An simple guide to begin teaching traditional Japanese haiku poems to children. Plus ideas, four seasonal haiku poems to get you started, and a printable haiku worksheet.
What is Haiku?
As a child, you were probably taught that haiku is a style of poetry with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, but it is so much more!
Haiku is the ancient Japanese art of poetry characterized by its short pattern, nature-based themes, that shares an observation of a fleeting moment in time. That’s a pretty big concept for a kid!
But you don’t have to dumb down haiku, you just have to break it down. Explain the concepts in a way kids can understand.
Short 5-7-5 Syllable Pattern
Yes! When teaching haiku, this is one of the first concepts young children learn. However, not all haiku is 5-7-5. Translations from Japanese (and other languages can vary greatly.
When you’re teaching, don’t be afraid to use poems that stray from the 5-7-5 pattern. Explain why some haiku might be different.
“When we read haiku, usually we see three lines. The first line has five syllables, line two has seven syllables, and line three has five syllables.
But! Have you ever seen a different kind of haiku?
Some haiku was written in Japanese hundreds of years ago! When we translate these poems into English, the number of syllables changes.”
Related post>>> How to Find Poems Kids Like
Japanese Haiku Poems are about Nature
Traditional Japanese haiku always contains an element of nature. One simple way to teach this is by using seasonal themes.
This will get your kids thinking more about the plants, animals, weather, and seasons – and less about writing a Minecraft haiku.
Take a nature walk, read some seasonal haiku, or have a poetry picnic outside. Be inspired by the nature around you.
Japanese Haiku Poems
These poems are public domain.
The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
-Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
An ancient pond!
With a sound from the water
Of the frog as it plunges in.
-Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
The winds of autumn
Blow: yet still green
The chestnut husks
-Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)
Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.
-Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)
Haiku is about a Single Moment in Time
This is the big concept for a child, isn’t it? Syllables and nature are probably subjects you’ve been over before. But communicating that haiku is just about one moment is a little more difficult.
I’ll explain with an example, and give you the wording I used:
We started by choosing a subject. My son chose a rain storm. He wanted to use his haiku to tell me all about the rainstorm.
“That’s too big,” I said. “Haiku is a tiny poem; we need to think of a tiny moment to tell about.”
He thought a while… “What about when it falls on a tree?”
I prompted, “Okay, but there’s a lot of rain falling on that tree! What if we just thought about one drop. What happens to that one drop?”
He replies, “It hits a leaf.”
“That’s it!” I say. “Now let’s freeze time. The moment the rain hits the leaf. What happens? Write the haiku about that!”
Break it down for them. Explain it in their terms. “Think of a tiny moment, frozen in time. Then zoom in and get a close up look at what’s going on in that very still, quiet second.”
10 Printable Haiku Worksheets
Ready to learn more about haiku? Find ten printable haiku worksheets here.
These haiku worksheets are great for:
- Reading and analyzing traditional Japanese haiku poems
- Talking about syllable patterns and discussing translation
- Reading poems about nature
- Learning about the seasons
- Handwriting practice
Download a free sample below.
Print a Sample Haiku Worksheet
More about poetry…