Writing Haiku Summaries: How to Encourage Creativity and Assess Student Comprehension

Creative writing ideas don’t have to be relegated to creative writing classes. Writing haiku summaries can be incorporated into any English classroom as a unique way of allowing students to demonstrate their understanding of a reading selection while also developing their affinity for a carefully chosen word.

How to Write a Haiku

Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry in which each poem consists of only 17 syllables and typically focuses on an aspect of nature. The 17 syllables are broken down into three lines: the first line contains five syllables, the second line contains seven syllables, and the third line contains a final five syllables.

Haiku Summary Examples

Writing haiku summaries adds a twist to the traditional poem form by maintaining the structure but expanding the subject matter. Reimagining a piece of writing as a haiku will encourage students to focus on the most essential characters, events and themes of a short story or novel. Consider the following examples:

Character – Iago from Othello

Stoking suspicion

Master manipulator

Brings down a hero

Specific event – Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird

Rabid dog in town

Suddenly, crack of gunshot

New side of father

Theme The Miracle Worker

With an able mind

From the silence and darkness

Understanding blooms

Summary Haiku Lesson Plan

  • Teachers should first introduce the format to the class. If students have gone through a poetry writing unit in another class or earlier in the year, they may already be familiar with the basics of how to write a haiku.
  • Next the teacher should share a few examples with the class to give students a better understanding of the expected style when writing haiku summaries. However, it is better to use haiku based on past assignments so as not to influence students’ interpretation of the reading they will be working with to create a poem.
  • Give the students time to work. Although haiku are short, they require careful thought to select the right words.
  • A dictionary will be useful for those unfamiliar with counting syllables. A thesaurus is another helpful resource, as students look for alternative words to express a thought in a specific number of syllables.
  • Teachers may also suggest that students create a short series of haiku to convey the major events and themes of a larger work.
  • As with all creative writing ideas, haiku summaries offer a great opportunity for students to share their creations with others, either in small groups or by reading them aloud to the class.