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How We Haiku — Teaching Stories 14

Teaching and Learning Haiku in Community and Classroom: Stories, Challenges, Adventures

Do you teach haiku? In a classroom? An arts foundation? Community education? We want to hear about it. Want some new ideas? A place to vet an old idea before you try it “live”? Community support? How We Haiku — Teaching Stories is a monthly feature wherein we will share the many diverse and interesting ways your bring our favorite genre to your audience. Each month Brad Bennett and Jeannie Martin, co-chairs of The Haiku Foundation Education Committee, will host your stories of how you make haiku come alive for your students, and create an environment where educators can discuss the many challenges faced in bringing a fuller sense of haiku to a culture that knows little more than the stereotypes. Contact us to share your teaching stories, to ask your questions, and to find fellowship with your peers and the rest of the haiku community.

“We cannot teach a person directly, we can only facilitate his or her learning.”
— Carl Rogers

We welcome your comments (scroll down to the bottom of the page). And don’t forget about all the other fine education resources the Foundation has to offer.


This month Haiku Foundation Education Co-Chair Jeannie Martin offers some thoughts on that moment when we actually begin to write.

That Writing Moment

Like many of us who teach haiku in adult education settings, at some point in the workshop or course or retreat we come to the time when we start writing haiku. I have been teaching haiku at our local adult education center for a number of years: short courses, half day workshops, full day workshops, quick haiku sessions at our annual open house . . . pretty much everything.

All of these venues have a routine: an introduction to haiku, a little history about haiku, many examples of haiku poetry. And then . . . at some point . . . we take the step into the actual writing of haiku. There are ways this goes well and also ways in which I dread this all-important event. Just how do we teach people to write haiku? Is it even possible? This is where the creative challenge of teaching and learning comes in.

This is what I have tried so far. Let me know if you have ideas and suggestions too.

The group haiku: We all add a line, well three lines. This works somewhat as people become comfortable with writing, but often the poems are less than haiku.

Taking one line from a haiku and adding your own other lines. This works sometimes, people like this, but it does not feel to them like “their” poem.

Bringing out objects one by one, putting them on the table and asking people to contemplate them until they form into a poem. This can work, people like it.

Doing a guided visualization, a nature scene usually. Then having them write this. Works pretty well if the group is relaxed.

Taking them on a ginko walk. This works pretty well if we have a lot of time.

I am sure there are other ways to help people move from the reading to the writing of haiku. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes an open, nonjudgmental frame of mind. It also takes humor, receptivity, and wonder. That is why I love the writing so much. After all of this, people leave knowing that they can write a haiku. Simple, and complex, as that. They can reflect on a haiku moment and make that moment a poem . . . it is all worth the effort.

— Jeannie Martin

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hi Jeannie, Thank you. I do not have experience teaching haiku in adult education settings. However, I taught at the university level for several years and volunteered at a nursing home for 3 years. The university work was in teacher preparation programs (NIU and NEIU), in the 1980s and early 1990s. All my formal work was in special education. Then the good caregiving years and away for a time.

    Are you able to use the free resources at The Haiku Foundation where you teach? In the haiku lessons I wrote with Jim Kacian, we integrated various features with the lessons. I was just looking at the Haiku Lessons for Grades 5 and 6: they link to the Montage galleries and the Video Archive.


    Thanks for all your work as a poet, teacher, and Education Co-Chair.

    On a personal writing note, handwritten notebooks have helped me a lot, along with blogs.

    Best wishes, Ellen

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