Five senses haiku

In my country, we are developing new curricula. I have had the privilege of being part of two committees responsible for TEFL in the first and second stage of secondary education (equivalent to years 8 to 11 in Britain). Of course, communication is key in these curricula, but we also try to integrate literature and creativity in them, much to my liking. Officially it says that “the students create their own artistic-literary expressions and exchange their appreciation for each other’s work.” A format that I really like to use for this, is the “five senses haiku”, a combination of a “five senses poem” and a haiku. I asked my teacher trainee to prepare a lesson about it.

Sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are the five senses that help us taking in information from the world around us. These senses are also a powerful tool to use when you are writing poetry: you can paint a strong image with words. In a normal “five senses poem”, you describe a striking photo using a verse for every sense.

A haiku is a well-known Japanese poetic form consisting of 17 syllables arranged in 3 lines: 5-7-5. It is a concise form, much like a telegram. Haikus are usually written in the present, so doable at any level. These poems normally deal with nature and present a clear sensory image. And exactly this is why it is so appropriate to combine them with the five senses poem.


How do you plan a lesson in which you want your students to create a five senses haiku? After explaining the goal of the lesson (writing a poem), you can show them a photo you want to use as a source of inspiration. You might consider using a picture that is linked to the theme you are working on.

Show the photo and ask your students to brainstorm about each sense separately for approx. two minutes. In this thinking phase, guide the students and have them write down any words that describe the image for all five senses. An online dictionary (on their phones) might be helpful at this point. My teacher trainee used e.g. a picture of grapes and these are some of the words that popped up:

  • sight: grapes, green, purple, summer
  • hearing: birds, leaves, wind
  • taste: sweet, wine, explosion, fresh, yummy
  • touch: small, round, soft, cold
  • smell: summer, sea

Next, explain how a haiku is built. Point out that syllables are about spoken language, not written. In English, we very often only have one syllable where you might expect more by just looking at the word. In my teacher trainee’s lesson e.g. words like “wine” or “grapes” only have one syllable! Then, have the students write a draft of a haiku in pairs. Walk around the classroom and guide them, especially with those syllable problems.

When the draft is finished, you can ask the students to type them on an online notice board and project this. Everyone can then read the haikus. My teacher trainee used Padlet for this. It is a good idea to do this anonymously, since the last stage of this lesson is expressing appreciation. If you have names added to the poems, students might appreciate people more than their creation.

This is a fine example from my trainee’s lesson:

Grapes are sweet and fresh

When you bite they will explode

They are so yummy