Haiku and the Little Ones

Right around the time the season changed from summer to autumn last year, I stumbled upon a haiku collection while perusing a colleague’s bookshelf.  I hadn’t read haiku in years! I borrowed her book and enjoyed the haiku for a few days before giving in and ordering my own copy of the book. The book is entitled The Essential Haiku: the Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited and translated by Robert Hass.

The haiku masters offered the perfect moments to sip tea and reflect on changes in the natural world as the seasons transform from one to another. They served as a welcome substitute for time that would have been spent outdoors (and perhaps with my camera) because the weather was often icky last autumn and winter.

After I had my fill of the haiku masters, I moved on to Sonia Sanchez’s Morning Haiku, a book I must blog about at another time.

As you can guess, I was pretty haiku obsessed. I read them to my son. I tried to get him to write haiku with me. He ran in the opposite direction–screaming, arms flailing (slight exaggeration). Aha! But eventually I found a way to “capture” him (along with his 15 classmates).

Last April–building on the lessons on metaphor, simile, and image I’d taught the children in second and third grade–I taught a brief lesson on the haiku form, read a few to the (then) fourth graders, and allowed my son to transform a longer poem he wrote for National Poetry Month last year into a haiku to demonstrate for the class how a three-line poem can tell the same story and present the same image as a much longer poem.

Poem written by my little one when he was in third grade.  The frog is one of the many animals he loves.  Scrapbook elements by Amanda Wittenborn: Amanda Creation

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The children were tasked with writing about something in nature, the change of seasons or an animal.  They “mastered” the form easily and loved writing their haiku.  Since nine-year-olds are still eager to please, they vied for my attention to read their haiku. They didn’t have time to read their poems to the class, but I took their poems, typed them, and created a display for the university library. (FYI–The school is situated on the university campus).  In May, during the last week of school, the entire class gathered in the library with their teacher, Mrs. Johnson, and a few other parents and had a poetry reading followed by a class picnic at “Unity Pond” on campus.

Many months after I’d intended, I’m sharing their haiku. [Click an image for a closer look]

The lesson and writing took about 30 minutes. They did a great job. Don’t you think?

Even though haiku is a lot more complex than it seems, it is a good form to teach to children. They won’t catch all the subtle nuances of language and imagery, but they get the basics in terms of the traditional structure and themes of haiku.  I am looking forward to my next adventure with my son’s class. I don’t know how or when, but I’m sure we’ll have some literary adventures this school year!

 

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11 Comments

  1. You are right, not all of them grasped the complexity of a Haiku – but they pretty quick grasped that poems do not need to rhyme (well, most did). Some are even rather sophisticated for their age!
    I think Haikus are so difficult because their extremely short form really demands the exact expression. A rather difficult task for 9 year olds, whose grasp of vocabulary is not wide yet. (Colourful, maybe, but not wide. Oh, and there are studies out there who say that swearing is a positive trait, as this demands a wide grasp of language, too – if you go for more than the F-bomb)

    Reply
    • Yes–haiku are a challenge at any age and skill level, but I’m always surprised by what the little ones produce. My little one has amazing stories he’s written and drawn, and even though I know he’s pretty sharp, I’m still taken aback sometimes by the sophistication of his language and his plots. Thanks for stopping by. How have you been?

      Reply
      • Oh, I had my first full anaesthetics two months ago, my first ever in my whole life and I am 48. I went home that very day, so really nothing to worry about. I even blogged about it, as tastefully as I could. Growing older is not for sissies.

        How are you?

      • I laughed out loud at the “growing older is not for sissies” comment. That is definitely true! Glad that you’re doing well. I’ll have to learn German to read your blog post about the experience. 🙂 There used to be a translator on your page, I think. It’s no longer there, so I miss all the good stuff.

      • I translate my contributions, in irregular intervals. As that is only a summary you indeed miss out on the funnier things (ok, I am German, that was a lie – Germans do not do funny).

  2. How fun is this! I just posted about a Haiku I wrote in 5th grade. I found it while unpacking and thought it was a hoot. Really enjoyed reading all of these!

    Reply
    • Oh wow! I’ll have to go and check out your post. I’ve been so inundated with work lately that I’ve had little time to catch up on my blog reading. 😦

      Reply
  3. I love Haiku! This is awesome and I’ll bet your son is proud that you are doing this…

    Reply
    • Hi Laurie! Thank you for your comment. My son is interesting. Some days he wants such “publicizing” and other days he’d rather I not bring any attention to anything he’s doing! 😀 How have you been?

      Reply
  4. It sounds like you all had great fun!

    Reply

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