Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®
igniting and nurturing creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition

Comprehensive Course Syllabus

Japanese II (WLG 420)

Course Description:
Japanese 2 is designed to build upon and expand the skills that students developed during Japanese 1. Students will be expected to develop greater proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with emphasis on more complex structures and communicative strategies. Topics will continue to focus on the students’ lives, but they will be covered in more depth and will contain more material than in Japanese 1. One of our primary goals in Japanese 2 is to drastically increase the size of students’ vocabulary. Similarly, the number of kanji (Chinese characters) introduced and required will increase significantly. One very important step we will take in Japanese 2 is learning the informal or casual style. (Throughout Japanese 1 formal style was used exclusively.) Not only is informal style appropriate for casual interactions, it is essential for constructing the more complex, information–rich sentence patterns that we will be learning this year.

Virtual Exchange Program:
A major component of the Japanese program at IMSA is what we are calling our Virtual Exchange Program [VEP], which has been closely aligned with the curriculum of IMSA’s Japanese language program at all levels. All IMSA students studying Japanese will work and interact with a VEP partner from a high school in Japan. IMSA has had a relationship with a school called Ritsumeikan High School in Kyoto, Japan. Their Partners at Ritsumeikan will be studying English there. This exchange is designed to accomplish several things. First and perhaps most importantly, student can be motivated to learn because of the relationships they can build with their Japanese VEP Partners. Secondly, through giving both IMSA and Ritsumeikan students the opportunity to interact with native speakers of the language that they are studying so that they can work at developing their language skills and proficiency in a real world context. Thirdly, it provides both side with the chance to increased their awareness of Japanese and American culture, respectively—especially that of their peers in another country.

Instructor Information:
Name:            Jonathan Besançon / ベザンソン・ジョナサン
Office:            A134
Office Hours:
I days from 1:00 to 3:00
on other days by appointment, but walk–ins are welcome
Telephone:            630.907.5085

Meeting Times:
Japanese II — WLG420
A/C days            7:30 — 8:40
B/D days            7:30 — 8:15

Text & Course Materials:
All texts and course materials will be in the form of teacher–created handouts, exercises & activities, homework, grammar materials, and so on. Students must have a three–ring binder to contain all of these materials (to be used for Japanese class only). Students will also need regular (non–mechanical) number 2 pencils.

If a student wants a traditional printed dictionary, I strongly recommend the following two resources, especially for students who will continue on to Japanese 3 and college study of Japanese:

Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese–English, English–Japanese
ISBN:  4770024800

This dictionary was designed with English speakers in mind, not native speakers of Japanese, which is often the case. A unique feature of this dictionary is that entries use kanji where appropriate, but give their pronunciation. Entries also include sample sentences in both English and Japanese, to aid in understanding how to use the word you’ve looked up.

Kodansha’s Kanji Learner’s Dictionary
ISBN:  4770028555

This is the best, printed reference for kanji (Chinese characters). It has an easy an intuitive look–up method, and entries are set up with the language learner in mind.

If a student prefers electronic resources and dictionaries, there are many good (and probably not so good) apps for smart phones that offer support for language learners, such as Midori and Kotoba.

Essential Experiential Aspect:
At the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®, one of our main objectives in teaching foreign languages is for students to engage, on a deep, intellectual, and personal level, in new ways of seeing, thinking, interacting, and communicating. In order for this objective to be realized, students must encounter a communicative system and cultural perspective different from their own. It is essential for our students’ growth that they engage in immersion–based learning experiences where they are supported in going beyond normal comfort levels, and where they learn to function within a system that is unfamiliar to them, thereby developing real–world proficiency in another language and in other cultures.

As a result of language learning, our students think and act globally, are cosmopolitan in their outlook, and international in their understanding. They will be ethical leaders who advance the human condition. When students speak another language, they think and act differently. Their perspective is widened and horizons are expanded. Students have a greater capacity to empathize, to make friends, to imagine what it would be like to be in another person’s shoes. Imagination is stretched. Students no longer see “aliens” or “others”, but rather they see real people with differences and similarities. If students stop studying a language, they may forget the words and grammar details. However, learning another language and its culture, learning how to effectively communicate with other human beings, and learning how meaning is constructed through words other than one’s native tongue, will remain for a lifetime.

The IMSA World Language Learning Standards, in which the five unifying concepts (Communication, Cultures, Communities, Comparisons, and Connections) are embedded, are the guiding principles of the program. Our standards are adapted from Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century, National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 1996.

Students studying foreign language at IMSA will:

A. communicate in multiple modes (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational).
B. understand the relationships among the practices, products, and perspectives of the cultures studied.
C. reinforce and further knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language.
D. acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its culture.
E. understand the nature of language through comparisons of their own language and the language studied.
F. understand the concept of culture through comparisons of their own culture and the culture studied.
G. use knowledge of language and culture both within and beyond the school setting for personal enjoyment and enrichment.

In addition, the World Languages Team guides students in the development of their metacognitive skills, their ability to collaborate, and their ability to accurately assess learning—skills which are applicable to all of their learning experiences.

Standards of Significant Learning and Outcomes:

I.A.   Students are expected to demonstrate automaticity in skills, concepts, and processes that enable complex thought, by…

  • controlling the linguistic system (syntax, morphology, phonology, semantics, lexis).
  • expressing feelings and emotions.
  • engaging in oral and written discourse.
  • exchanging opinions.
  • compensating for linguistic inadequacies and cultural differences when they occur, and applying knowledge of cultural perspectives governing interactions between individuals of different age, status, and background.
  • directly accessing knowledge and information generated by other countries and cultures.
  • using strategies that enhance the effectiveness of communication.
  • applying content knowledge to create with the target language.
  • providing and obtaining information.
  • decoding written and spoken language on a variety of topics.
  • presenting information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.
  • transferring content knowledge in alternate scenarios and new problems.

II.A.   Students are expected to identify unexamined cultural, historical, and personal assumptions and misconceptions that impede and skew inquiry by…

  • recognizing that language learning is not simply a word–for–word translation process, but rather the acquisition of an entirely new set of concepts.
  • processing information on the nature of language and/or culture.
  • identifying patterns among language systems.
  • demonstrating mutual cultural understanding and respect.

IV.B.   Students are expected to write and speak with power, economy, and elegance by…

  • providing and obtaining information.
  • presenting information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.
  • controlling the linguistic system (syntax, morphology, phonology, semantics, lexis).
  • using strategies that enhance the effectiveness of communication.
  • engaging in oral and written discourse on given topics.
  • recognizing the linguistic and cultural differences that contribute to the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.
  • compensating for linguistic inadequacies and cultural differences when they occur, and applying knowledge of cultural perspectives governing interactions between individuals of different age, status, and background.
  • expressing feelings and emotions.
  • exchanging opinions.
  • decoding written and spoken languages on a variety of topics.

IV.D.   Students are expected to develop an aesthetic awareness and capability by…

  • recognizing that language learning is not simply a word–for–word translation process, but rather the acquisition of an entirely new set of concepts.
  • recognizing that people of other cultures view the world from a perspective different from their own.
  • experience more fully the artistic and cultural creations of other cultures.
  • identifying patterns of behavior among people of other cultures.
  • applying knowledge of the perspectives, artifacts, and practices of a culture.

V.A.   Students are expected to identify, understand, and accept the rights and responsibilities of belonging to a diverse community by…

  • recognizing the existence of other peoples’ world views, their unique way of life, and the patterns of behavior which order their world.
  • assessing the linguistic and cultural differences that contribute to the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.
  • applying knowledge of the perspectives, artifacts, and practices of a culture.
  • engaging in oral and written discourse.
  • providing and obtaining information.
  • expressing feelings and emotions.
  • exchanging opinions.
  • compensating for linguistic inadequacies and cultural differences when they occur, and applying knowledge of cultural perspectives governing interactions between individuals of different age, status, and background.
  • explaining the process of stereotyping and the role stereotypes play in forming and sustaining prejudice.
  • demonstrating mutual cultural understanding and respect.
  • engaging in meaningful direct interactions with members of other cultures.
  • sharing their knowledge of language and culture.

Instructional Design and Approach:
World Languages teachers establish an immersion classroom where the goal is correct, uninhibited, creative expression and communication in the target language. “Communication” includes speaking, reading, listening, and writing. We denote, and help students to develop skills in, three modes of communication: presentational, interpersonal, and interpretive. Our instructional design provides the opportunity for students to develop core competency learner characteristics. We empower and enable students to discover what they personally need in order to acquire and use a foreign language; we place responsibility on the individual student to collaborate, utilize problem–solving skills, and critical and creative thinking. We ask students to persist through frustration, and to maintain a tolerance for ambiguity; we demand that they look at problematic situations from various viewpoints and perspectives; and we design instruction so that they must develop and go beyond automaticity, actively construct meaning, seek connections and interactions that deepen understanding, and appreciate the value of knowledge from multiple sources and perspectives. We help students develop the cultural sensitivity that is necessary to guard against miscommunication or misunderstanding. We assume that students will display the motivation, maturity, and personal responsibility necessary to participate in this sort of language acquisition environment.

The Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines “immerse” as “to plunge into something that surrounds or covers”, and “immersion” as “an act of immersing: a state of being immersed…” Immersion-based instruction means that students will be surrounded and covered by Japanese that is at an appropriate level for them.

Furthermore, foreign language classes are built on the premise of “learning together”, where students are active participants in every aspect of learning and instruction. In practice, this means that:

  • active participation in all learning activities is required and expected.
  • frequent and ongoing interaction with classmates and the teacher are integral components of each lesson.
  • pair activities and small group interactions for practicing Japanese are the most common learning strategy.
  • self–reflection is promoted as means of self–assessment, especially for, but not limited to, the evaluation of video assessment performances. This is often done with the use of rubrics designed by the students themselves.
  • lectures or formal presentations are not a core element of the instructional strategy.
  • passive listening, mechanical note-taking or other tasks lacking in individual engagement and personal meaning–making, are not featured in the course.

Student Expectations:
Student learning Japanese at IMSA are to develop communicative competency within the immersion environment of our class. The instructor will provide students with many, daily opportunities to learn and practice Japanese in individual, paired, group, and whole–class activities. Active and extensive class participation are expected, and in fact, are essential to student success in the course.

Students are expected to treat each other and the instructor with respect. They are expected to be a positive contributor to the community of learners that is the Japanese classroom. Students are to speak Japanese to the best of their ability and do not speak English unless instructed to do so. Students are expected to be in class, to be punctual, and to be prepared, i.e., with assignments completed, and have with them the necessary materials. Students should understand that being prepared does not just mean completing written homework assignments which are turned in to the teacher for review or being ready for a quiz or test (although those things are important), but also includes thinking about language, practicing (alone or with partners), learning, studying, and even memorizing.

The amount of time that a student needs to spend outside of class in order to attain the desired level of proficiency in Japanese and to succeed in the course, varies from individual to individual. However, a reasonable expectation for daily practice, study and work is 20 to 30 minutes. Consistent, daily effort is known to be much more effective for language acquisition than longer, less frequent practice and study sessions.

Assessment Practices, Procedures, and Processes:
Assessment involves both the teacher and the student. The teacher provides regular feedback on student performance: the student considers and responds to that feedback, engaging in self–assessment. There will also be occasions when students will be asked to assess each other and share constructive criticisms. The focus of assessment in the Japanese classroom is on the students’ continued efforts to improve their language proficiency and communicative competency. Students are assessed daily on their production of written and spoken language. Informal assessment occurs through observations of students’ participation in classroom activities (most notably, pair and group work), and through interactions with the teacher. Oral performance is more formally assessed through video assessments. Written proficiency is assessed in a variety of ways, including writing practice sheets, written homework, and quizzes and tests.

Letter grades will be assigned to student performance and achievement according to how letter grades are defined in the student handbook:

A  =  exceeds course requirements
B  =  meets course requirements
C  =  credit awarded, but needs improvement
D  =  does not meet course requirements, no Academy credit awarded

To help make the connection between the above definitions and the World Language classroom, consider the following two charts:

Oral Proficiency





Use of the Target Language Always remains in the Target Language. Usually remains in the Target Language.Only uses English to ask for help. Speaks English frequently, even when asked no to.Engages in English conversation with others. Speaks English almost exclusively, even during directed activities.
Participation Always participates fully in class activities.Always volunteers to lead or model oral activities in class. Generally participates fully in small group activities.Frequently volunteers to lead or model activities. Participates only when called upon, often reluctantly.Is generally off task and unengaged.Rarely volunteers. Participates reluctantly even when called upon, or refuses to participate.Is consistently off task and unengaged.
Pronunciation Conscientiously reproduces Target Language sounds, expressions, and pronunciation.Has an authentic, native–like sound. Makes efforts to reproduce TL sounds, expressions, and pronunciation.With some exceptions, sounds authentic and native–like. Makes little effort to reproduce TL sounds.Does not sound very authentic or native–like. Does not make efforts to reproduce TL sounds.Does not sound at all authentic or native–like.
New Vocabulary Correctly incorporates new vocabulary where appropriate. Uses new vocabulary occasionally, usually in directed activities. Uses new vocabulary only in directed activities. Demonstrates minimal acquisition of new vocabulary.
Use of the Target language outside of class Speaks the Target Language outside of class with instructor and other students. Frequently uses the Target Language outside of class. Seldom uses the Target Language outside of class. Never uses the Target Language outside of class.


Written Proficiency





Handwriting Is conscientious about good handwriting.Uses correct stroke order, direction and style, especially when writing kanji. Is generally careful about handwriting.Generally uses correct stroke order, direction and style. Is not careful about handwriting.Does not pay enough attention to stroke order, direction, and style. Has bad handwriting.Pays little to no attention to stroke order, direction, and style.
Use of Japanese phonetic scripts (hiragana & katakana) and Chinese characters (kanji) Correctly uses both phonetic syllabaries.Always uses known kanji, and can write them correctly. Correctly uses both phonetic syllabaries.Generally uses known kanji, and generally writes them correctly. Does not always correctly use phonetic syllabaries.Rarely uses kanji, and usually writes them incorrectly. Cannot correctly use either phonetic syllabary.Does not use kanji, and cannot write them correctly.
Attention to detail Pays conscientious attention to grammar, syntax, and “spelling”. Pays attention to grammar, syntax, and “spelling”. Pays little attention to grammar, syntax, and “spelling”. Pays no attention to grammar, syntax, and “spelling”.
New vocabulary & grammatical patterns Consistently and correctly employs new vocabulary and grammatical patterns. Generally employs new vocabulary and grammatical patterns correctly. Struggles to correctly employ new vocabulary and grammatical patterns. Cannot correctly use new vocabulary and grammatical patterns.

Sequence of Major Topics and Activities:

Note: Activities tied to the Virtual Exchange Program will be embedded in many of the units/topics below.

Semester 1
My Birthday
2 weeks
Students will learn date expressions (year, month, days of the month) in the context of sharing information about their birthdays.
Exchange the same information with their VEP.
My Free Time
6 weeks
Students will exchange information about leisure time activities, about what they do or don’t do, and what they like to do in their free time, or what their favorite thing to do is.
They will also learn to talk about what they will probably do, and what they plan or intend to do.
[dictionary/infinitive/casual verb form, casual negative verb form,
nominalization of dictionary form] Exchange the same information with their VEP.
Assessment: in–class oral assessments & First Video (interpersonal)
My Life Backpack
2 weeks
My Responsibilities
3 weeks
On the phone
3 weeks
Students will learn strategies for talking on the phone—how to answer, to do identify oneself, how to ask to speak with someone, how to end a conversation, and other things about protocol and etiquette. In this contect, students will learn how to exchange information about what they are doing now, were doing in the past, or will (probably) be doing in the future.
[conjunctive “and” form of verbs, progressive verb forms, offering invitations] Assessment: In–class role playing (interpersonal)
Semester 2
New Years Reading
4 weeks
We will read an essay about the celebration of the new year in Japan, studying the vocabulary, grammatical patterns and Chinese characters found in the essay.
Assessment:  written exam
My Health
4 weeks
Students will learn vocabulary for body parts, ways to describe illness or other physical problems. They will learn to ask for and give advice or suggestions about how to deal with the problem.
Assessments: in–class presentation describing their health, as if to a health care worker, doctor, or host family member, and Second Video [partner video—role play] (interpersonal)
2 weeks
Around Town
3 weeks
This is an especially a practical unit on giving and getting directions, and on how to use maps to get around. Japanese streets rarely have names, and places don’t have addresses like those in America that will help locate them, so this is a critical skill for getting along in Japan.
Students will also learn about public transportation in Japan and how to navigate it, learning vocabulary and grammatical patterns necessary to giving and getting directions for traveling on public transportation.
Assessment:  map test & Second Video Assessment (interpersonal)
Eating Out
3 weeks
 Students will learn Japanese necessary for eating out in Japanese restaurants. This will involve learning basic ordering skills and how to communicate with a server. Students will also learn more about Japanese food in general and about various types of Japanese restaurants.
Final Product:  A class–produced guide to eating out in Japanese restaurants, for students’ future reference, and a table manners etiquette guide.
Assessment:  In–class oral assessment, Third Video
Cooking — Pot Luck Party
2 weeks
In Japanese 1 we all cooked one dish together. In Japanese 2, we will learn about a variety of Japanese dishes, read and study the recipes (which will be much more detailed and complete than those in level 1), and then students will cook these dishes for a class pot–luck party.
Final Product:  Foods prepared using recipes studied
Assessment:  in–class written assessment & written test