Writing With Pi
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Besides being Albert Einstein’s birthday, March 14 is a day that honors the never-ending number — pi! The Exploratorium site celebrates Pi Day with a list of ready-made lessons. The one I chose to share with my class is the joy of writing pi-kus.
What is a Pi-ku?
A pi-ku is similar to a Japanese haiku poem. In a haiku, each stanza of the poem has a five-syllable first line, a seven-syllable second line, and a five-syllable third line. With a pi-ku, the first line is three syllables, the second line is one syllable, and the third line is four syllables. Sounds easy enough, right? Challenge your students to make their pi-kus about pi. Want to challenge your students even more? Have them keep going. Instead of making it a three line poem, challenge your students to create their poem as long as the numbers in pi (3.14159265358979323846 . . . ). Our whole-class challenge was to make a poem that follows the digit sequence in pi. How far can you get with your students?
How I Taught This in Class
Start With a Book!
I first review the concept of a haiku with students before introducing a pi-ku. My all-time favorite haiku book is Haiku Hike. This book does a wonderful job of explaining what a haiku is and what you need to do to write one. We read this book as a class and then students write down on chart paper what it takes to write a haiku. They answer the following questions:
What is a haiku?
How many lines are in a haiku?
How many syllables are on each line?
Can haikus tell a story?
Do the lines have to rhyme?
From there, we move on to Pi Day. We have a classroom discussion where students share what they already know and what they want to know about Pi Day.
This information goes on our class notes page, which is a shared Google doc where students can go to write what they have learned while researching Pi Day. Students can also go back to our class notes page for ideas and information to add to their poetry.
Digital Pi Learning
Share a pi video. We watch the one provided on BrainPop. The first time we watch just to watch although I encourage students to take notes. The second time around, students watch specifically to take notes on information they want to remember. They pause to take notes and write down questions they still have (these can be used for personal research by students). The notes page will be used for constructing their pi-kus. Student notes can also be added to the shared class notes.
Students are then invited to created a pi-ku. I explain that a pi-ku is similar to a haiku, only the syllables in the lines are three, one, four instead of five, seven, five.
I create one pi-ku as a model. We then do one together on the topic of Pi Day. Afterward, students go off to free write at least one on their own or in collaborative writing groups (partners of two to three students).
We come back together at the end of writing time, where students have the option of sharing their efforts with classmates using an Author's Chair. Many students share while others critique with a compliment first, then a meaningful suggestion for the future as described in my earlier post, "Peer Critiques: A Lesson in Purposeful Feedback."
Students take the feedback given and create a final copy. Here is the template I used for students to publish their pi-kus.
Be sure to share your students' work! Exploratorium loves for teachers to post on their site. We will be sharing this year’s work there and on our class Kidblog website.
This is only one of many ways to celebrate this important day in learning. The joy of math can be spread through the creative writing. Check out this Scholastic treasury of pi resources. A little mix of activities will give students the opportunity to learn, explore, construct, and share all things pi.
What are your plans for Pi Day? I'd love to hear your ideas!