SHAPES for Schools

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Welcome to the education blog from SHAPES. We'll be looking at all things schools – from news to classroom resources and curriculum changes, to what teachers want and how you can help provide it.

In the classroom: why haiku?

We recently created notes and lesson plans to support the publication of a gorgeous new children's book called Origami, Poems and Pictures - written to coincide with the new Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum this May. The book explores three beautiful Japanese art forms: origami, painting and haiku. 

Here is an excerpt from our corresponding Resource Pack, explaining some of the reasons why we think haiku is a great way to engage kids in the writing process:

For those of us (poetic souls) familiar with teaching it as part of the KS2 curriculum, we know that writing a haiku is much more than just an exercise in syllable counting. Not only does it support an understanding of language and form, it also reinforces elements of the writing process and nurtures confidence. In fact, there are endless reasons to ask your kids to compose a haiku… here is our list of five to get started!


1. Haiku-writing provides opportunities to discover new topics and explore fresh ideas. Have you ever asked your class to write something imaginative; only to be met with 30 white, collectively terrified faces? (yes, we know it well). The haiku process begins with close observation, meaning that it teaches children to closely examine the world for ideas when facing the blank page.

2. Composing a haiku engages the whole class in writing. While some children struggle with paragraph writing or letter composition for their SATs, all children can have a good go at a haiku. Despite its structure, it is quite a freeing genre of writing – it creates enthusiasm that makes other writing tasks seem more manageable.

3. A haiku reinforces that classic writing mantra, “show don’t tell.” A single haiku is based on a single moment, and so it asks children to zoom-in in a way that perhaps they aren’t used to. This habit of close observation, along with the fact that there are only three lines to play with, forces children to choose the right vocabulary: oh hello, adjectives and verbs!

4. The process of writing a haiku allows for easy drafting and editing. To the dismay of English teachers up and down the country, children are always content with their first writing attempt. However, it is much easier to ask your class to revise a three-line poem over a full-page (or in some cases FULL-EXERCISE BOOK) of narrative. It’s also much easier to mark (just saying).

5. Finally, in a multi-sensory, multi-tasking world, writing a haiku is a good tool for teaching children to ignore distractions and focus on a single task. This can lead to the capacity for deep thought and critical thinking in other subjects. It’s the beauty of the Japanese way…!

Download the full Resource Pack here

Jenny Baldwin