enrolling for a global studies course, I chose the haiku course
because it was the only one that would fit into my schedule.
Over Christmas break, people would ask me what courses I would
have for the upcoming semester. When I told them that I
would be taking a haiku class, I received several reactions ranging
from surprise to confusion. Many people did not know anything
about haiku. When asked what it is, the only answer that
I had for them was that haiku is a form of poetry following a
5-7-5 structure. With this reply, they quickly agreed with
me, remembering their elementary school days of counting syllables.
Now I understand that haiku is much more than counting syllables.
Correctly teaching haiku to elementary students can provide them
with valuable experiences and benefits.
school teachers need to complete their curriculum. With
everything that they need to fit into their schedules, they do
not have time to cover material that does not fall within their
curricula boundaries. Some people may consider teaching
haiku as a waste of time. However, haiku can teach several
language ideas. Students tend to ramble about their experiences
and other information. They often lose track of their main
ideas. Haiku forces them to sum up their experiences in
two to three lines. Therefore, they need to pick out the
points that are the most important to them. Having this
skill will help them throughout their lives. For example,
they will be able to focus in on main ideas while reading or be
able to make clear and precise presentations while talking.
Their communication skills will improve since they will be able
to speak more accurately about a situation (Higginson and Harter
major part of writing haiku is that it is a process.
It may involve pre-writing, thinking, editing, sharing, and publishing.
Students always need the practice of partaking in this process.
They should not think that a first writing attempt is a completed
item. Thinking about all aspects of the situation, sharing
ideas with others, and changing parts that do not work are important
steps toward a product. Haiku can provide the practice that
one needs to develop this process.
does not simply teach concepts of language and the writing process.
It also branches out to other areas of study. Since haiku
is a Japanese tradition of poetry, students can learn about Japanese
culture by reading these haiku. Many Japanese haiku include
concepts of place, customs, etc. throughout the lines.
When reading haiku with a class, a teacher can point out these
words and describe how they reflect the Japanese culture.
Haiku has also spread to many other countries. Therefore,
students can compare cultures based on concepts appearing in haiku
from Japan, Spain, Germany, The United States, etc. They
can see how a person's environment may affect how he or she describes
can also incorporate literature and art into haiku lessons.
For example, teachers can read a book and have students write
haiku about the experiences of the characters. Sometimes
students open up better when they focus on characters instead
of themselves. Teachers can also use art to show how artwork
and haiku can complement each other. Religion is another
subject that branches off of haiku. Zen Buddhism is often
associated with the Japanese culture and haiku. It is important
for elementary students to note different religions. When
I was in school, I did not become aware of other religions until
I was out of elementary school. Having students in elementary
schools learn about religion can help then to become more accepting
of the beliefs of others.
a younger age, students have to deal with more and more problems
than before. Some of these problems include dealing with
divorced parents, school violence, etc. Life is fast paced,
and people rarely have time to enjoy life. Haiku can help
people relax and notice small parts of life. Haiku can become
a nice outlet for students dealing with a fast paced and troublesome
world. Students are encouraged to use their senses.
Therefore, they will begin noticing things that have never occurred
to them before (Higginson and Harter 255). For example,
they may notice a bird outside of their classroom window.
Students normally do not have the opportunity to sit back and
perceive things. They are usually so caught up in their
clothes and popularity. Haiku opens their visions, away
from an entirely materialistic view. Students may take a
second look at nature or human conditions besides their own (Higginson
and Harter 259). In addition, writing about personal experiences
is an aspect of haiku. Students can dig into their own memories
and experiences and learn to appreciate them. Learning is
also based on prior knowledge. Students cannot learn new
information unless they can connect it to prior knowledge or experiences.
Therefore, they may be able to connect new information from other
subject areas to the personal experiences that they use in their
with having a deeper appreciation for life experiences, using
haiku in the classroom can also increase students' self-confidence
in school. Traditional schools usually teach to fulfill
the needs of only a small group of students. Learning is
usually teacher centered. The teacher gives information,
and the students take it all in. Not all students do well
in this typical classroom setting. Some students do not
deal well with so much structure. Haiku is a topic that
allows all students to succeed. Haiku is based on the different
images that people take from a haiku. Therefore, students
cannot be wrong (Higginson and Harter 154). A teacher cannot
tell a student that he or she cannot develop a certain image from
a haiku. As long as students are true to their senses, they
will all develop images. Students who usually have difficulties
in school will notice their success with the haiku activities.
Their pride may stimulate motivation for more school-related activities.
It is also important that haiku allows them to use imagination.
School often does not provide enough opportunities for students
to use their imaginations. Work usually involves rote memory
activities. Haiku activities stimulate imagination that
will help students move on to higher order thinking levels.
using haiku in the classroom can help build a friendly community.
Haiku can often be personal. Students write about topics
that are familiar to them. As a teacher, I would probably
teach my haiku unit near the beginning of the school year.
I would automatically be able to know more about my students and
their interests by hearing their responses to haiku and by reading
their own writing attempts. It is important as a teacher
to know the students' interests because students are more motivated
to learn if they are interested in the material. By knowing
their interests, I could include bits and pieces of their interests
in my lessons. Another aspect of building a community is
student interaction. An important part of the haiku process
is sharing haiku. Students will discuss their haiku with
each other. Students will notice the experiences of others.
Hearing different experiences, students will learn to accept and
respect differences in others. The classroom will become
an overall friendlier learning atmosphere in which students have
a greater understanding for each other.
following unit plan is one that I would want to carry out in my
own classroom to help students benefit from haiku in the ways
that I just finished discussing. With my internship in a
fourth grade classroom, however, I will only be teaching a few
of the lessons due to the time constraints of my supervising teacher.
After teaching the lessons, I will evaluate my experience of actually
teaching haiku to the fourth grade class. I would hope that
these students and my future students would be able to carry on
ideas about haiku with them throughout their lives. Years
from now, they should not be simply reduced to the answer, "A
haiku is a poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5."
Higginson, William J. and Penny Harter. The
Haiku Handbook. New York: Kodansha