In today's class, the students had to make a hypothesis on what would happen if a seed didn't get sunlight/water/air. This was a very hard concept for first graders because they needed to think on their own what would happen and draw their guess or hypothesis. Despite the gestures and drawings, this was especially difficult for the Japanese class to understand because of the language barrier. Therefore, to ensure that the students understood what they did in science class today I made it a point during closing circle time to review what we did. I also made sure that the other first grade teacher did the same during her closing circle time so that the students understood we are experimenting to see what would happen to the seeds if it didn't get sunlight/water/air.
In today's science class, students had to record what their Brassica plant looks like now. In English, students wrote in simple sentences to explain what they saw. In Japanese, students wrote めばえ if it was sprouting and せいちょう if it already sprouted before and now it's just growing. There is a difference in what they wrote, but the objective was for them to observe and record their observation.
Teaching today's class was a bit different. Since the words "germinate" and "sprout" are new words for first graders, I figured they would need to learn these words in English first. So, although I spoke in Japanese during the lesson, when it came to the words germinate and sprout, I would use the English word. Lots of gestures and facial expressions were used to explain these words. I showed a student's Brassica plant that didn't sprout yet and would show a concerned face and say, nanimo nai (nothing there) and follow it up with germinate! For sprout, I showed a student's Brassica plant that did sprout and say, atta (it's there) and follow it up with sprout.
Today was the first day I formally introduced writing to the science in Japanese class. They learned the hiragana for ku. Since く (ku) is fairly simple to write, most students had no problems.
Using the American flag to trigger the English word and using the Japanese flag to trigger the Japanese word is really working in the classroom. To my surprise, after just 2 classes, students in both the English class and Japanese class were able to tell verbally tell me the parts of the plant. Now we are planting Brassica seeds and using the words tsuchi (soil), mizu (water), nikkou (sunlight), and kuuki (air) to help students learn what plants need and how to say them. Next week, we will be observing and documenting the growth of the Brassica seeds.
The other first grade teacher and I decided that I would take the group that learns science in English first so that I know what I need to do when I teach it in Japanese. Each class is only 30 minutes so figuring out what tasks can be completed in the 30 minutes is quite a challenge. To begin our theme on plants, I started with plant parts. Most first graders know these plant parts so the words aren't new to them. Both classes watched the Brain Pop video in English on plant parts. Although for the Japanese class, I would interject with explanations in Japanese. Students then copied the words for each part in Japanese. At this point, students have no background in writing hiragana and it was their first exposure. However, rather than getting hung up on writing the hiragana correctly, I wanted them to learn the Japanese words for each plant part. I used the American flag to trigger the English word and Japan's flag to trigger the Japanese word. Students were able to catch on to those cues very quickly. The use of the flags is definitely something I will continue.
This year in my first grade classroom I will be piloting a stepping stone to a dual language program. The parents had a choice of whether they wanted their child to learn science in English or in Japanese. Since there were sufficient numbers of parents interested in having their child learn science in Japanese, we will run the pilot! I'm very excited as dual language education is my passion.
Former First Grade Teacher & Japanese Teacher (Grade 1 ~ 6) in Honolulu, Hawaii; Ph.D in Education