13_The_Maine_Coons_Haiku_files/Haiku by

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13_The_Maine_Coons_Haiku_files/Haiku by
Michael J. Rosen’s
Haiku Across the Curriculum
M ining and molding, the lub and dub at the heart of
Michael J. Rosen has engaged kids and adults alike
in a wealth of writing experiences for over thirty
years. This fall, Candlewick Press brings out two
more books of Rosen’s poetry for readers of all ages:
The Hound Dog’s Haiku and Other Poems for Dog
Lovers and Chanukah Lights (with Robert Sabuda’s
amazing pop-ups).
poetry, is an exhilarating way to move nonfiction
subjects from memorized facts to memorable
experiences, from passivity to participation.
With my haiku books as a springboard, I bring haiku’s
17-syllable form (5-7-5) to a classroom’s current unit.
The puzzle of a haiku works and reworks knowledge,
nuance, and logic, creating an “outcome” that reflects a
student’s appreciation of the material and ensures
interest in classmates’ work.
Here’s the core process, which I adapt to each school,
age level, and subject area.
First, the Gathering
Second, the Choosing
Geography, natural history, environment, health—
whatever the subject area—let each student chose a
different object or concept: one individual formation,
animal, phenomenon, etc. (You’re setting up each kid
with the chance to shine, rather than the chance to hang
back in the shadow of redundancy.)
After gathering so much, the students decide which
things they want to work with.
• Identify the most fascinating stuff. “What did you
find that surprised you? What was funny? What
picture captures the object perfectly?”
• Decide when the haiku will take place. What
season? What time of day? Where will it be? Haiku
uses a “season word” that starts the poem and
establishes a moment in time. This specificity
ensures a zoom-in clarity, rather than a blur of lax
observation. Again, this engages the student in
problem solving and discovery.
• Dive, delve, dredge! This is the mining part, when
you have the kids do the preliminary work of
research and gathering facts, learning key
words, and understanding processes. Each
student is making an information “quilt” and needs
lots of pieces with which to sew (in haiku) their most
satisfying pattern. Gather pictures. Use media
center resources. Every student should feel the
pride and gratification of having so much stuff! All
this is best done a day or two before the writing
begins. Their eagerness to start is an energy you
can channel!
Copyright © 2011 Michael J. Rosen
• Create choices! Start the molding part by
connecting words, phrases, facts. Cover pages with
possible phrases that might be a part of a haiku.
Pair up perceptions. Try one phrase with different
partners. At this point, students should have pages
with option after option. (This could also happen on
a separate day.)
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Michael J. Rosen’s
Haiku Across the Curriculum
Next, the Drafting
Finally, the Sharing
Now the students can begin writing their poems.
Show students that their haiku is a door through which
the reader will walk—that the reader begins with the
student’s words, but completes the experience him or
herself. It’s like reaching out a hand to someone—and
trusting that he or she will take your hand to shake it.
• Now (and only now!) think about the haiku’s
structure. It is made up of three lines: the first and
third have 5 syllables, and the second has 7
syllables. (At least, this is how the Japanese form is
most commonly taught in English.) The syllable
restriction forces kids to mine again for words that
fit—creating, again, new possibilities and
associations. They can put words or phrases on
slips of paper and arrange/rearrange them, saving
any particularly ah ha! discoveries.
The poem provides that clear gesture—“Do you see
what I—?” and, almost interrupting, the reader
provides, “Yes, you helped me see it.”
• Don’t let kids settle quickly on one, final poem.
Don’t let them put on the creative brakes and park.
The outcome should be a few poems with
variations. (Let them tinker with poems at another
time; at home; in small groups.) Even these
variations can permit further creativity. Remember:
revision can be correction, but it should also be
connection—a shift in tone or diction that can
double or extend associations.
I can’t leave you without sharing some student work
(with their permission, of course). Recently, a thirdgrade class invited me to write haiku as part of their
study of clouds.
The day of my residency, the sky was solid,
unrelentingly gray. (No chance to use “cumulonimbus”
or another of the words floating like clouds themselves
on a bulletin board.) So we focused on that absence
outside, the colorless void: “How does it make you
feel?” “What other things suggest a similar emptiness?”
• As a last bit of tweaking, see if there are
unnecessary words that could be replaced with
something more telling. (For instance, “the clouds
in the sky”—wait! where else would clouds be? So
“in the sky” can be cut.)
These are three favorites from our hour of finding and
focusing words and facts—and then finessing them as
we counted syllables on our fingers.
gray Ohio day
jagged trees bite at the sky
no clouds to be found
—Alex
cloudless gray sky
that’s emptied all its cool blue
from its full pitcher
—Charlene
gray sky and the blue
is a dog that ran away
and might not come back
—Skylar
Copyright © 2011 Michael J. Rosen
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