Shogunate Japan – Australian Curriculum Year 8

Shogunate Japan has to be one of the hardest things I’ve had to teach, simply because of the lack of resources. So I thought I’d write a post so that if others are googling they are able to find better resources.

Our learning element on Japan under the Shoguns’ is available here – Shogunate Japan (c.794 – 1867)

We chose to study Shogunate Japan as we teach Japanese at our school. We have many students who show little respect for the Japanese language, so we wanted to open up their eyes to look at the language and culture in another way.

The Australian Curriculum states that we need to investigate:

  1. The way of life in shogunate Japan, including social, cultural, economic and political features (including the feudal system and the increasing power of the shogun) (ACDSEH012)
  2. The role of the Tokugawa Shogunate in reimposing a feudal system (based on daimyo and samurai) and the increasing control of the Shogun over foreign trade. (ACDSEH063)
  3. The use of environmental resources in Shogunate Japan and the forestry and land use policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate (ACDSEH064)
  4. Theories about the decline of the Shogunate, including modernisation and westernisation, tQuestion 5hrough the adoption of Western arms and technology (ACDSEH065)

Our learning element is still a work in progress as we continue to fine more better resources and more ways for students to investigate and show their thinking.

This post will focus more on my favourite activity. Learning Activity 14: What was valued in Shogunate Japan?

The year 8 Achievement Standard asks students to:

Students sequence events and developments within a chronological framework with reference to periods of time. When researching, students develop questions to frame an historical inquiry. They analyse, select and organise information from primary and secondary sources and use it as evidence to answer inquiry questions.

Learning intention:

Social skill – To contribute actively, asking and answering open/fat questions in a team

Understanding – To draw conclusions about Shogunate Japan society by summarising, questioning and discussing primary and secondary sourcesQuestion 2

This activity can be used with a variety of primary and secondary sources, the key is to help encourage students to ask questions. To help scaffold students understanding we used post it notes and asked students to write down 1 – 3 facts that they saw in one image. After sharing these facts in small groups they had to turn their facts into questions.

For example:

  • It is raining – Why are the peasants still working in the rain?
  • The Samurai has 2 swords – Why do Samura’s carry 2 swords?

Students then looked at a variety of images and quotes. Each student had to write 3 questions and 1 fact for each image. Students were required to negotiate and chose the 8 best questions overall. They were able to edit and merge questions making sure to address the topic What do the images and quotes say about Shogunate Japan society? In a Lotus Diagram (David Langford) students recorded their 8 questions and using their own ideas and knowledge worked together to answer them.

Students were engaged throughout the lesson and I was impressed with the students’ negotiating skills. Continued focus on these skills is important for all students as I thought there needed to be an added level of accountability at the answering stage. The ‘participation pie’ helped me to gauge what the students saw each other doing. It was interesting to compare these; the groups that I felt functioned the best, showcased an equal share.



  1. Hello,

    This learning sequence looks fantastic!

    I was wondering if you had any information on each role within Feudal Japan for Learning Activity 2?

    If you are happy to email back that would be amazing.


    1. Hi Jack, Sorry I just saw this – did I end up send you the resources? If not and you’d still like them let me know and we’ll send them!


      1. Cheers Prue. I’m not teaching feudal Japan this year so I’d be interested in any feedback the teachers wanted to give.

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