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Lesson Plan

Aim for the Heart: Using Haiku to Identify Theme

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Aim for the Heart: Using Haiku to Identify Theme

Grades 7 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Susanne Rubenstein

Susanne Rubenstein

Princeton, Massachusetts


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Less can often be more—especially as students explore the theme of a work of literature through analytical writing. Writing haiku offers a student in the final draft stages of a paper an innovative way to determine if the paper says what he/she means it to say. Students can “lose their way” when writing analytical papers, resulting in wordy, tangled papers with the thesis obscured. To alleviate this problem, students create haiku that, in seventeen syllables, encapsulate the heart of the paper. Because of its brevity, haiku promotes clarity of thought.  It further challenges students to work on focused revision.

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The Haiku Society of America
This site offers a wealth of information on haiku, including samples of haiku and specific resources for teachers.

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Barbara Simons Smith describes how haiku can help enrich the study of literature. “Haiku deserves a fair shot in the language arts classroom. When it is introduced with care, haiku has the potential to become the virtual jack-of-all teaching tools. Haiku’s concise three-line framework can serve as a blueprint for introducing, identifying, and applying literary elements such as alliteration and symbolism. Those sweet 17 syllables can provide opportunity for students to practice old-fashioned, pencil, scratch-out revision in a short, manageable piece of writing. And best of all, when introduced in just the right way, students learn to love it!” Taken one step further, writing haiku helps students express theme clearly and concisely and, in the process, improves their own analytical writing.

Smith, Barbara Simons. “Haiku Measures Up: Putting Those 17 Syllables to Work.” Voices from the Middle 10.4 (May 2003): 20-21.

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