Who Were the Samurai?
Students learn the origins of Haiku while journeying into the mystical, magical Far East world of the ancient Samurai.
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students will conduct web-based research to discover information about the Samurai. After information has been gathered, students will discuss their findings to compare and contrast information.
- Practice research skills using technology
- Locate information using a variety of resources
- Employ relevant pre-writing strategies and organizational techniques
- KWL Research Chart (PDF)
- Computers with internet access
- Whiteboard or overhead projector with markers
Set Up and Prepare
- Compile a list of topics the students will research concerning Samurai and Haiku. Suggested topics:
- Bushido — code of the Samurai
- Samurai Armor
- Samurai Quotations
- Basho — Haiku poet
- Samurai history
- Write these on the board or use an overhead projector.
- Make a class set of the handout KWL Research Chart (PDF).
- Pre-determine partners for the research project.
Part I (Day One)
Step 1: Introduction: Generate interest and enthusiasm by announcing that today students will begin a journey into the mystical, magical Far East world of the ancient Samurai. Ask students to raise their hands if they are familiar with Samurai. Encourage students to respond with examples of where they have seen, or heard, of Samurai. Responses will most likely revolve around the warrior aspect of the Samurai. Ask students if they know that Samurai were also famous for their love of beauty and the arts.
Step 2: Distribute copies of the KWL Research Chart (PDF).
Step 3: Ask students to examine the words on the board. Say the words out loud. Ask the class if they know what country these words come from? What time period do they think these words are from? Ask students not to discuss what they know about the words just yet, but to choose 3, and list them in the boxes under the column marked “Topic” on the KWL Research Chart (PDF).
Step 4: Ask students if they are familiar with a KWL organizer. Encourage students to predict what step they should take next.
Step 5: Direct students to now write what they know about the three topics they chose in the first column, “What do I know?” Give students time to write their responses.
Step 6: Encourage students to share responses in a class discussion, and compare and contrast the different entries.
Step 7: Ask for predictions on what to do with the next column, “What do I want to find out?” Check for comprehension, and direct students to now write responses to this question for each topic.
Step 8: Guide students to discuss appropriate responses. Encourage students to share their entries with the class. Ask the class if they can predict what will happen next? Explain to the class that the “What I Learned” column will be completed by conducting internet research with a partner during the next class session. Assign partners, and collect papers to assess responses. It may be helpful to write suggestions on some papers.
Part II (Day Two and Three)
Step 9: Now that students have examined what they think they know, it is time to begin the internet research part of the project. Direct students to team up with their partner and compare the three topics each has chosen. It will be necessary to research all chosen topics, and each student is responsible for completing the information on their chart.
Step 10: Direct students to search online for information on their topics, and to record important facts. Students should note the websites where information was collected in the last column on the chart.
Step 11: After all information has been gathered, students will share information with the entire class. Write all the facts on a master list. This can be accomplished on the board, or compiled as a handout and given to the students. Discuss the findings with the class.
Step 12: Closure: Explain to students that the Samurai, while famous as warriors, enjoyed hundreds of years of peaceful time. During those years, the Samurai dedicated themselves to cultural enrichment. One such Samurai, Basho, (1644-94) is credited for creating Haiku as we know it today.
Supporting All Learners
Students may be partnered to benefit those in need of help with the research phase of the project. ESL students can write the information in their primary language.
- View the PBS Documentary Empires: Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire in class. This is an excellent media source to learn about the renaissance period of Japan as told by different people of the era: the Shogun, the Samurai, the Geisha, the poet, the peasant and the westerner.
- Students can compile a list of other topics involving Samurai that they encounter during their research to share with the class.
Encourage students to ask parents/guardians what they know about the topics the student chose for research.
- Complete sections of the KWL Research Chart (PDF)
- Work with a partner to perform internet research
This section of the lesson is best assessed through completion of the KWL Research Chart (PDF).
- Do you think any section of the lesson was unclear?
- What could you do to generate greater understanding and enthusiasm?
- What information do you think would be helpful for the student to know beforehand?
- What would you add or change to make the lesson more meaningful to your students?