Haiku Paintings

Explain that haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan. Haikus typically have three lines that follow a five-/seven-/five-syllable format. Invite students to write their own haikus and illustrate them with brush paintings. Both haikus and brush painting typically focus on nature, and the latter is characterized by the use of black ink and watercolor. To begin the painting, have students use an eyedropper to drop black paint onto a piece of watercolor paper. Show them how to use a straw to blow the paint around the paper to create tree limbs, flower stems, animal outlines, etc. Using the same technique, students can add various colors to create flowers, waves, and so forth.

Musical Haikus

Both poetry and music can evoke emotions. Play a musical track and ask students what emotion the composer was trying to create. Next, read several haikus and explore the mood each poet was trying to convey. Discuss how certain words can paint a mental picture. Ask, for example, What feeling does the word gray give you? Play another song and invite students to write a haiku that reflects the musical piece’s emotion.

Haiku Word Wall

Traditional haikus contain a kigo, or a word that hints at the season. Challenge students to come up with words that provide clues to the season in which a poem takes place. Encourage them to think beyond words like cold or hot and find words such as green, snowflake, pumpkin, fireworks. Display these words on a bulletin board so students may refer to them while writing.

Haiku Goggles

Instead of looking at the “big picture,” haikus focus on small things. Help students narrow their focus by inviting them to make haiku “goggles.” First, have students decorate a small cardboard tube. If you have enough tubes, kids can glue two together to create binoculars. Next, take students outdoors and have them find a quiet spot. Ask them to look through their goggles to study a patch of grass, a bug, or a puddle, and then write a haiku about it. 

Poetry Chain

From the 9th to the 12th century, Japanese poets would gather to write a round-robin type of poem called a renga. The first three lines, called the hokku, were considered the most important part of the poem because they set the tone. Eventually, hokkus evolved into what we call haikus. Students can write their own rengas. Divide the class into small groups. Have one student write the first line, and then pass the poem to the next person in the group, who writes the second line, and so on.