When you hear the term "open education," what comes to mind is "open classroom." This is one of the features of open education. Open education emphasizes how we conceptualize our educational philosophy and what kind of human resources we will cultivate rather than simply looking at the physical aspect of the classroom.
In this context, the word "open" represents an attempt at pursing creativity with a specific goal and creating conditions to maintain an atmosphere of openness that goes beyond the "conventional" style or practice in education.
Philosophy of Open Education
From students who are highly motivated emerges a desire of "I want to know more" or "I want to do more" will likely succeed than those who only politely listen to teacher's chalk and talk lecture. Nurturing students cannot be achieved only with total acceptance of learning. Rather, a self-motivated commitment is required to shape children as a person. Schools should emphasize "Learning rather than teaching." GKA embraces this principle in our educational pursuit.
"Lessons conducted in a play-way method" are often observed at GKA: for instance in learning how to count or express during Math lessons. Adults can teach words or letters. The number concept, however, is somewhat different from memorizing words or letters. Children can "understand" the concept of "number" by manipulating concrete objects. They learn from their own experience and "discover" that the concept of "5" is always "5" regardless of the size or kind of objects. We believe that encouraging students to actually engage manipulative activities is more effective than the teachers' skillful lecture in helping them to conceptualize "numbers."
A class is divided into two learning teams English and Japanese language classes. An English-speaking teacher and a Japanese-bilingual teacher handle each group. Learning center is a small-group activity mainly adopted in ELA. The half of the class is further divided into four groups and a teacher gives tasks to each group. In grade 1, for instance, there are four learning centers within the classroom: playing a card game for English vocabulary; reading aloud with a teacher; interactive learning via a computer; working on a worksheet for grammar. Teachers instruct students go through all the center activities during the class period. In the lower grades, a Japanese teaching assistant assists an English-speaking teacher in classes. Learning centers focus on hands-on activities rather than chalk-and-talk approach.
Each class has a big room for homeroom and whole class activities. Split classes use the small rooms. In English, Japanese, music, mathematics social studies and other classes, each class is divided into two groups. Lower grades have lessons in either the big or small room; or the music room. Upper grades move between rooms for certain subjects like university students. GKA students are responsible for their class schedule and moving between rooms without waiting for teachers' instructions. In their daily school life, students are developing their independence.
There is no school bell at GKA to encourage students to manage their time and activities then act on their own initiative. When students always act according to someone's instructions or expect someone to take care of them, they tend to develop a sense of failure and dislike, self-hatred, and frustration rather than appreciation. We have many things to teach and impart to students. However, we always remember to honor their ideas before sharing information and telling them what to do. At GKA students learn from actually tackling and experiencing problems on their own. Dealing on challenging problems enable students to acquire self-reliance and willingness, clearly define “what they want to do” and express their own opinion in their own words.
Teachers often design and implement integrated lessons in music and art, JLA and art or English and computer. The first graders, for instance, in music the listen to music played by a music teacher, in class, they draw patterns to express their imagination after listening to music, then the art teacher put together all their work in a big mural. Grade 3 students draw pictures describing the stories they read in JLA which helps them to broaden their creativity. Reading books and analyzing their contents enable students to further their insights and thinking power. Fifth graders read biographies of well-known personalities before writing their own autobiographies. They complete their autobiography booklets by applying their skills of inserting photos and pictures and editing learned in computer classes. The integration of lessons between subjects is an effective method of providing a holistic approach to studying different subjects.