Note to teachers: Thank you for visiting our Haiku Lessons page. We hope it provides inspiration and is useful. The first plan for Grades 5 – 6 focuses on Awareness of English-language haiku. The second plan is about reading haiku. If you have not done so already, you may wish to teach these plans prior to this writing plan. We welcome your ideas and feedback.
For this Haiku Writing Plan, we feature haiku from Montage: The Book, Second Revised Edition (Winchester, VA: The Haiku Foundation, 2010, 2012). Allan Burns, Editor, states in the Preface: “Jim Kacian and I hammered out the essential concept of Montage . . . We settled upon a comparative exhibit, with the goal of juxtaposing the work of poets often from different times and places, in order to suggest something about the range and breadth of haiku in English.” Galleries from the book are available for free online, here at The Haiku Foundation. This book may inspire your classes to create their own books.
The overall theme for this plan is The Senses In Our Everyday Lives: what we may see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
This plan is subdivided into three short lessons, to model for the students that writing is a process. The lessons should be taught over two or three days, so students have the opportunity to revisit their poems after some time has passed.
1. The first lesson is a prewriting lesson. It includes a review of the five senses. We also include haiku from “Gallery ThirtyOne: Birthdays (II),” to provide examples of haiku with one or more of the senses.
Since the previous reading lesson for this age group included haiku by Francine Barnwarth, you may also wish to show your students her short interview with Jim Kacian (about seven minutes) from The Haiku Foundation Video Archive, and/or view it for your own background knowledge. She speaks of writing as a way of life and “engaging our senses every moment of the day.” She also speaks of the importance of reading, studying, and growing as artists. Francine Barnwarth is the Editor of Frogpond, the international journal for The Haiku Society of America. In explaining her decision to accept this challenge, she quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
2. The second lesson gives students the opportunity to write one of their own haiku, from their everyday lives. The discussion of the five senses is reviewed prior to writing poems. Students are encouraged to consider first what they wish to say, and then to write a first draft of a haiku. At this age level, the students may have several ideas. It is possible haiku may fit best with one of their ideas, and another form, or a prose piece, for other ideas. These can all be jotted down in their notebooks.
3. The third lesson is about revision. Here we offer ideas for questions the students can ask themselves, in order to refine their haiku, after some time has passed. Spelling and other matters of writing well are addressed. We offer ideas for grading the students’ poems, and we look forward to learning from you about what works best for your classes. There are many ways to write excellent haiku.
LESSON ONE: Prewriting lesson, with Montage poems as examples and inspiration.
Objective: Students will participate in a class discussion about the five senses; read six haiku from “Gallery ThirtyOne: Birthdays II;” take notes during the discussion; and also note a few ideas for writing their own haiku in Lesson Two.
Materials: Chalkboard, and writing materials for the students. A writing notebook for each student is a good idea in general. Many poets also like to keep a small notebook with them, so they can jot down observations and “haiku moments” as they occur.
Time: About 30 minutes. The Adaptations section of this prewriting lesson also includes ideas for making the lesson shorter or longer.
1. Write the following on a chalkboard or easel, before class.
THE SENSES IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES: what we may
Tell the students this is the overall theme for the three lessons in this plan. Ask them to copy this theme in their writing notebooks, to help organize their notes.
2. Discuss the five senses with the class. Ask students for examples from their everyday lives, and write a few on the board next to each sense. Then ask the students to write one or two examples for each sense in their notebooks. Explain that these notes will be useful in writing poems.
3. Before class, also write HAIKU – A BRIEF POEM on the board or easel; along with these six haiku from the Montage “Gallery ThirtyOne: Birthdays II.” (Birthdays in this context refers to the fact that these three contemporary American haiku poets share birthdays close in time.) These haiku are selected to give the students examples of how different senses are represented in haiku, and how their inclusion makes the poems better. They also show that haiku are written in different ways (three lines, one line, etc.).
- distant thunder—
the dog’s toenails click
against the linoleum
last night’s snow down river
—Gary Hotham (b. 1950)
rows of corn
stretch to the horizon—
sun on the thunderhead
light filters down
to the boy’s prism
—Lee Gurga (b. 1949)
till there’s nothing left
of the light
—Jim Kacian (b. 1953)
4. Read the poems to the class one at a time, at a slow pace. The slow pace is to model the value of each word, and to give the students time to connect with the haiku. Then ask for student volunteers to read the poem a second time, before continuing with another poem. Reading along silently is fine as well. Discuss the haiku with the students, with a special focus on the senses.
5. Ask the students to select one or more haiku from the board to copy in their notebooks, including the name of the author and birth year after his name. This will reinforce the importance of references, and add to their sense of accomplishment, when they write their names after their poems (third lesson in this plan). Vocabulary words from the class discussion can also be noted and written, so students can refer to their list when writing their own haiku.
6. Tell the students the next lesson will be about writing their haiku, from their everyday lives, and including one or more of the senses in their poems (e.g., sight and sound). At this time, please ask them to jot down a few of their ideas.
7. Each student now has a personal written record from this pre-writing Haiku Lesson, to help them begin to write their own haiku in the next lesson.
1. It may be that a handout with the senses and haiku works better for your class, if you do not have a large chalkboard and/or if it seems better to not ask students to take notes at this time. The main idea is that this pre-writing lesson generates a written record to serve as a prompt in Lesson Two.
2. If six examples of haiku are too many for this lesson, please select the poems you feel will best resonate for your students. The idea is simply to provide good models of haiku which include one or more senses. The students will also see clearly that these poems are brief.
3. As mentioned at the beginning of this plan, you may wish to view and/or show Francine Banwarth’s interview from The Haiku Foundation Video Archive. She discusses the senses, and what haiku means to her life; as do other poets in this archive.
4. If a student seems to connect especially with one of the poets, more of their work is available in the Montage galleries here at the foundation website. The Haiku Registry is another resource on this site. All of the poetry collections included are international.
5. Peer tutoring and small group work are additional options to help the students feel more prepared for the next writing lesson.
6. Students may wish to memorize a poem.
7. For students who are not confident at writing, assure them that haiku may be dictated as well. The goal is to keep the focus on haiku, and not let other skill areas — as important as they are — cause students to enjoy poetry less.
Provide positive and corrective feedback in a conversational way. Check to be sure each student copied the poem he/she selected from the board accurately, and that the senses and other vocabulary words are spelled correctly. The overall goal is for the students to connect haiku with their everyday lives, so beginning to write flows naturally in their own words. We provide suggestions for grading their poems at the end of Lesson Three.
LESSON TWO: Using their notes from Lesson One, students write a practice haiku of their own.
Objective: Students write individual haiku, with guidance from the teacher and class discussion.
Materials: Chalkboard, their writing notebooks (or handouts from the previous lesson), paper and pencils/pens.
Time: About 30 minutes.
1. Begin with a review of Lesson One, including a list of the five senses and examples. If possible, keep the haiku from Lesson One on the board, or rewrite a few poems on the board, so students can refer to both the board and their notes. Read each haiku again for the students.
2. Ask the students to reread silently the haiku they selected from the previous lesson, from their notes. Ask for a few volunteers to read a favorite haiku aloud and say why the poem spoke to them. What sense was highlighted especially in the haiku?
3. The students have now seen that words can be put together to create haiku. Ask the students to share what they wish to write about in their haiku. Write vocabulary words from this discussion on the board.
4. Ask the students to write one haiku, including one or two of the five senses. Tell them the idea at this stage is to simply put their words down on paper, as practice haiku. Also, remind them that these rough drafts will not be graded — that the next lesson will focus on revisions, after they have had some time to think about their haiku. The main objective is for them to begin writing haiku. Provide prompts and guidance as needed, so each student has a poem to revise in the next lesson. Other ideas and methods from your Language Arts Curriculum may apply, and we look forward to learning from you.
1. Students may work in pairs or small groups, as an intermediate step to writing individual haiku.
2. Perhaps a parent volunteer may be able to assist the teacher and listen to students think through what they wish to say, and help them include one of the senses in their poems.
3. Some students may need to dictate their haiku at first. We recognize the levels of learning likely vary. The main idea is that every student experiences the achievement of one haiku.
4. Some students may benefit from drawing a picture of what they wish to express, before or after writing the poem.
5. Some students may be ready to write more than one haiku.
Evaluation: Provide positive and corrective feedback, informally. Ask the students to write “Rough Draft” on their pages, so as they share with their families and others, it is clear their haiku are a work-in-progress. This will also remind them to be patient as they arrive at a haiku that expresses what they wish to say. Haiku is a lifelong art.
LESSON THREE: Revision and sharing of the students’ haiku. The idea is that students experience a fresh perspective of their work after some time has passed.
Objective: Students will revise their haiku from Lesson Two, and share in a class discussion.
Materials: The students’ haiku, paper and pencils/pens. Art supplies if you wish to ask the students to illustrate their poems.
Time: About 30 minutes.
1. Ask the students to remember what they wanted to say in their haiku. Encourage some discussion.
2. Then ask the students to reread their rough drafts silently. Do their haiku express what they wanted to say? Are their poems brief? What sense or senses did they include? Can they add more information; for example, colors?
3. Ask for a few volunteers to read their rough drafts to the class. Encourage an atmosphere of acceptance, a respectful sharing of ideas. There are many ways to write good haiku.
4. Ask the students to make changes/revisions according to what they learned from reflection and discussion. Then ask the students to copy their revised haiku on a new sheet of paper, and to sign their work.
5. Check for spelling errors and an overall appearance of haiku: a brief poem; written in one, two, three, or four lines. Did they include one or more of the senses? As an additional note, The Haiku Foundation includes haiku in three broad categories: Traditional, Contemporary, and Innovative. So there is flexibility in evaluation of student work, in terms of how haiku is written today. Your students may be the
authors of tomorrow’s innovations.
6. Provide encouragement and ask for volunteers to read their “finished” poems aloud. Many poets revise their work many times, and students may wish to do the same.
7. Share their work in a wider way. Ideas include a class book, a bulletin board display, and sharing with their families. Another idea is to make bookmarks with haiku poems.
1. From Lessons One and Two, some students may emerge as being ready to serve as peer tutors and help their classmates revise their haiku.
2. A parent volunteer may be able to help the students revise their work.
3. Some students may need to dictate their revised poems.
4. Students who need more time can work more on their haiku as a homework assignment.
5. Provide other additional guidance and time as needed, so every student has a haiku to share.
1. One option is to assign a grade of: Excellent, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement.
2. Ask students who need improvement to revise again, to reach Satisfactory or Excellent.
3. If the students enjoy haiku and wish to read and write poetry again, that is the best indication of the success of this lesson—which is only a beginning!
We hope you send us your haiku and add to this Haiku Lesson. We also welcome your feedback. Thank you for your time and we hope this Education Page is useful.
Step 1: Review the information gathered during the Who Were the Samurai? lesson of this unit plan. If a master list was compiled and copied, review or distribute to the students.
Step 2: Ask the students what they learned about haiku poetry. Responses should include that it is a very old form of poetry made popular by the samurai warrior, Basho. Examples of Basho’s haiku can be found on the Internet.
Step 3: Explain that haiku has gained popularity over the years and continues to be written all around the world today.
Step 4: Read chosen examples of haiku to the class. After each example, ask the students what the poem made them think about. Which of the five senses did the poem relate to? This refers to the dominant impression or main idea, of the poem. What kind of mood did the poem set? Ask the students what the poems all seem to have in common.
Step 5: Distribute the What Is Haiku? printable to the class. Review the simple rules of haiku poetry.
Step 1: Have students explore websites that offer collections of haiku poetry or locate haiku in poetry books (the Haiku Book List features traditional Japanese haiku as well as modern examples of the form). Ask students to work with their partners to record five examples of haiku to share with the class.
Step 2: Encourage students to share the poems collected. Critique the poems by asking the following:
- What feelings did you have from the poem?
- Which of your five senses did the poem appeal to the most?
- What mood was the author trying to convey?
- What was the dominant impression, or idea?
- What was the kigo, seasonal word? Some are harder than others to find.
- What does Haiku look like?
Step 3: Tell the students that they are now experts on Haiku, and for the next class session they will “Be the Poet.”
Students can use multiple resources to collect poetry. ESL students can benefit from writing down the poems they choose. Working with the partners will help any students struggling with the assignment.
Brainstorm a list of seasonal words that could be used in haiku.
Encourage students to take their collection of haiku poetry home to read to a parent or guardian. They can also tell them about the origins and rules of haiku poetry.
- Read the What Is Haiku? printable
- Locate five examples of haiku poetry
Check for comprehension through participation during the discussion and by collecting their selections of haiku.
- Were your students able to successfully locate examples of Haiku?
- Do your students clearly understand this form of poetry?
- Are your students ready to write haiku?
- Is there anything you could have done to better prepare your students to write haiku?