Class Apps: Japanese Curriculum/Classroom Applications

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Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation? Cultural appropriation has made headlines in recent years as icons of pop culture have adopted aspects of traditional cultures of various ethnic and national groups for their performances and publicity. Based on her work as an art historian and art history instructor, Melanie King provides an introduction to the complex issue of cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation, offering contemporary cases and considering the issues as they relate to teaching about culture generally, and Japanese and other cultures, specifically.

Milestones in K-12 Japan Studies. Over the past 45 years, Japan studies has grown into a vital curriculum and professional development focus for K-12 educators. Many people, projects, and publications have enriched contemporary K-12 Japan Studies in the United States. In this Class App, Linda Wojtan, an educator who has helped shape the field and a consultant to NCTA for almost 20 years, provides perspectives on some of the milestones in the development and evolution of Japan in the K-12 curriculum. She considers early pioneers, innovative projects and curriculum, bi-national efforts, and current initiatives.

Learning to “Read” Japanese Paintings: A Social Studies Perspective. One of several complementary Class Apps considering techniques for using visual art in the secondary curriculum, University of Washington NCTA director Mary Bernson introduces several questioning techniques before providing historical background information on the famous artist Sesshu Toyo. This Class App is designed to empower social studies teachers to explore artwork with their students in ways that respond to social studies skills and themes.

Learning to “Read” Japanese Paintings: Using Art as an Entry Point for Japanese Literature. High school literature teacher and NCTA alumna Sarah Campbell presents one in our series on Asian art in the classroom. Sarah shares strategies for using the piece “Winter Landscape” in an anticipatory activity for a unit on Japanese Buddhist stories. She then offers lesson plans and resources she has developed and used for teaching several medieval and contemporary Japanese stories with Buddhist themes.

Learning To “Read” Japanese Paintings: An Art Historian’s Perspective. This is the first in a series of Class Apps that model ways of “reading” artwork from the perspectives of multiple courses and disciplines—art history, history, and literature. Art historian Carla Stansifer offers questions and strategies designed to guide students through a systematic study and analysis of a classic work of Japanese ink painting, “Winter Landscape,” by Sesshu Toyo. Stansifer introduces concepts and terminology that form the basis of analysis from the discipline of art history while also providing background on Japanese ink painting and its techniques, tools, and subject matter.


Using Samurai to Teach Critical Thinking. Thanks to TV, movies, manga and anime, students may bring lots of knowledge of samurai to the classroom. But how much of what they know is based in fact? And how do teachers dislodge student stereotypes to teach and learn about samurai in their historical context? Professor Ethan Segal suggests that samurai offer an excellent case study for developing critical thinking skills because students can analyze the media sources of their own knowledge as well as historical primary and secondary sources, comparing and contrasting the information presented. In this Class App, Professor Segal offers a five-question template for interrogating sources. He applies those questions as he suggests a variety of print and visual sources that can be used in the classroom to engage students in historical inquiry and analysis of samurai culture in the medieval period. Segal concludes with the case study of the film The Last Samurai.

“Voices from Japan:” 3.11 through Tanka Poetry. The project Voices from Japan: Perspectives on Disaster and Hope captured the extraordinary responses of Japanese individuals to Japan’s  3.11 Triple Tragedy through a time-honored Japanese form of expression—tanka poetry.  Kathleen Krauth, history teacher at the American School in Japan, talks about the development of this poetry collection and offers strategies for using these vivid, beautiful poems to teach about Japan, 3.11, and human responses to disaster in social studies and literature classes. Kathy demonstrates how she involved her students with the poetry and offers multiple teaching ideas, along with a selection of the tanka poems.


Teaching with the MIT “Visualizing Cultures” Collection. The “Visualizing Cultures” project offers an amazing collection of visual resources for teaching Japanese and Chinese history. Award–winning classroom teacher Meredith Changeux shares lessons and strategies for using the materials with secondary students.


Three Japanese Picture Books for the Elementary Classroom. “Kid-tested, professor- approved!” So says Japanese children’s literature specialist David Henry in introducing three exemplary works for use in K-6 classrooms: Kamishibai Man, The Wakame Gatherers, and Faithful Elephants. Includes context and teaching strategies for using these books. Engaging stories with accurate portrayals of Japanese culture and history.

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