>     >   2020年6月


It is wonderful to finally have a hall in the newly finished school expansion building. The space is located directly adjacent to the Grade 1 and Grade 2 classrooms to allow teachers to supervise students while they use the hall space during breaks and after lunch. In addition to during PE class, students use the hall space in numerous ways throughout the day to play and run during the 10 minute breaks between classes. Favorite games are currently basketball and dodgeball, and many students have gotten much better at throwing balls overhand and at dribbling. In addition, the PE teacher, Yamada Sensei is taking advantage of the new PE equipment to help students build strength and coordination via circuit training during PE class.

1年生の探究の単元:Caring for the environment is critical for the survival of all living things. 環境を大切にすることは全生命体の生存に不可欠である

Grade 1 students are currently studying their  Sharing the Planet unit of inquiry.  The theme of the inquiry is Caring for the environment is critical for the survival of all living things. (環境を大切にすることは全生命体の生存に不可欠である。)

Within the inquiry, students are currently learning about difference between recyclable and non-recyclable items in preparation for understanding the impact that the use of non-recyclable energy sources have on the planet and all living things.

3年生探究の単元:Mass media influences us in a variety of ways マス・メディアは様々な手段をもってして我々に影響を与える

Grade 3 students are currently studying their unit of inquiry How We Express Ourselves.  The inquiry theme is Mass media influences us in a variety of ways (マス・メディアは様々な手段をもってして我々に影響を与える。)

Students have been investigating the ways in which advertisers influence consumers to buy their products.  Students have also been investigating the ways in which not all products are actually good for the consumer.  Students created their own ads, and then presented them to the class, explaining why and how they made the ad in the way they did.

2年生探究の単元:Matter interacts in a variety of ways 物質は様々な相互作用を持つ

Grade 2 students have been studying about matter within their current unit of inquiry (UOI): How the World Works.  The theme of the inquiry is Matter interacts in a variety of ways 物質は様々な相互作用を持つ。  To help students understand that air is matter and takes up space, students tried to blow balloons up inside of PET bottles.  At first, no one was able to do so, but then the class experimented with created a hole in the bottle to allow the air to escape when the balloon was blown up.  Students were amazed that they were also able to keep the balloon inflated by covering the hole with their finger.


All 18 Grade 1 students are working hard practicing reading and writing hiragana.


Grade 3 students recently wrote poems in Kokugo class…


The Coronavirus pandemic this year has placed unprecedented challenges on schools in Japan and around the world. Following the direction of the Kumamoto Board of Education, KIS moved to teaching all grades online in April and May. Although we were able to offer Hearth Club (Gakudo Hoiku) for certain students, the majority of our pupils took classes at home via Zoom each day. KIS offered our English and Japanese curriculum online in a differentiated format similar to that used during regular classes.

The beginning of the school year is a critical time for all students, but it is especially so for new Grade 1 students. KIS wanted to try to provide students with as regular a life and education as possible during this difficult period, and thus offered daily online classes for all grades. Online learning is difficult for younger students because they struggle with focus and are still working on mastering basic reading and writing skills which can only be practiced properly with real pencils and paper. Working within this limitation, we used a balanced approach of most instruction taking place online, but homework assigned digitally and, in the case of Kokugo, via printed materials that were mailed to all students. All students were given daily homework assignments which they completed and then uploaded digitally for review by teachers.

One of the challenges of teaching online is providing effective feedback to students — mistakes that are not corrected can quickly become bad habits that are hard to break. Further, it is simply quite challenging to provide effective, targeted feedback for students when they are not in the same physical space as the teacher. KIS teachers worked hard to overcome the limitations of virtual instruction using screen share within Zoom and small group differentiated instruction. By displaying curriculum materials via screen share and writing directly onto them, we were able to provide engaging and effective feedback in most cases. In addition, staff followed up with further comments on the homework uploaded by the students each day.

We returned to full regular classes on Monday, June 1st, and it is wonderful to have all students back in the classroom (we can finally take full advantage of the new building!). It is interesting to realize, however, that staff learned many things about being more effective instructors during this time.

In retrospect, although online teaching was challenging and placed a large burden on parents at first (particularly in Grade 1), everyone got used to the virtual teaching format quickly and worked hard to maximize the possibilities for online education. It did take a few weeks of constant tweaking, but in the end, I was extremely proud of how hard students, parents, and staff worked during this time and the resulting quality of our classes. Everyone rose to the challenge posed by online teaching, and while I hope that we do not have to return to teaching virtually, I know that we will be ready if it becomes necessary to do so again in the future.