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
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Read this comic.

haiku comic

  • Have you ever heard of a haiku?

What Is Haiku?

Although the word haiku does rhyme with the sneeze sound word ahchoo, haiku is a form of poetry that does not rhyme.

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

The haiku differs 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, 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 of syllables in each line.

The haiku has three lines.

  1. The first line must have five syllables — usually a fragment or an incomplete sentence.
  2. The second line needs seven syllables — usually, it works with line three to form a complete sentence.
  3. Line three has five syllables, just like the first line — it usually completes the thought of line two.

Keep in mind, these directions 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!

Some like to remember it like this.

  • 12345
  • 1234567
  • 12345

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

Keep the syllable structure in mind while exploring all 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?

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

  • What does that mean?

Events in the present tense did not happen in the past, and they 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 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 opens the front door and puts one foot on the porch, but 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?

Words like is and verbs with -ing and -s endings indicate 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 about the syllable and line structure, the topic, and the tense, practice writing a haiku.

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

You can use a few different methods to find a good topic and words associated with your topic.

This haiku example will be about summer.

Step 2: Next, consider something specific about summer. Narrowing the topic makes it easier to write a better poem.

Roses are beautiful flowers that blooms in mid-summer. This idea gives two possible haiku words.

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

Next, think of present-tense words and verbs associated with these words.

  • Roses bloom or are blooming.
  • Roses smell sweet or are sweet-smelling or are making the air smell sweet.
  • Roses often have butterflies flying and bumblebees buzzing nearby.
  • Roses may make you feel like taking a nap or napping in the sun.
  • Roses may make you think about playing in a garden or just children playing.

Step 3: All this brainstorming produced a lot of syllables. This step focuses on deciding which to include in the poem.

The phrase "mid-summer roses" is a good first line. It introduces the topic and is a perfect five-syllable line.

The 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 the words fit together.

Using "butterflies fluttering through" as the middle line and "the sweet-smelling air" as the third line is an example of having a complete thought.

Using "bees buzzing, children playing" as the middle line and "napping in the sun" as the third line is an example of not having a complete sentence.

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

Double-check the syllables and tense of each line. Reread each line and clap the number of syllables in each line to ensure that it follows the correct 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?

Great work!

Continue to the Got It? section for more practice.

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