English Haiku Competition

Casey Bean, Kanazawa Institute of Technology

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: poetry writing, haiku
  • Learner English Level: High beginner and above
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school to adult
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 1 hour
  • Materials: Haiku introduction, syllable practice, and haiku template worksheets (see Appendices), B5 paper, paper voting ballots or candy (small chocolates or hard candies)

Poetry writing is an activity that provides students the opportunity to use English in a way that traditional English classes may not allow. Furthermore, writing haiku in English casts a traditional Japanese craft in a whole new light for most Japanese students. In this activity, students will compete to create the best English haiku and illustration about their favorite season, although many other topics can also be substituted. It starts with an introduction of haiku history, themes, and structure, and a worksheet to practice counting syllables in English. Students use an easy-to-follow template to write their haiku, making this an enjoyable activity even for lower-level students. Finally, students read each other’s poems and vote for the best one.  


Step 1: Prepare a haiku introduction and syllable practice worksheet for each pair/group, and a haiku template and sheet of B5 paper for each student (See Appendices A – C).

Step 2: Prepare ballots or candy to use for voting.


Step 1: Put students in groups or pairs so they can help each other answer the questions. Give them 5 minutes to complete the haiku review worksheet (guessing the answer is OK). Check answers orally.

Step 2: Show students how to count English syllables by clapping each time they hear a vowel sound (the number of claps equals the number of syllables). Give the groups/pairs 10 minutes to complete the syllable practice worksheet. Check answers orally.

Step 3: Students will now work alone. Distribute and explain the haiku template. Emphasize that students must think of their own sentences for their haiku and not just copy the example sentences on the worksheet. The template is as follows:

  • 1st Line: Favorite season/time of day/weather
  • 2nd Line: Activity you like doing in that season
  • 3rd Line: Your feeling when you do that activity


A hot summer night

Watching fireworks on the beach

They are beautiful

Step 4: Give students 15 minutes to write a draft of their haiku. Have students raise their hand when they are finished. Check their haiku for spelling/grammar mistakes. Modern haiku are often more free form, so teachers do not have to be too strict about following the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. While students are writing, the teacher can circulate through the class to answer vocabulary questions and look for spelling/grammar mistakes.

Step 5: After checking a student’s haiku, give him/her a B5 paper to write the final draft. Set a time limit to prevent students from taking too much time.

Step 6: Students vote for the best haiku based on both the quality of the words as well as the illustration. Arrange the haiku at the front of the class or on desktops. Give each student a voting ballot or a piece of candy to place on their favorite haiku. The winner is the student who receives the most ballots/candy. Time permitting, students can read their haiku to their classmates.


Haiku writing is a good way to shake up the normal flow of your English class by challenging students to try a type of writing that they likely are not familiar with in English. Students embrace the opportunity to express themselves creatively, enjoy reading the work of their classmates, and are motivated by the element of competition.  


The appendices are available below: