Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Akiko Kurose Interview II
Narrator: Akiko Kurose
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 2 & 3, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-kakiko-02-0024

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AI: So even at the age and level of first grade, you're encouraging the students to write and have journals?

AK: Oh, yes, I have a journal for... I'm a great bargain hunter just like my son Paul, and so we'd go to all the K-Marts and Targets and we get these three-ringed binders which sell for, like nineteen cents during the summertime. And so, Paul and I always go and we buy hundreds of notebooks and I pass one out to each child and they could have as many notebooks as they want, as long as they fill it. And so they start a journal from day one. And they can write in it and illustrate in it. But we spend at least a half an hour every day on a journal. And it's amazing what good writers they become. And they're able to sort out things and then write 'em down. We never make fun of their writing or their spelling or whatever. It's inventive spelling because this is writing time and we're not gonna be sitting there criticizing their handwriting or their penmanship or their punctuation or their spelling. It's just... you know. And, I think that's how the classroom should be taught. I just feel that.

And your math becomes a part of your everyday activities, so that it isn't a rote kind of learning, it just becomes a natural kind of thing that fits in with your science, math, reading, writing, all of it becomes integrated. And so some people have problems with that kind of teaching. Which is fine because some people just feel that it has to be more structured. And what I say, is I have lots of structure, but it's within. And the kids develop that structure within, so that when they do their work they can do it smoothly and spontaneously without that kind of restriction. I don't limit the kind of knowledge and spelling that should go on in the classroom. So I don't have a first grade list of spelling, second grade list of spelling. My students learn to spell "metamorphosis," and "photosynthesis" and "anadromous" and all these terms, because they experience it so they know. And if you can spell 'and,' why not be able to spell "anadromous"? We just, it's an extension I see. And so the kids love it, they all know how to spell "waxing," "waning," "gibbous" and "crescent." Because they've observed the moon all along.

AI: So it becomes a natural learning for them.

AK: Uh-huh. And then it's exciting because the parents get involved, too. And they say, "Gee we didn't know... my kids are talking about 'gibbous,'" or whatever. And like, one of my students says, "My parent still thinks 'gibbous' is some kind of ape or monkey. [Laughs] It makes learning fun. And I enjoy right along with the students. There isn't a day that I haven't learned something from the kids, the discoveries that they make. And I think if we could have that kind of excitement among all the teachers in the schools, kids'll benefit. And I think the whole aspect of being positive is very important. And I don't like the punitive kinds of things that go on. Because kids don't have to be put down, nobody has to be put down. Nobody feels good in being put down. You don't make that many gains if you're putting people down, you're gonna get much more, and so almost selfishly I didn't want to put anybody down because you don't make those gains. [Laughs]

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.