries, including Japan

Print Resources:
Hirate, Susan H., and Noriko Kawaura. Nihongo Daisuki: Japanese for Children Through Games and Songs. Honolulu, HI: Bess Press, 1990.

Texts by Japanese publishers

  • Hiki series of storybooks (Publisher: Doshin sha)
  • Kumon no hajimete no uta no e hon (Publisher: Kumon Shuppan)

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2