Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

A New “Sense” of Direction….Street View


As part of my travel unit for Japanese 12 I do a quick review of direction giving. In the Japanese 11 class we use a static map for guiding around. But bringing that same map back for the Grade 12’s just didn’t seem to cut it. I don’t work in a school with 1:1 or even the wireless capability to support BYOD but our labs are reasonably quick so I have a pair share a computer there.

SetUp – Student Input:  Many of my students dream of visiting Japan and Tokyo is the first choice for them. So  2 days before the activity I ask them where they would like to go in Tokyo if they had a chance – and draw the inspiration for my activity from their information. I use a quick written exit slip. It is important that I don’t suggest where. Using the student’s information, I search Google for images “free to use or share” from each of the locations my students identified. Then I choose an ‘iconic’ location from that area as the target of the activity and a label for it that allows them to zero in on the general area.

SetUp – An Expectation of Language Use: My Grade 12’s are used to the expectation that an activity will be done using the TL (target language) only. I build this via informal and formal reinforcement after class activities. Sometimes it’s a quick ‘stop-light’ slip – Green (only the TL), Yellow (few words of English) or Red (1/2 the time or more in English). At other times I use a more detailed rubric for self and partner evaluation. The result is students who do use the TL – even without a teacher hovering over them.

The Task: Students are given the picture “quest” sheet and use Google Maps to go first to the general area. From there it’s into Street View and they work together to try to get to the location in the photo using the TL. It’s fun to hear them “No – don’t go left, go right at the next street” – as they work to find the spot. I make if very clear that they don’t have to go to every location on the page – but rather to pick one or two – find the spot and then explore the area.  Some do like to find all the picture spots while others take up the exploring challenge.

The Wrap-Up: After the activity I use a rubric for self and partner evaluation of their use of the TL – including a written justification of their choices.  I also ask them to provide any TL words/phrases that they felt they needed (for the next time I do this).

My students loved the chance to visually explore an area they are interested in and more than one commented on how proud they were that ‘they didn’t use any English’ in doing so. As for me it put me in the role I like best – supporting my students in their learning – not leading!



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