I Can Haiku, Can You?

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10740

Poems rhyme all the time. That's not long, but it's also wrong! Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that doesn't rhyme but is expressive. Using online practice, paper, and scissors, learn How To Haiku!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Read this comic with your teacher or parent:

haiku comic

  • Have you ever heard of a Haiku?

What is Haiku?

Although the word "Haiku" does rhyme with the sneeze sound word, "Ah-choo", Haiku is actually a form of poetry that does not rhyme.

The Japanese poetry form of Haiku inspired Adelaide Crapsey to invent the syllabic cinquain in the early 20th century.

The Haiku is different from the syllabic cinquain because it is not considered a shape or concrete poem (a poem that takes on a distinct shape, like how the diamante is shaped like a diamond). Haiku also has its own set of rules to follow which makes it different from any other form of poetry.

First, let's take a look at the syllable count and line structure. Although Haiku is not a shape poem, it does have a distinctive look because of the number syllables in each line.

The Haiku has three lines:

  • The first line must have five syllables (usually a fragment, or an incomplete sentence)
  • The second line needs seven syllables (usually works with line three to form a complete sentence)
  • Line three has five syllables, just like the first line (usually completes the thought of line two)

Keep in mind that it does say usually, and there is nothing wrong with being a bit unusual at times, as long as you have the 5-7-5 syllable count! Just remember 5-7-5 Haiku jive.

Some like to remember it like this:




This way, you can see that the middle line will be two syllables longer than the first and last lines.

We will get back to the syllable structure as soon as we cover all of the elements.

What is Haiku About?

You may have noticed in the comic that Lila mentions Haiku is about nature. (Notice that the plural of Haiku is Haiku.) You can write about anything that exists in nature. This includes your family members, your pets, the clouds, the grass, a particular flower, rain, winter, bugs, or anything else that is part of nature.

  • Can you think of some more topics related to nature?

Wow, you have a lot of great thoughts about nature! I don't think you will have any problem thinking of a topic for your Haiku.

Finally, the last element of Haiku is that it is always written in the present tense.

  • What does that mean?

Well, we know the events in the present tense did not happen in the past. We also know that these events are not going to occur in the future.

  • So when do they happen?

You are about to leave the house, and someone says, "Grab an umbrella, it's raining!"

  • When should you grab the umbrella? When is it raining?

Right now! When you write in the present tense, you are writing about things as though they are currently happening.

  • What are some clues that writing is taking place at this very moment?

Read the passage below and point out the keywords and verb endings that tell you that the event is happening right now:

My sister, Tina, is so excited because she is wearing her new designer shoes. Here comes Tina. She is opening the front door; she put one foot on the porch, and it is pouring rain! Tina is getting her new shoes all wet.

  • What clues let you know that Tina is, at this very moment, getting her new designer shoes all wet?

Yes, words like "is" and -ing and -s endings on verbs tell us that the event is currently happening.

  • Can you think of some things you have heard or read that are in the present tense?

What Is Haiku Writing?

Now that you know a little bit about the syllable and line structure, the topic, and the tense, let's work together on writing a Haiku.

Step 1: The first thing we need to do is brainstorm for a topic.

There are a few different methods you can use to find a good topic. In the next section, you will be given some tools that will help you to think of a good topic, as well as other words associated with your topic, and a way to track your syllables.

For now, I am going to pick my favorite season, which is summer.

Step 2: Next, I need to think of something specific I like about summer.

Thinking about particular summer memories will help me narrow my topic and enable me to write a better poem. One reason I like summer is, my favorite flowers are roses and roses are in full bloom in mid-summer.

Now I have two words I really like:

  • "roses" = 2 syllables
  • "mid-summer" = 3 syllables

I am off to a good start, so now I need to think about what roses do in mid-summer, where they lead my thoughts, and how they make me feel using present tense verbs:

  • Roses "bloom" or "are blooming."
  • Roses "smell sweet" or are "sweet-smelling" or are "making the air smell sweet."
  • Roses make me think of "butterflies flying" and "bumblebees buzzing."
  • Roses make me feel like "taking a nap" or "napping" in the sun.
  • Roses remind me of "playing" in my grandpa's garden or just "children playing."

Step 3: It may not seem like I have written very much, but there are a lot of syllables in those five points, so now I need to decide what I want to include in my poem, and I need to count syllables.

I like "mid-summer roses" for my first line. This phrase introduces my topic, and it's a perfect five-syllable line.

  • Do you agree or disagree?

It's okay to have a different point of view; that's what makes us all, and our writing, unique!

My second line needs to have seven syllables and show the present tense. It can be part of a sentence that continues into the third line, or it can just be a phrase. It depends on how your words fit together.

I will use "butterflies fluttering through" as my middle line and an example of a complete sentence that continues on the third line.

"Bees buzzing, children playing" will be my example of a Haiku that does not have a complete sentence in the second and third lines.

Finally, on to my third line. I need to cross out the words that I already used from my list. For the first example that has a complete sentence, I will use "the sweet-smelling air."

  • Do you see how I rearranged some of the words from my brainstorming list?

Mid-summer roses
Butterflies fluttering through
the sweet-smelling air.

Okay, one more five-syllable line to write, to show an example of a Haiku without a complete sentence. I am going to pick "napping in the sun."

Mid-summer roses
bees buzzing, children playing
napping in the sun

Let's take a look at both versions and count syllables.

Example with a complete sentence:

Mid-summer roses
Butterflies fluttering through
the sweet-smelling air.

Example without a complete sentence:

Mid-summer roses
bees buzzing, children playing
napping in the sun

Now, let's double-check our syllables and tense of each line. Together with your teacher or parent, reread each line and clap the number of syllables in each line to make sure that I correctly wrote each Haiku in the 5-7-5 pattern.

Take one more quick look to make sure both are in the present tense.

  • Do they both sound like they are happening right now?

Here are some more Haiku Examples (kidsonthenet.org) written by kids just like you. Read a few of the poems listed on the website and discuss them with your teacher or parent. Pay attention to the topics, tense, and syllable count.

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