Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Suffrage Haikus

One of my favorite ways to assess students' knowledge of a topic is to use poetry.  I first came up this idea a few years ago when I was working to incorporate more writing in my classroom.  (I wrote a post about that here)  My first strategy for using more writing in social studies was to just piggy back off of what the language arts teachers were currently doing in their classes.  Mrs. Harris, the 7th grade Communications teacher, had just finished up a unit on poetry and spent a great deal of time working with students on using strong, vivid words that included sensory details.  This was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I would use poetry as a unique way to analyze a photo from the past.  By February in the school year, students have had a great deal of practice investigating a variety of first-hand accounts such as letters, government documents, photos and political cartoons.  This would provide a different way for students to have to think at a higher level while studying the primary source.

So I took a very basic poem to start with.  The haiku.  Simple format of 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and then 5 again in the last line.   This was easy enough for me to teach the students, while reminding them of their recent poetry unit with Mrs. Harris and the importance of strong words.

The topic?  Women's Suffrage.

I printed off four pictures (three primary sources and one illustration), gave each student a photo and these instructions:
  • Create a haiku poem that describes the photo and uses your knowledge of our study of women's suffrage.  
  • The poem should follow the haiku format of 5-7-5 syllables.
  • Use strong, descriptive words that are unique and fresh.  Sensory details!
  • Incorporate the vocabulary, people, and other issues we have discussed on the topic.
  • Your words should not be redundant
  • Correct spelling.  
I then explained to them that they would be writing their haiku and displaying their photo on construction paper.  This would be designed sort of like a scrapbook page.  Neatly arranged on construction paper and given a title. EACH one would then be displayed in the hallway for all to see. AND the students' names would be on the front of the paper so everyone would know who created each poem.  It is amazing to see the time, effort, and quality that is produced when the kids know that EVERYONE'S poem will be displayed and not just "the good ones."  The kids out-did themselves for sure!  I am very proud of the way these turned out.  They will look awesome lining the hallways with color and civic learning!

Here are a few of results.  Be prepared to be WOWED!
Gage S.

Mason A.

Morgan S.

Ethan C.

Garret J.

Ethan Y.  "Universally"  Wow!

McKenzie R. -- Seriously...Undaunted! Talk about use of strong, vivid words!

Natalie B.

Saige T.  


  1. The student aids were hanging these up today in the hallway. They look incredible. Look I look forward to reading all of them. And yes, undaunted...wowee, McKenzie. She had alliteration right off the bat too.

    1. You will enjoy seeing them all! This is one lesson that I really feel the kids remember later on. The 8th graders commented "Oh, we remember these."

  2. Good haikus...keep the good work... May I share A Haiku (Japenese short poems) for Akira Kurosawa in https://youtu.be/_EEvpJBdroQ