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Title: The Poetry of Form: Frank Lloyd Wright and Haiku

Grade: 9-12

Subject: English, Writing, Humanities

Estimated Time of Completion: The time required for completion of this lesson is dependent upon the teacher and students’ backgrounds in word processing and Internet protocols.

I. Summary
II. Objectives, Standards, Prerequisites
III. Procedures
IV. Classroom Assessment
V. Extensions and Adaptations
VI. About the Author

I. Summary

In this lesson, students will have an opportunity to explore the connection between the visual art of architecture and poetry. This will lead students to examine man's relationship to the natural world as embodied in haiku, Zen philosophy, and the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright.

II. Objectives, Standards, and Prerequisites


  • Students will develop original haiku pieces reflective of an understanding of the inter-relationships of man, nature, and architecture in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Synthesizing analytical and creative thinking through analogies perceived between nature and an architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Creating original metaphors expressive of man, nature, and artifact to be employed in original haiku writing.
  • Utilization of resources from a variety of different mediums.
  • Application of technology as a tool assisting creative expression



  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of literary texts
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process
  • Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning.
  • Utilizes Internet Connection Resources in the Language Arts Standards


  • Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs
  • Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual.


  • Uses various information sources, including those of a technical nature, to accomplish specific task.
  • Sets and manages goals.
  • Considers risks.
  • Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences.
  • Applies decision-making techniques


  • A copy of the Ken Burns PBS documentary, Frank Lloyd Wright, a television, and a VCR
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Computers with word processing program
  • Pencil and paper

III. Procedures

  1. 1. View in class with your students the PBS documentary, Frank Lloyd Wright. Allow time for discussion and reflection upon specific, key parts, particularly the segments on Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax building, the Guggenheim Museum, Taliesin East, and Taliesin West.
  2. Discuss the following comments taken from the PBS documentary, Frank Lloyd Wright: a. William Cronin’s comment that the “job of the artist (is) to create a vision of nature more natural than nature itself” b. Frank Lloyd Wright’s assertion that he “attends the greatest of churches” and c. Goldberger’s response to Fallingwater . . . “you looked at it—you wanted to sing . . .” What is perceived of man’s relationship to nature in those comments? Encourage reflection focusing on Wright’s reverence for nature and his harmonious recognition of man’s place within the fabric of nature.
  3. Accompany a viewing of the PBS documentary, Frank Lloyd Wright, with exploration of the PBS Frank Lloyd Wright Web site’s resources. Specifically, recommend to students that they employ the images of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings that have been placed upon this site.

    Ask students to pause and reflect over the images. Have students “brainstorm” words or details that come into their minds as they view specific images of Wright’s buildings. Ask students to reflect on the images of Wright’s buildings that they saw in the film. Encourage examination of concepts of beauty and relationships to nature. Have students select one of the buildings of Wright for which they feel an affinity. If that building image is on the PBS site, the student should bookmark its location.

    The PBS Frank Lloyd Wright site provides convenient digital access to images for students. However, if Internet access is limited, photographic images can found in Frank Lloyd Wright by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer.

  4. Indicate Wright’s affinity toward Japanese art as reflected in his collection of Japanese prints. In both Western and Eastern cultures, man has sought to explore and express his place in the universe. Helmut Brinker in his book, Zen in the Art of Painting, indicates that “Zen painting seeks to accomplish . . . penetration to consummate insight, to open the eyes to the essential nature of things.” Images and words are metaphors of ideas, concepts of beauty and thought.

    Introduce students to haiku as a poetic expression of man’s relationship to nature. Review with students traditional haiku conventions: 17 syllables, three lines, no use of simile, no rhyme, metaphoric reflection of seasons, and sense of the spirit of man, nature, and the universe. Indicate that there is a concept of modern American haiku that reflects the spirit of traditional, Japanese haiku, but without the same, strict attention to syllable counts; however, the form stays short and can even have fewer syllables.

    To assist in exploring haiku, An Introduction to Haiku with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson would supply a foundation in traditional haiku form and writers ranging from Basho to Shiki. An Introduction to Haiku. Ed. Harold G. Henderson. New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1958.

    To assist in examining the traditional as well as the modern forms of haiku, The Haiku Handbook by William Higginson provides background and examples. Higginson, William J. with Penny Harter. The Haiku Handbook. New York: Kodansha America, Inc., 1985.

    To assist in examining modern North American haiku, Haiku Moment is an extensive anthology of modern haiku and provides an excellent introduction to traditional and modern haiku.

    An excellent Internet site that addresses key topics such as “What is Haiku?” “Why is Haiku popular in English?” and “How You Can Compose and Appreciate Haiku” as well as extensive background on the Japanese writer, Shiki is provided by Matsuyama University. It is known as “The Shiki Internet Haiku Salon.” (Note: this link will take you away from PBS Online.)

  5. Ask students to read at least 24 haiku allowing themselves to reflect on
    1. a. What image did the short poem build?
    2. b. What feelings did the short poem convey?
    3. c. What ideas about nature and/or man came to mind?
    4. d. How was the short poem metaphorical?

    Access to haiku work can be done electronically on a site available in English, French, or Japanese. It provides access to the background and work of 10 haikuists ranging from before Basho to 1997. It is recommended that students examine the work of Basho, Buson, and Shiki in particular. (Note: this link will take you away from PBS Online.)

    Basho’s collection of haiku is available as a Penguin Classic paperback. Basho. On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho. Trans. Lucien Stryk. New York: Penguin, 1985.

    A full collection of exemplary English language haiku are gathered together by Cor Van Den Heuvel in his Haiku Anthology. A revised edition is now available. The Haiku Anthology. Ed. Cor Van Den Heuvel. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986.

    A fine collection of modern Japanese haiku with pieces reflecting nature powerfully in a way that should evoke modern readers is Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku translated by Lucien Stryk. It begins with a clear reflection of Shiki and moves forward in time from there. Educators may find the short play in Stryk’s Introduction very usable for the classroom. It simulates an impossible meeting of the Japanese haiku masters, for they were separated by time. In the dramatic simulation, Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki meet at a Zen temple. Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku. Trans. Lucien Stryk. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1993.

  6. Indicate to your students the universality of Japanese haiku. Point out how the form reaches into the archetype of nature. Instruct students to experiment by creating haiku rough drafts. Ask each student to write 3 traditional haiku (following the 5,7, 5 syllable and line structure) and 3 modern American haiku (maintaining haiku spirit and tautness, but not necessarily utilizing seventeen syllables).

    For further assistance in teaching the writing of haiku, go to the Curriculum site of Education World.

    Students may also be interested in "A Haiku Year," a site that ties seasonal themes to haiku. (Note: these links will take you away from PBS Online.)

  7. Indicate to your students how an important element of haiku is the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule. For example, “pale green buds” is a revealing image much better than “it’s spring time,” and “ice on the farm pond” lets us know that winter has come without declaring, “Gee, it’s winter now.” Have students move around the room sharing the rough drafts of their haiku. Ask their classmates to indicate favorites as they read by placing a checkmark next to those haiku. A multitude of checkmarks can indicate a universally evocative haiku. After students return to their seats, have students volunteer to read haiku that received numerous checks.
  8. Have students polish the final manuscripts of their three best haiku . . . both traditional and modern forms should be allowed. These should be word processed and handed in to you for evaluation.
  9. Next, ask each student to type a favorite, original haiku on a single sheet of paper; if students want to make up more than one sheet, you can allow this. Have students access the PBS web site of the images of Wright’s buildings, and have the single sheets circulated around the room. Have classmates list under the haiku which Wright building that haiku particularly evokes for them; if they can, indicate why. After adequate comments are placed, have the haiku sheet and commentary returned to the student writer for reflection.
  10. Invite students to create a haiku Web site, or view other student-created haiku within the Haiku Archive on the PBS Frank Lloyd Wright site.

IV. Classroom Assessment

Student evaluation should be based upon both process and product. Evaluation should take into account the process of exploring new writers, experimenting with a structured poetry form, and writing creatively. Areas of consideration should include the following:

  • Quality of student involvement in discussion of film, readings, and intellectual concepts
  • Quality of involvement in group collaborations including assessments of leadership, cooperation, and contributions
  • Quality of involvement in the exploration process including examination of the PBS images, exploration and reading of haiku on the Matsuyama University site, and involvement in writing feedback activities.
  • Assessment of student involvement in utilizing word processing to prepare neat, accurate final manuscript
  • Assessment of student involvement in utilizing technical resources which can include the extension of communication with the submission of haiku work to the PBS site
  • Assessment of critical and analytical thinking as reflected in creative writing and development of creative, extended metaphors
  • Assessment of aesthetic quality and evocative depth of haiku work

IV. Extensions and Adaptations

  1. Students might wish to continue to explore the PBS site to read the growing archive of haiku work submitted by other student writers
  2. A Poetry Reading could be held highlighting the reading of haiku or a series of haiku placed together as renga.
  3. Students could explore the five line Japanese poetry form of tanka. Tanka employs a 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 line structure
  4. Tanka exploration can be assisted on the Internet by accessing the Aha Poetry site (Note: this link will take you away from PBS Online):

VI. About the Author

Florence McGinn teaches English and Writing at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey, where she sponsos the award-winning electronic literary magazine Electric Soup. Florence is also a published poet (including many haiku), conference presenter, software reviewer, and grant program developer. She was recently named the 1998 Technology and Learning National Teacher of the Year. Florence enjoys cooking, birding, reading, and traveling. She hopes to find a publisher for her fiction manuscript in the fall of 1999.