Haiku in Color
Haiku is a "snapshot" of words, often related to nature or seasons. This poetry may not rhyme, but briefly captures a moment in time.
1. Read haiku poetry orally in books such as "Haiku Picturebook for Children" by Keisuke Nishimot. This book includes classic haiku poems written by Japan's most famous writers. Also read "Spring: A Haiku Story" by George Shannon. Discuss how the beautiful illustrations enhance the poetry. What do you notice about the poems?
2. What is a syllable? Count the syllables in a few of the haiku poems you read. You’ll find that haiku contains just 17 syllables, in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The poems are usually about nature or seasons.
3. With a small group or on your own, brainstorm what nature or seasonal topic you could write a haiku about. Think small--one bird, not a flock, or one snowflake falling, not a snowstorm. Write your haiku on a white board with Crayola Dry-Erase Markers. Count the syllables! If you have too many, just erase and change your words!
4. Give your haiku a title. Add a simple picture to illustrate it. Circle the nature word or phrase in your poem. Share your poetry with your classmates!
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- Ask older students to draw a box around present-tense verbs.
- Research a similar poetry form, senryu. A senryu may be witty and tends to be about people. Some feel that any reference to human beings in a haiku turns the poem into a senryu. Read "Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku" by Paul B. Janeczko. Write senryu, too.
- Research and write tanka, an ancient form of Japanese poetry. Tanka are 31-syllable poems that have been the most popular form of poetry in Japan for at least 1300 years. As a form of poetry, tanka is older than haiku, and tanka poems evoke a moment or mark a special occasion. In Japanese, tanka is often written in one straight line, but in English and other languages, it usually is divided into 5 lines with these syllabic units: 5-7-5-7-7. Read "Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka" by Myra Cohn Livingston. Write your own tanka.
- Assessment: Students write an original haiku poem and illustrate it. All of the characteristics of haiku are evident. They circle the nature word or phrase.