Note to Teachers: Thank you for visiting our Haiku Lessons page. This first lesson plan for Grades 5 – 6 focuses on general awareness of English-language haiku. The second lesson focuses on reading haiku at this age. The third lesson in this sequence begins to teach students to write their own individual haiku. We welcome you to share your students’ poems with us, so we can learn together.
For this Awareness plan, we are featuring haiku from Montage: The Book (Winchester VA: The Haiku Foundation, 2010). “Montage, a themed collection of haiku galleries edited by Allan Burns and sponsored by The Haiku Foundation, appeared weekly from March to December of 2009. A comparative exhibit, its goal was to juxtapose the work of poets, often from different times and places, in order to suggest something about the range and breadth of haiku in English” (THF site).
The reading and writing haiku plans for Grades 5 – 6 also use Montage as a textbook. In her Foreword to this book, Peggy Willis Lyles wrote, ”A former teacher, I often found myself phrasing writing assignments as I enjoyed a new gallery . . . The possibilities seem almost endless and adaptable to student writing at any level. Individual haiku call out for analysis and pairs or groups for detailed comparison and contrast.”
Goal: Introduce haiku to students in grades 5 – 6, in a fun and interesting way, that connects with their lives.
Objective: Share three haiku with the students. This is a listening and class discussion activity. However, you may also wish to ask the students to take notes.
Materials: Chalkboard. Writing materials for students may also be included. The habit of writing often in a notebook is a valuable method. These notebooks can become personal workbooks, as students may wish to note favorite authors, copy poems, jot down words for their own poems, and write haiku of their own. As noted above, our third plan in this sequence is a formal writing plan.
Time: About 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of the group and the amount of discussion.
1. This is a group lesson. Write the following three haiku on the chalkboard, horizontally, so students can read the poems as if reading a book. This is the format in Montage; and the idea is for readers to see and discover that haiku from across the centuries and different places can center around a common theme, and be as fresh today, as when written.
These haiku are from “Gallery Thirteen: Spring Is Here”.
The light of a candle
is transferred to another candle—
Yosa Buson (1716-1783)
Just before dawn,
When the streets are deserted,
A light spring rain.
Richard Wright (1908-1960)
where the wood pile stood
a hole in the snow
Jack Barry (b. 1959)
2. Select a time to read and discuss the haiku with your students. At this age, haiku may be defined as a “brief poem,” and the students may enjoy learning that “haiku are the shortest poems in the world” (Jim Kacian, how to haiku).
Each gallery in Montage includes an introduction, that teachers can include in their class presentations. The Gallery Thirteen introduction briefly discusses the seasons from both a poetic and scientific perspective. Regarding the poets in this lesson, “Buson, Richard Wright, and Jack Berry stand among the many haiku poets for whom seasonality is a central concern. Here, in their various styles, representing different eras and stages in the development of haiku, both Japanese- and English-language, are sustaining visions of the springtime. Note carefully how the flavor of the season permeates and expands the meaning of each of these poems.”
3. Read the haiku aloud to the students slowly, two times, including the names of the poets, and the years following their names. Some students may respond more to the literal meaning of the haiku, while others may connect the poems more easily with their everyday lives, and progress to higher levels of comprehension. This is one of the beautiful aspects of this form.
Here are a few possible listening comprehension questions:
What is the season in these poems?
Does one of the poems especially speak to you? Resonate with you? Why?
What do you observe about when these poets lived, or live today?
Did you realize before that so much can be said in so few words and lines?
(Haiku may seem more accessible to students who are not reading at grade level.)
4. Then keep the haiku on display in the room for a few weeks and read them again at different times. Allow the students to experience the poems at their own paces and reading levels.
5. As you repeat this process with new haiku, you will know how often to introduce new haiku to your students. The Montage galleries are on-line here at The Haiku Foundation.
1. Some students may be ready to read the haiku aloud for the group.
2. Others may wish to read a poem to the teacher, a friend, or parent volunteer.
3. Some students may be ready to copy the haiku and write a poem of their own.
4. Another idea is to plan a science and/or art activity around the haiku.
Evaluation: If the class enjoy the haiku, the lessons are a success. We hope this plan fits well with your language arts programs. We also imagine that teachers will implement our plans in different ways, according to their needs, and we look forward to your feedback. We’ll offer formal grading ideas in the writing plan.
Additional Haiku: Here are more haiku from Montage, if you would like to apply the premise of this lesson to more poems.
From “Gallery TwentyFour: Water Works”
The haiku in this gallery are in honor of World Ocean Day, June 9.
The pond and the river
have joined together as one
in the spring rain.
Yosa Buson (1716 – 1783)
through mist-marbled mountains
this road to the sea
Christopher Herold (b. 1948)
a flotilla of sea ducks
Kirsty Karkow (b. 1937)