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“Serpent” by Peter Zokosky.

 

The following are study and discussion questions for How to Haiku, by Jim Kacian (Winchester VA: Red Moon Press, 2006).

The questions are organized according to the Table of Contents. They may be useful for students as they read assignments from the book. The questions are also designed to facilitate class discussions and small group activities. We hope they inspire further thoughts, questions, and poems.

In Lesson 1, we offer questions and activities for the first four chapters from How to Haiku: Introduction, What is a Haiku?, Form, and Content.

Lesson 2, this lesson, offers questions and activities for chapters five, six, and seven: Technique, Language, How to Write Haiku.

Technique

1. How can we best translate our haiku moments to poems that may be appreciated by others? Discuss the author’s advice to give things time, and that “A good rule of thumb is to present the moment exactly as it has come to you.”

2. Share or write in a notebook about a few moments that you would like to become poems. Write a paragraph about the moment as it came to you.

3. Review and discuss the three different types of haiku presented in this chapter: Context and Action Haiku, Implied Content Haiku, Haiku of Juxtaposition.

4. Select one of the three types of haiku and write a poem that illustrates the haiku. Think of this as a rough draft. Haiku is a lifelong art, and revision, after some time has passed, is part of the writing process.

Language

1. Given that we wish to share an experience — a moment of insight — how can we learn to write haiku poetry?

For this chapter, one teaching methods suggestion, depending upon the size of the group, is to assign the topics in the chapter to pairs or small groups. Then, during class time, the groups discuss their topics. Each group should appoint a spokesperson, who will then summarize their discussion in a large group discussion. The teacher leads the large group discussion, and then summarizes what was learned.

Allow for flexibility in what the small groups wish to highlight, as you can always add more information in the large group discussion, and continue the lesson at another time.

The topics are:

  • The Poetry of the Real
  • Brevity
  • Word Choice
  • Punctuation and Grammar
  • Rhyme
  • Musicality

2. The teacher can also prepare a handout with a list of the topics, with space for students to take notes during the small and large group discussions. Include a reference for How to Haiku and The Haiku Foundation, to model appropriate credits for books and online sources.

3. Allow some time for students to write informally in a notebook and process the information. Encourage the practice of writing as a natural part of their everyday lives. Copying favorite poems from How To Haiku is a good idea as well.

“A haiku is the essential sketch of a single moment. But more than this, it practically is a moment.” (Jim Kacian)

How to Write Haiku

1. This chapter discusses several suggestions that guide poets into learning about their own paths as writers. As with the Language chapter, topics may be assigned to small groups, during class time. Then a spokesperson is asked to summarize the group’s discussion of the topic during a large group discussion, led by the teacher. Towards the end of class, the teacher summarizes what was learned.

As with the previous chapter, allow for flexibility in what each group decides to highlight. You can always add more information in the large group discussion. Also, the goal is for students to reflect upon their own writing process.

The topics are:

  • Don’t Think – Be
  • Find a Working Routine
  • Keep the Tools Sharp
  • Invite the Muse
  • Relate (to) the Experience
  • Rediscovering your Moment
  • Editing
  • Voice
  • To Sum Up
  • Publishing
  • Your Own Book

2. As with the previous chapter, the teacher can prepare a simple handout with the list of topics, to facilitate taking notes during class. Include a reference for How to Haiku and for The Haiku Foundation, as models for students to follow when they present research in general.

3. After the large group discussion, based on the small group summaries of the topics, allow some time for students to write in their notebooks.

Preview of Lesson 3

Lesson 3 offers questions for these chapters: A (Very) Brief History of Haiku, Related Forms, Performance, Haiku: The World’s Longest Poem, and also the Glossary.

References

Kacian, Jim. How to Haiku (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2006).

The Haiku Foundation Digital Library

Main Site for The Haiku Foundation

For more haiku lesson plans, specific to age and grade levels, please visit The Haiku Foundation Education Resources. The work of several teachers, poets, and scholars is featured there.

We welcome your feedback and hope this lesson is useful.

Thank you to Jim Kacian for his work in publishing these three lessons.

— Ellen Grace Olinger

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