Exploring Syllables through Haiku


This lesson includes information on counting syllables, an introduction to the Japanese syllabary, and allows the students to write their own haiku. Younger students may need more help with the writing portion of this lesson.

Grade Level: 
Grades 1-2
Grades 3-5
Class Time Needed: 
1 hour
Lesson Plan: 

Step One: Prep for Syllables Game
Obtain whiteboard and whiteboard markers/blackboard and chalk
Write How Many Syllables? across the top and divide into five columns as follows: 1 Syllable, 2 Syllables, 3 Syllables, 4 Syllables, 5 Syllables

Step Two: Ask students if they know what a syllable is. Have them explain to the rest of the group, clarify if necessary: a syllable is a chunk of sound containing a vowel. Ask how to determine the number of syllables in a word: have them demonstrate if they can, otherwise start out with clapping (mu-sic = two claps, syl-la-ble = three claps, etc). Ask them how many syllables are in their names. Ask about other words too; make sure everyone gets a chance.

Step Three: Put an English haiku up on the board. As if anyone knows what it is. Indicate the syllabic structure of the haiku: five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and five again in the third line. Clap them out, then have the class clap them out with you. Explain that it is a kind of poem from Japan that doesn't need to rhyme, but does need to celebrate something ordinary, usually about nature. It doesn't need to be serious either. For example:
Ran to catch the bus
I slipped and lost my red shoe
A frog has it now

Explain that in Japanese, each letter is a syllable, so their haiku are technically only seventeen letters long (the above haiku is 50 letters long, for comparison purposes). In English, haiku has five letters, in Japanese it as three: Ha, I, and Ku.
Other words:
Hello: Ko n ni chi wa (koh-nee-chee-wah)
(10 letters in English, 5 letters in Japanese)
Good-bye: Sa yo na ra (sah-yoh-nah-rah)
(8 letters in English, 4 letters in Japanese)

Have them clap the words out with you.

Step Four: Pass out paper and pencils/pens, have students write haiku. Move around and help those who are having issues. Encourage them to ask questions and share their haiku.
You can write haiku
Five-seven-five, season word,
And then show it off

Haiku. Wikipedia. Date Posted: Undefined. 14 Oct 2007.
How to Write a Haiku Poem. wikiHow. Date Posted: Undefined. 17 Oct 2007. < http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Haiku-Poem>
Higginson, William J. The Haiku Handbook. New York: Kodansha America Inc., 1985.
Hodnett, Twyla. The Name Game. Georgia Learning Connections. 15 Oct 2007. 15 Oct 2007.
Ness, Nancy. All About Haiku. Poetry Magazine from Passions in Poetry. Date Posted: Undefined. 19 Oct 2007. < http://poetry-magazine.com/poetry/poetry-009/08page.htm>
Poetry To My Ears. The United States Mint Home. Date Posted: Not Found. 19 Oct 2007. < http://www.usmint.gov/kids/Teachers/lessonPlans/50sq/2007/0203-3.pdf>
Teaching Haikus. English Teaching Strategies. Date Posted: Undefined. 17 Oct 2007. < http://teacher2b.com/creative/haiku.htm>