EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / NIE council advises young teachers (Jan.5)

Nobuyuki Sakai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The following is a translation of an article carried in The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Education Renaissance series. It focuses on a Newspapers in Education (NIE) promotion council in Tokyo that offers young teachers hints about how to better use newspapers as teaching materials. This is the third in a five-part section of the series, which looks into activities of the NIE movement.

In early September, Takuya Hanai, a teacher at Katori Primary School in Koto Ward, Tokyo, was trying to come up with a way to deal with a learning unit designed to encourage students to think about peace.

The unit was included in a Japanese-language textbook for sixth-year students. It is meant to encourage students to develop their ability to become better informed about society, collect information, express their opinions in writing and give speeches based on these activities.

Hanai decided to use newspapers to supplement the unit on peace. It was the first time he used newspapers in class.

Takahiro Tanaka, principal of Dai-Ni Kameido Primary School in the ward, learned of Hanai’s plan. Tanaka advised the young teacher to join a meeting of the Tokyo NIE promotion council’s primary school section, for which Tanaka served as an adviser.

“You may get some ideas from the participants,” Tanaka told Hanai.

Branches of the council, which comprise education authorities, teachers and representatives from the newspaper industry, are set up at the prefectural level to serve as hubs of the NIE campaign.

The council’s primary school section meets once a month in Tokyo at the Nippon Press Center in Chiyoda Ward. Teachers interested in using newspaper articles in their classes gather at the press center to exchange opinions and information.

At the meeting held in early September, Hanai explained his teaching plan to about 20 teachers who attended the meeting.

“After teaching the unit in the text, I’d like to instruct the students to form an opinion after reading newspaper articles,” he told the teachers. “Do you think I should instruct them to focus on peace?”

“I’m afraid the students may stick to such typical opinions as ‘war is not good’ or ‘weapons are not good,'” one participant said. “How about picking a theme such as peace around you or caring for others?”

Another said: “I’d like to see what kind of theme the children would pick if they could choose anything. I wonder if it’s really necessary to restrict the topic to peace.”

A month after the meeting, Hanai gave his students issues taken up in newspaper from two different days and instructed them to scan the papers for a theme that struck them as interesting.

The children picked such themes as the ozone hole above the North Pole, a Nobel Prize winner’s death before his award was announced and Japanese soccer players working overseas. The students commented on their topics in class.

“I thought it would be useful for the children to get an idea of what is going on in the society in general to help them think about the future,” Hanai, 28, said.

“From the opinions given by the participants at the council’s meeting, I realized that newspaper articles can encourage children to form their own opinions about society,” he added.

Tanaka, after observing Hanai’s class, said: “He [Hanai] instructed the children to later write down their opinions, suggesting they could write about ‘Thinking about the future: What should we do to realize a peaceful society?’ That was good.”


EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / Parents, kids share interest in society through NIE (Jan.7)

Yuka Sumiyoshi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The following article is a translation from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Education Renaissance series and is the fourth installment in a five-article part of the series that looks into activities of the Newspapers in Education (NIE) movement. It focuses on Saturday lessons in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward meant to encourage parents and their children to read news reports together so they can discuss various matters of social concern.

“When do you feel baka [foolish]?” a teacher asked, singling out the mother of a student. The mother replied, “Probably when I’ve seasoned food the wrong way.” The answer drew an unintentional laugh from the students, including the woman’s primary school-age daughter, seated next to her.

This humorous give-and-take took place during a Saturday school session held in Honan Primary School in Suginami Ward on Oct. 8. The special class was held as part of the NIE programs, designed to encourage parents and their children to study newspaper articles together. A classroom used as the venue for the program was packed with about 90 attendees.

There are many views about the origin of the word “baka,” which comprises two kanji characters meaning horse and deer. According to one theory based on an ancient Chinese legend, a high-ranking government official maintained that the animal he brought as an offering to the emperor was a horse, even though it was obviously a deer. He later laid false charges against some officials who denied his claim that it was a horse.

At the beginning of the Oct. 8 class, some students and parents performed a short drama about this story, to help the audience understand the potential danger of providing false information to people in power.

After learning media literacy tips through the performance, the attendees of the Saturday class began selecting newspaper articles they were interested in and cutting them out.

Fuki Tanaka, 11, chose a story about dinosaurs. He told his mother, Naomi, that he chose the story because he was “practicing a song about coelacanth in the music club” he belonged to.

The 44-year-old mother happily said, “I’ve often heard my son singing the ‘coelacanth’ lyrics while taking a bath. Today I found out why and understood how much he likes dinosaurs.”

A Saturday class is held once a month as a special event under the initiative of local volunteers. The Saturday programs ranged from physical activities, including dancing and playing catch, to a lesson in which parents and students drew cartoons. Some of the programs were designed to strengthen relationships between the school and students’ families or the local community.

The Oct. 8 class was the second of its kind in which students and their parents read newspapers together.

Through its NIE programs, the school encourages all of its fifth- and sixth-grade students to collect newspaper clippings as homework, while providing full support for the NIE events of the Saturday classes.

Moe Takahashi, a 25-year-old teacher in charge of a fifth-grade class, says she was impressed by the interest students showed in various topics through the NIE programs. “Even children in early grades can work on [the tasks] with the help of their mothers,” she said.

One of the local volunteers who manages the Saturday programs, Masato Oshima, 60, said: “I’ve heard some parents saying conversations with their children didn’t last very long when they asked, ‘How was school today?’ Many parents [who attended the Oct. 8 class] said discussing social topics with their children was a new experience for them.”

Yuji Sueyoshi, the principal of the Honan school, said: “[Through the class] many parents seem to have become aware of the importance of daily conversations with their children, while the students have developed an interest in society. We’d like to provide them with more opportunities like this.”

(Jan. 7, 2012)


EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / Educators striving to act as one in NIE project (Dec.24)

Yuka Sumiyoshi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The following article is a translation from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Education Renaissance series. This installment–the second in a five-part series that looks into activities carried out in various areas as part of the Newspapers in Education (NIE) movement–focuses on a Tokyo primary school where all teachers and administrators are dedicated to their NIE campaign.

A great cry of delight broke out among fourth-year students at Higashi-Jujo Primary School in Kita Ward, Tokyo, when their teacher spread out a scroll depicting lunar variations on a blackboard during a science class on Sept. 16.

“There are various phases of the moon’s changing shape. It was a full moon four days ago, but how will it look tonight?” Shingo Kawaguchi said, spreading out the poster with graphics including crescent moons and the full moon. “Wow!” the students shouted, looking at the changing shapes of the moon.

The graphics–prepared by the teacher–were an enlarged copy of an article carried in The Yomiuri Shimbun’s local edition.

Kawaguchi came up with the idea for the school’s NIE special programs in late November, in which all teachers were supposed to show their teaching methods to the rest of the teachers in actual classes.

A beginner in the NIE program, Kawaguchi said: “At first, I didn’t know how to handle newspapers [in class] as a study resource. But now I feel comfortable using newspapers however I like.”

Kawaguchi prepared the Sept. 16 class following a series of consultations with his colleagues since late August.

Under a whole-school system designed by principal Shuji Sekiguchi, teachers are encouraged to consult each other frankly over their use of newspapers in the classroom.

As a teacher, Sekiguchi, 56, has been using newspapers in class for years. After he became a principal for the first time at Oji Dai-san Primary School, run by the ward government, he launched the NIE program as a whole-school project, believing “a project won’t last very long if each teacher works on it individually.”

Thanks to the principal’s leadership the atmosphere among teachers has transformed.

At the Higashi-Jujo school, all students are encouraged to read newspapers for 15 to 20 minutes in class once a week. In corridors, corners have been set up for newspapers so students can read them anytime.

It’s not only the students who have learned something through the NIE program, the principal said. The teachers have improved their teaching methods by incorporating the newspapers into their lesson plans, with their efforts broadening their range of ideas.

Such whole-school programs in Kita Ward are supported by the Shimbun Daisuki Purojekuto–a project launched last year by the education board of the ward government. As part of the project, the education board has started training programs for primary and middle school teachers in charge of NIE, while providing subsidies to schools to cover their expenses to invite outside lecturers who specialize in NIE programs.

Machiko Yokota, principal of the municipal Makibi Higashi Middle School in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, launched an NIE program as a whole-school project after she took her post.

“When teachers introduce news articles they are interested in once a week in class, students sometimes show their surprise, saying they ‘didn’t know you [the teacher] were interested in such a topic,'” Yokota said. “In that way, [NIE] also serves as a means of communication between teachers and students.”

According to Yokota, students formed a group on their own initiative in which they discuss various topics found in articles run by newspapers.

(Dec. 24, 2011)


Nobuyuki Sakai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The following article is a translation from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Education Renaissance series. This installment–the first in a five-part set in the series, which looks into activities carried out in various areas as part of the Newspapers in Education (NIE) movement–focuses on a group of teachers in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, who discuss topics from newspaper articles and share their ideas about how to utilize these materials in class.

AMAKUSA, Kumamoto–On a weeknight in late September, local schoolteachers fresh from coaching after-school club activities gathered at an Amakusa municipal government citizens center.

At the center’s staff office, the teachers picked up bundles of the day’s morning and evening newspapers, brought them to a conference room, and began a monthly meeting of their group–a branch of the NIE Network Kumamoto. The group was voluntarily established by local teachers to discuss their respective NIE programs.

That night’s session was attended by 10 teachers, fewer than usual as many members were busy preparing for school events. The attendees were seated face-to-face at desks, each scanning the newspapers for interesting articles.

“Well, let’s start tonight’s session,” said a male teacher. One by one, members began making brief comments on articles that caught their eye.

Mari Kiyota, a teacher from Ryonan Middle School, chose an article about a September incident in which an All Nippon Airways plane briefly flew upside down and could have led to a serious accident. “It’s shocking that such an incident happened in Japan’s heavily congested airspace,” she commented.

Another teacher agreed with Kiyota, saying, “I don’t understand why this case wasn’t made public until three weeks later.”

One teacher referred to the series of railways accidents in China this year. “There have been a number of man-made disasters lately,” he said. The teacher then brought some humor into their serious discussion by saying, “Recently, I made some small careless mistakes. I should be more careful, learning lessons [from those incidents].” With his confession, the attendees burst into laughter.

When it came to an article about Shuji Nakamura being honored with an Emmy Award for his contribution to television technology, the teachers discussed the brain drain of Japanese scientists and engineers, including Nakamura, who is widely known as the inventor of blue LEDs.

In relation to an article about sumo wrestler Kotoshogiku’s promotion to ozeki, the teachers heatedly debated the meaning of “banri ikku”–a phrase Kotoshogiku quoted from a book written by the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) during his promotion ceremony in late September.

Through these debates, the teachers often come up with ideas on how to utilize newspaper articles as a study resource in their classes.

After the discussions, one attendee, Shinichiro Tanaka from Hondo Middle School, began a presentation explaining how he uses newspapers to encourage students to read an article during a once-a-week, 15-minute session in the morning before starting a regular class. For the morning lessons, he selects stories that seem likely to interest students to make it easier for them formulate their own opinions and convey their thoughts to others. “I want this to be a schoolwide program,” the 37-year-old teacher said.

Encouraging Tanaka, one teacher said, “Go for it. Make [the program] take a hold in your school by winning over other teachers.” This encouragement or advice can help motivate a teacher trying a unique program on their own, the group members said.

As one of the founders of the Amakusa branch, Tanaka says: “Anyone can join us and have cross-school exchanges. It inspires us to pursue education tailored to each development stage for students.”

During their sessions, members examine articles run in that day’s newspapers together and engage in free-form discussions.

Many teachers across the country have adopted the Amakusa group’s style for their own study groups, believing it helps them become more familiar with newspapers.