Quarantine, eh? Seems to have activated all of my teacher senses as I find myself giving this homeschool malarkey a good old crack. I started this blog after sharing some of the activities I made for my own children at this time, and friends and family finding them helpful. Some of my desires for my children is that they grow up with an awareness of Social Justice, a love of culture (including languages), art and adventures and a growth mentality. What follows is my attempt at an introductory Japanese Lesson for parents and children who have never studied Japanese before.

A mother teaching her son. The text around the image says “Teach Japanese with Pokemon. No previous language knowledge required”.

Teaching Japanese with Pokemon (when you don’t know any Japanese)

I am one of those people that absolutely fell in love with the possibility of language learning before I even had the opportunity. The idea that I could learn to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world was just mind blowing for me. So it is perhaps no surprise that I want to give me own children the chance to at least be aware of other languages and help keep those language learning neurones firing!!! Our focus for the past five years has been Spanish, but my own Spanish learning journey has become stagnant so I thought I’d switch us all onto the other language that holds a place in my heart JAPANESE! Except, it has been so long, I’m not sure I could even remember how to say hello — luckily with the help of various language kids classes we have attended I was kind of attune to how the classes work, and that plus my own knowledge of my eldest kid we have the below plan for lesson one. Ta Da!

My six year old LOOOOOOVES Pokemon and we have so much Pokemon paraphernalia I thought that I could make lots of types of activities (if this first one was successful) using them. So I decided we would turn the whole learning experience into like a Pokemon game. Find the sheets in a download below and let me know in the comments how you got on!

A little boy catching a Drowsy on Pokemon Go in the park.

Session One – COLOURS

Begin by googling for a Japanese colour YouTube Video. We especially loved :

It’s one of those ones you can listen to a few times without it making you go absolutely irritated and wanting to throw you computer out of the window. We also paused it on the screen with all the colours on to use as reference.

The Lesson is split into kind of six sections which I will outline below. We did it in this order but feel free to move them around to suit your child. I have kind of designed each sheet to build on the last.

1. Play video through, at least twice. There’s a call and response section which I enthusiastically joined in to encourage six year old to join me.

2. Sheet One – Choose your Pokemon. After the sing song, introduce your child to the idea that they’re gonna get to choose they’re Pokemon for their Pokemon adventure. Get them to name each Pokemon and tell you what it’s main colour is in Japanese. Repeat back to them “[name] wa [colour]“, ie Pikachu wa kiiro (Pikachu is yellow). If your child seems keen feel free to teach them to say it. My 6er was so impressed to say his first Japanese sentence. They can then spend some time colouring in their Pokemon of choice (or if you’re my 6er all of them). Save the sheet as we will use it in the next lesson.

3. Sheet Two – Pokeball Sheet. This sheet reinforces a few more colours. Get your child to colour in the poke balls the colour written on it. Then they can join each Pokemon to a ball based on its main colour. 6er had great fun telling me all about the different coloured poke balls as we did this, and every time he mentioned a colour I gently repeated it in Japanese. I also coloured in a second sheet which I will cut out to use for a recap game in the next lesson.

4. Movement Break. If you scroll to the bottom there is a link to a video we followed to do heads, shoulders, knees and toes. Its great as it introduces each word one at a time, but I will warn you it is a full blow workout. Even overly exuberant 6er was nearly done by the end. The words used are below for reference:

 

頭 = atama = head

肩 = kata = shoulders

膝 = hiza = knee or knees

脚 = ashi = leg or legs

足 = ashi = foot or feet

目 = me = eye or eyes

耳 = mimi = ear or ears

口 = kuchi = mouth

鼻 = hana = nose

  1. Sheet Three and Four – Colour Snap. This one will take a few minutes of preparation. Print a couple sheets of the cards and quickly colour each row with the colour to aid in colour. As you play snap make sure to say the colour name, and encourage your small person to do the same. We played for about 20 minutes, but snap is a big hit in our house.
  2. Sheet Five – Daruma Dolls. I wanted to do something to introduce a bit of Japanese culture as well as reinforce the colours. I used https://www.kyotocollection.com/blog/daruma-dolls-kanji-and-color-meanings/ this website and a couple of others to have a quick read through so I could explain the significance. Basically, the doll is based on

“Bodhidharma, who is understood to have brought Zen Buddhism to China and subsequently Japan. Legend states that Bodhidharma’s robes were red, which is why the traditional Daruma dolls are painted in bright red. Bodhidharma spent so many years in meditation that his arms and legs withered away – this also explains the limbless shape of the Daruma. When purchasing a Daruma, many look to the quality of its painted face, as the finest faces are often the fastest sellers. The Daruma’s eyebrows are represented as cranes, and their moustaches by turtles; as the two animals traditionally lead long lives, the face of the Daruma is one of its more auspicious features.”

The culture Trip

6er was happy with “he was a monk that was so dedicated that he meditated without moving for seven years.”

I then encouraged 6er to think about goals and something he would like to achieve in the next year which he wrote at the top “save lives”, with his steps to achieve it on the bottom “stay at home, wash our hands, stay 2m apart”. Can you tell Covid-19 is big on everyone’s minds here?

6er’s Daruma Doll

Then he worked out which colours for the doll best represented his goal and coloured it.

And that’s it. Mostly, have fun. Kids are enthusiastic if they see you being enthusiastic.

I will be putting together a whole document for all the Pokemon work me and the small folk will be doing. If you’re interested, click here to sign up for my mailing list and be the first to recieve it when it’s ready!

References/Links

Culture Trip

Colours Video

Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes