Wednesday, July 4, 2018

More travels through Tokyo

The next day, I met my friend Jackson for some more sightseeing.  He was an afterschool teacher and a teacher’s aide in my classroom in Berlin, Germany.  Now he teaches English and Social Studies at Tokyo Metropolitan Junior and Senior High School. 

He also had done his research about “mathy” sights to see and so we went off on a hunt for a collection of mathematical “ema”. 

These are the wooden tablets that are hung at shrines to record your wishes and prayers.  In ancient times, some shrines were known as places to communicate the mathematical work of the scholars in the area.  Instead of research journals that we have today, their new discoveries or the problems they were working on were put on ema tablets and hung at the shrine.  

We looked in every building on the shrine grounds but did not find a collection.  We did, however, get a book of some of the problems that had been put on those ema.  And we saw the largest Taiko drum that I have ever seen.  The shoulder of the person in the picture gives you some context for the actual size!

I did get a chance to go through this ring again (as I did in Hiroshima) to ensure my good luck for the next 6 months.  I'll try to share it with all my Lawrence family!

We then walked through different shopping areas of Tokyo and stopped at Starbucks for the Matcha Frappucino that Mrs. Kida had recommended.   

These two pictures show Japan's love of collectibles.
All sidewalks and train stations have these braille walkways.  Lines for go and dots for stop.

The Japanese love baseball and a growth mindset

The cashier at the department store made sure to carefully choose the right sized gift bag for each of my gifts!

Lawrence School Reunion in Tokyo

Thank you so much to Mrs. Tanigawa for organizing the reunion this year.  It was wonderful to see so many families who shared the experience of having been part of the Lawrence community.  Some students had been at Lawrence very recently, and some had not been there for a very long time.  However, we all have Lawrence Loyalty!! 

See how many of these faces you recognize. 

Students and families loved looking through the yearbook (Thank you Ms. Moriarty!). 

I was asked to send greetings to so many teachers.  It was great to be reminded of the impact each of us makes on students' memories despite many miles and many years away!  What a wonderful event.

Mihara Elementary School

Mrs. Ohguchi was able to arrange a visit for me to the Mihara Elementary School because her father was a teacher and a vice principal there for many years and now sometimes works there teaching the math teachers.  The school is affiliated with Hiroshima University which means that they serve as a lab school for researchers at the university and as a training school for students doing teacher training.  The school is grades 1 - 6 with a separate Kindergarten on the campus as well.  Students take an entrance exam to get in, but it's a secret as to what is on that exam.

 Everyone there was very friendly and welcoming.  They even put signs up to welcome me to their school!

Toshi and I were definitely curiosities; he because he spoke English and they couldn't tell if he was Japanese or American, and I because there were no other non-Asian people at the school and certainly none with white hair.  But we certainly felt like celebrities as students peeked around corners, gathered around us, and asked many questions.  They had mastered phrases like, "See you!", "Hello", "Nice to meet you", and even "High Five!"

I felt very fortunate to be able to visit many classes, have lunch with students, and have both a question and answer time with students and with teachers.  The teachers made sure that we had breaks and served us green tea in the morning, black tea at break time, and then coffee in the afternoon.  Such hospitality!

The first lesson we watched was a music class for second grade students.  The students were standing up, singing when we arrived and reading the words from a chart in the front of the room.  Then they sang B-I-N-G-O which sounded awfully familiar.
Then they all sat on the floor while the teacher introduced the goal of the lesson which was to follow hand signals to sing different notes or tones. 

They watched the DoReMi scene from The Sound of Music (I've never heard Julie Andrews sing in Japanese before!) and then did a series of activities following the ups and downs of the scale.  The teacher even showed a graph of how the notes go up and down during the song!  The lesson was very fun, interactive, and carefully planned out to connect one activity with the next.  They went from warm up song, through the focused work toward the objective, and ended with a workbook page related to the lesson and a "guess my note" wrap up.  A student stood up at the end and restated the goal of the lesson.  Masterfully done, and catchy too... Do a deer, a female deer, Re a drop of golden sun.....

Next we sat in on a 4th grade math class taught by the math curriculum coordinator for the school who also teaches math in grades 3 and 4.  This class was exploring ways to find out how to share four boxes of 12 caramels among 3 people, despite the fact that they only know multiplication facts up to 9x9.  The teacher started by writing the story problem on the board for students to copy.  Students then read the problem aloud.  Next they explained the meaning of the problem in their own words and gave opinions about how to go about solving the problem.  No students shouted out the answer, but rather focused on the strategy first.  The expectation of understanding the problem first and making a plan was clear. 

Students were asked to solve the problem in many ways and shared with each other on the board, by doing a gallery walk of their notebook work, by turning and talking, and by sharing their notebooks with a friend.  Much of it was very familiar with some interesting takeaways for me.  I loved the way the entire flow of the lesson could be seen on the board by the end, the way the students reviewed and restated their learning for each other, and how clearly they showed their work.  I said to Toshi, "This is why I always ask you to show your work clearly.  I can follow their thinking perfectly even though I don't speak any Japanese!" 

The next class that we visited was a fifth grade math class.  They were working on multiplying with decimals through a ratio context.  The problem was about how much water it takes to care for a particular area of garden given a consistent ratio of garden to water.  This class had a similar structure in which students copied the question, read it, restated it in their own words and offered suggestions for how to go about solving it.  They also did independent work and shared strategies on the board.

Next we observed an art class.  I did not realize until later that it was taught by the classroom teacher for that group.  They were in the middle of a seven session project in which they could build anything they wanted out of cardboard.  Students used the cardboard in many different ways to create something.  I was impressed with the way the students used saws, knives, hot glue guns, and regular glue and with the diversity of projects that they created.  Each student had a smock on and helped with clean up at the end.  Very creative, efficient and productive.
This is the student's model of the A-bomb dome at Hiroshima

More to come (Lunch, clean up, teacher time, student questions, goodbye)