Monday, February 24, 2014

Poetry with Kids - Creating Haiku

Poetry with Kids - Creating Haiku
by Susan Stephenson

This is the second in a recent series of articles at The Book Chook about poetry and children. The first was Poetry with Kids - Ideas and Resources. On Friday, I’ll share some ideas about creating haiga with kids, and the following week, thoughts on ways of presenting those haiga.

As I said in Poetry with Kids - Ideas and Resources, it’s a must to read lots of poetry with our kids. If we want children to start writing haiku, it should only be after listening to/reading haiku first. Erica of What Do We Do All Day? has a great list of Haiku Poetry Books for Kids, and here are some Haiku Picture Books for Kids. Online, you’ll find several haiku examples at Poetry Soup, which also has a Haiku Syllable Counter.

There are several ways to look at Haiku. One explanation I like comes from author, Karen Benke, who says, “Think of a haiku as a little moment that tip-toes up to find you. A moment you capture exactly as you experience it, so the person reading your 3 lines feels the moment too, the same as you.” (Benke, Karen: Rip the Page!) Poet Rebecca Newman says, “A haiku is a short poem, usually inspired by nature. At school you might have been taught that a haiku is a 3-line poem with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and five syllables in the third line. That's one way to write a haiku. Modern writers of haiku (in English) don't always worry about the syllable count --- they just keep their poem very, very short. Some say that it should be able to be read in a single breath. A haiku is like a brief snapshot or image. Like a word-photograph. It doesn't rhyme.” (From Soup Blog.)

Some children need scaffolding when it comes time to write. So the traditional three-line, five+seven+five syllable count can help them have a go. Later, after they’ve read, heard and written more haiku, they’ll be able to deviate from the scaffolding.

Here’s a lovely, evocative example of haiku from poet, Rebecca Newman:

Weary crickets creak

A light floats in the pond ---
August moon rising

Can you see how this haiku shows the capturing of a moment, how it engages our senses, and creates what is almost a little movie in our minds? Even though it has six rather than seven syllables in the middle line, it simply doesn’t matter.

Scholastic Poetry Idea Engine
However, if you believe your children are still at the stage where they need to focus on the scaffolding I mentioned above, why not let them have a try with Scholastic’s Poetry Idea Engine (choose haiku in the settings), ETTC’s Big Day Haiku (menu at left), or Read Write Think’s PDF Haiku Pattern Template.

Here’s one I made with the help of a template:

Baking summer’s day

Kookaburras call for food -
Worms shrink out of sight

I saw a fascinating example recently where the haiku format was used to summarise and convey scientific information. The creator, oceanographer Greg Johnson then added his own water colour illustrations to make an infographic. This would make an interesting model for kids to follow.

In whatever way you choose to try haiku with your kids, I hope you DO try this simple and accessible format that involves children in creating their own poetry!


  1. Have you read William Higginson book about haiku's? One of the things that surprised me from that book is he mentions that haikus often have a sort of surprise ending - that there should be something jarring about the last line, some surprise to the moment.

    1. I haven't christyk, but I like the idea. However, many of the translated traditional haiku I've read don't seem to follow that surprise ending. I think like everything, the art of haiku creation is constantly evolving and my main aim for kids is to get them to try it.


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