Teaching: Poems to Learn By

Lesson on page two

Quickly—let us get started

Mind—stop wandering

That is a haiku, a 500-year-old Japanese poetic form whose first and last lines always have five syllables, its middle line seven. Today, grade school teachers in the U.S. are turning to it as a new tool to teach English composition. Asked to write their own haiku (pronounced high-koo), children find that its precise rules and free content pose delightful puzzles, with solutions limited only by the flexibility of their vocabulary and the fetters on their fancy.

For the most part, haiku in English have been either translations of old Japanese poems or...

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