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Friday, August 16, 2019

Warlords of Japan

This is going to be the trickiest project to post about because it's based on a simulation that's copyrighted, called Warlords of Japan. We used this simulation as a starting point for ours, but made some considerable additions and changes. After all, this simulation was published in 1991, and pedagogy has changed quite a bit since then (there were a lot of regurgitation-type activities in it). The game also touched on just under half of the curriculum we needed to teach, too - it focuses only on the time period in Edo period Japan when the Emperor closed its borders to the Western World. Our curriculum also asks us to address the period of rapid adaptation in Japan following the Perry expedition to Japan when US sailors basically forced Japan to open its borders to the West. That being said, the core game structure had definite merit, and I'd say this project was probably our students' favourite out of all three games we played with them this year.

The game worked like this: Students were placed in a goningumi (which is a traditional Japanese concept where groups of five households were held collectively responsible, and were rewarded and punished as a whole), or clan. Each goningumi was assigned a territory of Japan where their home castle would reside. The goal of the game was to take control of the most territory to become the shogun of Japan. The game play took place using a map of Japan. Each goningumi was awarded koku (a traditional Japanese unit of measurement that equated to 350 pounds of rice, enough to feed one adult for a year) based on how many territories they occupied. We needed a LOT of coloured map pins to play this game. Have a look at the game board below. I feel like I cannot post the rules of the game since we used the copyrighted rules without many adaptations.

The actual purchase and movement of troops was only part of the game. The more important piece came through the roles that students played each game day. Students rotated and took on one of several roles each day, which included: 
  • daimyo: the leader - the one who makes decisions about purchasing and moving troops
  • banker: the person who does the accounting based on the previous day's work and decisions to figure out how much koku the daimyo can spend
  • artist/calligrapher: this person did a task related to art or calligraphy based on that day's focus
  • cartographer: this person would create a map related to the day's focus
  • historian: this person would complete a task related to a historical event or occurrence based on the day's focus and record it in a notebook called the History Book.
  • culture minister: this person would create rituals or traditions for the goningumi based on real Japanese cultural traditions. The culture minister also used a criteria sheet to assess the group's collaboration each day.
One final role was mine: Emperor.

Each day, each goningumi would be given a roles sheet, with specific instructions for each role. Here is an example:

Day #2

Your assignment is to design and create a samurai war mask on paper which reflects the values and colours of your region. 
Your assignment is to create a blueprint (aerial view: looking down from the sky) of your Home-Castle. Make sure you include all necessary buildings (such as sleeping quarters for your head positions and armies, a trading centre, supply sheds, wells or water access, storage for weapons, gardens and food storage, areas to grow rice, areas for sewing, silk production areas, kitchens, latrines (bathrooms) that are away from your food and water supplies, and any other vital building structures). Also place defensive walls around your city, watch towers, gates and other methods of defence. Create a legend which explains the symbols used on your blueprints.

Using your knowledge of the social structure during Edo Japan you gain from Reading #2, you will write two personal letters from two people in your region within the feudal hierarchy: one at the bottom and one at the top. 

Your first letter should  be written from the perspective of a low-class member of society who is unhappy with their position in the feudal hierarchy. In your letter, discuss their frustrations and provide some recommendations for improvement that would make their lives better. Your second letter should be a response from a person higher in the hierarchy. Both letters should be about a half a page. 

This assignment should be written from the first person perspective where you are pretending to be in each person’s shoes. 

Read Reading #2 about Feudal Japan with the Historian. Develop a set of rules you will follow in your goningumi regarding the different roles that exist in your group. For example, your Daimyo might have special privileges as the highest ranking member of your goningumi. Consider things like dress, language, seating, privileges, etc.

Because we developed most of the role assignments ourselves, I feel fine sharing these role sheets with you. Each day progressed through some historical events related to the time periods we were learning about, following the required events from our program of studies. As the days progressed, the focus changed. We went through feudalism, isolationism, a focus on the Dutch traders at Nagasaki who were permitted to stay during isolationism, Perry's expedition, opening the borders, and rapid adaptation. To help students understand the historical context of these and to help them with their role assignments, we also created a daily reading for the groups. We created most of these ourselves, too, and so feel fine sharing them as well. 

We assessed the work of the group at the end of each day. This is something we need to consider iterating next year, because although it was really good to see what each student was learning and able to do each day, the assessment took a long time (with six groups in each class, and two classes, I was spending 1 - 1.5 hours after school each day assessing this project). However, in doing this, we also awarded moves. The total moves each goningumi earned were how many available moves (how many pins could be moved) during gameplay. So, essentially, if individuals in the group completed their role, the more moves the goningumi had the next day to play, and the better the goningumi would do in the game. 

One clear advantage this game has is its possibilities for differentiation. Each role could earn up to 4 moves, and this allowed us an opportunity to modify or differentiate for each student's needs. It would be possible, therefore, for a student who is following a heavily modified program, to earn 4 moves based on the individual expectations for that student. In essence, then, each student had a pathway to excellence that was personal to their own learning plan. And what this meant was that in groups that were heterogenous and teacher-assigned, success was possible and probable for each group. No student could feel that their group was letting them down if they followed the pathway to success that we laid out for them. 

I would fill out a moves tracking sheet at the end of the day, which the next day's banker would use to figure out how many moves they had to use.

Moves Tracking Sheets

The CULTURE MINISTER assesses the group at the end of each period.

Members stay with the group and do not wander.
Members remain seated with their group.
The group’s volume is not excessive and does not detract from the classroom setting.
Positive language is used and the group refrains from negative or inappropriate speech
Group is on-task and working on the given assignments.
Finished members are supporting and helping group members or working on chapter questions and are not serving as a distraction to their goningumi or the class.







The EMPEROR completes the following assessment based on how well each person fulfills their role and completes their work:















A brief note about the social expectations part. I am a teacher who believes strongly in the intrinsic motivation of students to create a classroom where everyone can learn. I spend significant amounts of time establishing, developing, and reinforcing classroom community. In reality, though, sometimes this doesn't always end up working. Especially in May and June. Which is when we were doing this project. Because a lot of my time during the work period was spent running the gameplay, the social expectations piece was designed to remind groups of the social expectations of being a part of a group, as well as give them a mechanism to self-police themselves to make sure they were living up to them. I took every group's self-assessment here at face value.

We played the game for nine days before declaring the shogun. The goningumi that had occupied the most territories became the shogun of Japan. Because during Edo Japan, the Shogun was the one who called all the shots (the Emperor became more of a figurehead), we spent the next day, as a class, in adopting the traditions and customs the winning group had developed through the first nine days. Following one day to live according to the culture of the winning goningumi, I declared war on the shogun (mirroring what happened historically, which was that the Emperor and his allied forces attacked the Shogun and his forces to restore power to the Emperor, which became the Meiji Restoration), and re-established the control of the Emperor.

We watched this video to ensure we all understood the historical context:

As a final assessment piece, we asked each student to choose one of four questions and create a brief written response. Our four questions were:

  • How did time and geographic location shape Japanese worldview?
  • How did Japan’s worldview foster the choice to remain an isolated society?
  • How did Japan’s models of governance and decision making reflect their worldview?
  • How did Japan’s worldview shape individual citizenship and identity?

We were pleased, when reading their responses, to see that most students had a solid grasp on understanding the role worldview played in the isolation and adaptation periods of Japanese history.

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