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!

 

List Journaling: What Makes 4th Graders Happy?

I really, really don’t have time to write a blog post, but I must interrupt my unplanned blogging hiatus to share with you how I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with a group of fourth graders earlier today (my little one’s class). We talked about and played with some of the things that bring me joy–writing, list journaling, stickers, and washi tape!

The kids must have been as excited as I was: One of the parents sent me a text message thanking me for taking time out to do something special with and for the kids.  I joked that the kids are really my captive audience–since very few of my adult friends want to play with stickers and make lists just for the fun of it.

I spoke with the kids about list journaling, showed them a “100 Things That Give Me Joy” list I wrote a little over a year ago, and challenged them as a class to write 100 things that make them happy.  I figured, if everyone worked toward writing 10 each, maybe, we’d get to 100 collectively.IMG_5593

They had a blast selecting stickers and washi tape and decorating their new journals. In fact, some of them spent a lot more time on decorating than they did on writing!

If you’ve ever wondered what makes kids happy, here’s a list–in their own words:

  1. God/Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Animals
  5. Robots
  6. Writing
  7. Playing
  8. Singing
  9. Dancing
  10. L.A.R.P.ing (If you guessed that my child wrote this one, you are absolutely right! Just in case you don’t know, LARP is an acronym for “Live Action Role Play”)
  11. Owls
  12. Reading
  13. School
  14. Bunnies
  15. Lions
  16. Tigers (and bears, oh my!–I added that part for dramatic effect.  Did it work?)
  17. The Philippine eagle (very specific!)
  18. Owls
  19. Panthers
  20. Falcons
  21. Basketball
  22. Soccer
  23. A great view
  24. Drawing smiling faces
  25. Singing happy songs
  26. Rollerskating
  27. Watching television
  28. Physical Education (PE)
  29. Resting
  30. Swimming
  31. Dressing up
  32. Doing hair
  33. Sleep (Yes!)
  34. Going to restaurants
  35. Movies
  36. Reading the Bible
  37. Eating
  38. Love (Hugs for this one)
  39. Brother
  40. Mom (Of course!)
  41. Flowers
  42. Ice cream (Surprisingly, I saw this only on one list)
  43. My pet
  44. This journal (Aww…)
  45. My toys
  46. When people play with me
  47. When my parents buy things for me
  48. Acting
  49. Taking care of animals
  50. Drawing
  51. Watching the flags outside the school
  52. Swimming during the hot summer
  53. Working out at the gym near home (This child is inspiring! How many nine-year-olds work out?)
  54. Watching stars in the sky
  55. Superman movies
  56. Football
  57. Iceskating
  58. Sleepovers
  59. Zoos
  60. Candy
  61. Flowers
  62. Stars
  63. Cake
  64. America
  65. Sewing
  66. Quilting
  67. The color pink
  68. Emojis
  69. Space

IMG_5595We fell a bit short of the 100-mark, but most of the kids wrote at least 10 things. It just so happens that many of the same things make them happy.  As a whole, they seem to value and find joy in things that really matter–God, family, and friends were on almost every list. I like that they take pleasure in participating instead of passively watching.

Their lists did not reflect the materialism that is so much a part of our cultures.They proved the point that no matter how much they whine, beg, and “barter,” electronics, clothes, and the latest “things” don’t really make kids happy.

We ended our short time together with their making a commitment to continue working on the lists and writing in their journals.  That was the goal–to get them writing for pleasure on a regular basis.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for sharing your class time with me!

Just in case you have no idea what I mean by “list journaling,” it is simply journaling via list, usually based on a prompt. Although it is an easier way to approach journaling, it is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through listing.

If you’re interested, there are many wonderful list journal “communities.”  My favorites are:IMG_5597

  • The Reset Girl’s #ListersGottaList–provides monthly list journaling prompts for adults and children
  • Kam and Amy’s 30 Days of List–provides journal prompts for three months out the year.  A small fee is required.

You can go all the way out and embellish your journal with stickers, stamps, washi tape, art, etc. or you can keep it simple and just make lists. It’s all up to you!

That’s it for now.  Be sure to “tune in” again soon. I plan to share with you artwork by the same group of fourth graders! Children’s art–one of the things that give me joy!