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How We Haiku — Teaching Stories 19

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 THF Education Committee Chair Brad Bennett shares some thoughts on a challenging situation.

Outside In

When I teach haiku to elementary school students, I always start with an introduction and then intend to head outside. Outside for close observation, for utilizing all of their senses, for getting at the essence of things, for experiencing nature, for culling the ever changing world for haiku moments . . .

But what if we can’t go outside? What if it’s raining buckets on the day we planned to write outside? Or what if other demands get in the way? Sometimes, real world complications get in the way of our best intentions.

So what do haiku teachers do in order to help their students write haiku when they can’t get outside and they’re stuck in the classroom? Obviously, we can use some of the techniques that we, ourselves, use when we write. We read other people’s haiku and they trigger our own memories of haiku moments. We think of specific times or settings (e.g. a seasonal activity, the first time we experienced something, or our grandparents’ house) in hopes that they will lead us to a haiku moment memory. These are just two of the many techniques we haiku writers use to generate ideas that we, in turn, can use with our students.

I also use techniques with kids that I don’t use myself. For instance, for many years I have been collecting bird feathers on my outdoor walks. I bring my basket of bird feathers into the classroom and encourage my students to remember bird encounters or imagine how that feather came to fall on that particular path. I also bring in a basket of other natural objects that I’ve collected. These rocks, shells, bones, and pieces of coral help kids to remember past experiences or to dive deeply into the details of the objects they choose. Sometimes I ask each kid to pick a nature image from a pile cut from the many calendars I get in the mail, and then write a haiku inspired by that image. This has been one of the most productive techniques I’ve utilized.

These techniques certainly aren’t revolutionary, but they have helped my students create some fine haiku over the years. What do you do when you can’t bring your students outside to write?

— Brad Bennett

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