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teaching Japanese to kids

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teaching Japanese to kids

Postby tōkai devotee » Wed 11.12.2008 9:50 pm

Hi! I've been asked to teach Japanese to a group of children aged between 5-11 and I don't know where to start!! I'll be meeting with them just once a fortnight. They just want to learn conversational Japanese to start with. Later on they may want to learn reading and writing. I have some flash cards in Japanese of sea creatures, animals, greetings and I can make use of these. The parents don't want to pay for textbooks. So I'm thinking I'll use some online resources. But need some suggestions as to what I should use. I hope to hear lots of suggestions from you people!!

Thanks in advance!
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby becki_kanou » Thu 11.13.2008 1:06 am

One game I always do with kids to get them to practice greetings is 名刺じゃんけん.

1: Teach basic greetings. はじめまして。私は◎です。よろしくお願いします。
2: Teach じゃんけん. The kids will probably be familiar with the game but you can teach the Japanese words 最初はグー、じゃんけんほい!あいこでしょう!
3:The kids all get five cards with their names written on them. (You can also teach them how to write their own name in katakana and have them write the cards themsleves. Even if they mostly want to do speaking practice, it really gives kids a sense of accomplishment if they can write their own name in a foreign script.)
4:Each kid finds a partner, they introduce themselves then play じゃんけん
5: The loser gives the winner one name card
6: Repeat with new partners until everyone has introduced themselves to everyone else.
7: The person who collects the most name cards is the winner (You can give them a high five or a sticker or whatever reward you normally use.)
そうだ、嬉しいんだ、生きる喜び!
例え胸の傷が痛んでも。
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby tōkai devotee » Thu 11.13.2008 3:32 am

Thanks Becki, that's a good start! I guess Janken can be used for all kinds of games.... as often as it is in Japan by Japanese kids!

I've been giving it a lot of thought today and I think I'll teach numbers, days of the week, family, parts of the body, and so on, and I think we'll do songs and origami etc. It's just a very rough idea and most likely will change. In Primary (Elementary) Schools here, kids are generally taught languages very slowly, and they might spend an entire term (10 weeks) on one topic like family. But with a small group I'm sure I can help these kids learn much quicker than that. I hope so anyway!
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby nukemarine » Thu 11.13.2008 8:26 am

http://www3.u-toyama.ac.jp/niho/song/song_jplevel.html It has 56 songs separated by level. Should be good for kids.

http://hukumusume.com/douwa/index.html dozens of children tales either from Europe or Japan, but all in Japanese. Has some audio.

Avoid forcing polite speech.
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby clay » Thu 11.13.2008 8:46 am

I had a prof (TESL course) use only Japanese to get us (college aged kids) to stand up, sit down, raise our hands, and maybe one or two other actions. He only spoke Japanese for this exercise even though most of the students hadn't studied a lick of Japanese.

He'd say, "tatte kudasai" and wave his hands in an upward motion. Then 'suwatte kudasai' with a downward hand motion. Pretty soon most of us could obey his commands without any body language.

It was a silly exercise and I'm sure there was very little retention, but it made us realize we could understand a foreign language.

I've since done this with elementary school kids a few times here in the States and they caught on pretty quickly. Might be a good way to introduce Japanese and show them that they can learn to understand a foreign language.
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby becki_kanou » Thu 11.13.2008 9:33 am

If you are thinking of teaching them songs at any point, I think the frog song is a really great one.

カエルの歌が
聞こえてくるよ
グワ グワ グワ グワ
ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ
グワ グワ グワ
そうだ、嬉しいんだ、生きる喜び!
例え胸の傷が痛んでも。
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby two_heads_talking » Thu 11.13.2008 10:41 am

you could also do the old kindergarten song of .. Head, shoulders, knees and toes. That's a fun excercise/study for both learning major body parts and getting some energy out too..

you could teach them the hokey pokey too.
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby furrykef » Thu 11.13.2008 11:44 am

clay wrote:It was a silly exercise and I'm sure there was very little retention


There might be more retention than you think. I'm 24 and I still remember "¡Levántense! ¡Siéntense!" ("Get up! Sit down!") from one of my elementary school Spanish classes. (Though, to be fair, I probably "remember" it a bit better than I would otherwise since I actually sorta speak Spanish now.) I'm pretty sure we'd had it explained to us instead of doing the entire exercise in Spanish from the beginning, though.

But to be fair, I did retain very little else from my Spanish classes in elementary school other than the numbers 1-10 and some basic colors. :P

I think you can go too far, though. I remember in Spanish classes I'd have to ask to sharpen my pencil in Spanish, and I never could remember the phrase. (In fact, I didn't really re-learn the phrase -- or at least one phrase for it -- until yesterday: "Disculpe, pero necesito sacarle punta al lápiz", very literally something like, "Excuse me, but I need to bring out the point of my pencil.")

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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby spin13 » Fri 11.14.2008 2:25 am

clay wrote:I had a prof (TESL course) use only Japanese to get us (college aged kids) to stand up, sit down, raise our hands, and maybe one or two other actions. He only spoke Japanese for this exercise even though most of the students hadn't studied a lick of Japanese.

He'd say, "tatte kudasai" and wave his hands in an upward motion. Then 'suwatte kudasai' with a downward hand motion. Pretty soon most of us could obey his commands without any body language.

It was a silly exercise and I'm sure there was very little retention, but it made us realize we could understand a foreign language.

I've since done this with elementary school kids a few times here in the States and they caught on pretty quickly. Might be a good way to introduce Japanese and show them that they can learn to understand a foreign language.


This called Total Physical Response (TPR) and can be amazing for vocab retention. It often takes more repetitions than one might think, but it can work. You can read about it here: Maximize Your Language Learning through TPR and 502 Words that Can Be Learned with TPR.

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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby Oracle » Fri 11.14.2008 2:34 am

I remember learning a whole bunch of words just from physical context like that when I went to high school in Japan on exchange, particularly the rather military-sounding beginning of every class:

起立!気をつけ!礼!着席!
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby spin13 » Fri 11.14.2008 2:54 am

tokai devotee wrote:Hi! I've been asked to teach Japanese to a group of children aged between 5-11 and I don't know where to start!! I'll be meeting with them just once a fortnight. They just want to learn conversational Japanese to start with. Later on they may want to learn reading and writing. I have some flash cards in Japanese of sea creatures, animals, greetings and I can make use of these. The parents don't want to pay for textbooks. So I'm thinking I'll use some online resources. But need some suggestions as to what I should use. I hope to hear lots of suggestions from you people!!


I feel that once every two weeks is not enough to ever gain any real language competency. You're more likely able to leave positive cultural impressions than lingual ones. That is certainly a worthwhile goal in and of itself, but I would reconsider your arrangements if you or your students (and their parents) expect to accomplish otherwise.

Regardless, don't forget about things that were fun in your first language. Charades, Taboo, Memory, and other games can be adapted. Also, encourage the children to be accountable for not only their own education but also their peers' by allowing them to play teacher in activities.  Good luck.

oracle wrote:I remember learning a whole bunch of words just from physical context like that when I went to high school in Japan on exchange, particularly the rather military-sounding beginning of every class:

起立!気をつけ!礼!着席!


Certainly the first Japanese I learned was in an aikido dojo. Quite similar, at that. I also learned what a 手首/小手 was quite quickly as well.

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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby tōkai devotee » Fri 11.14.2008 11:16 pm

becki_kanou wrote:If you are thinking of teaching them songs at any point, I think the frog song is a really great one.

カエルの歌が
聞こえてくるよ
グワ グワ グワ グワ
ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ
グワ グワ グワ


Trust you to come up with the Frog song!!!!
Thanks Becki, and thanks everyone else who has replied.
I know they aren't going to become proficient Japanese speakers with only one lesson per fortnight, but I can certainly do my best to encourage an interest in Japanese language and culture, and hopefully they will want to learn more. There's one girl studying Judo so she already knows a bit although she doesn't realise it!
I'm having trouble putting some of their names in Katakana. Can someone tell me if these are ok?
Jedd ジェッド
Georgie ジョージ
Lexi レクシー
James ジェムズ ??

Thanks!
Last edited by tōkai devotee on Sat 11.15.2008 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby richvh » Fri 11.14.2008 11:32 pm

James - ジェームズ
The other names look OK to me.
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby tōkai devotee » Sat 11.15.2008 12:19 am

Thanks Rich! I appreciate it!
There's one more I nearly forgot about. It's Noah. Any ideas?? ノワ or ノア?
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Re: teaching Japanese to kids

Postby becki_kanou » Sat 11.15.2008 12:26 am

I think I've seen ノア before. I'd go with that!
そうだ、嬉しいんだ、生きる喜び!
例え胸の傷が痛んでも。
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