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Horrible haikus at random

This starter is adapted from a warm-up used by poet Jo Shapcott in her workshops. Remember the game of consequences from your childhood? This is Haiku consequences.

Each child takes two words at random from a selection. Depending on how long you want the exercise to last, you can either pre-prepare the words or get the class to write them and then mix them up.

I have two sets of laminated words on card which I retrieve at the end of the lesson. You can set whatever terms you like, but it is advisable to have at least one noun in the mix. Jo Shapcott uses the animal you would like to be reincarnated as and then your favourite word. If you want to use the game several times, you can change the criteria for choosing the words.

It can link to anything going on in school or outside at the time: bonfire night, school dinners, the class reader.

The class then has to write haikus (three line poems of 5-7-5 syllables) using their two words.

The final condition is that the haiku must be as nasty and horrible as possible. The effect is to create a quick poem which stretches the children to use words outside their normal vocabulary. It also results in considerably fewer haikus about snowflakes and pet cats.


Nathan Peggs (Year 7): "innocent" and "motorway".

Twas on a motorway

When I did a trump and squished

An innocent horse.

Mark Williamson (Year 11): "lament" and "dictionary".

You make me lament

You talk with the excitement

Of a dictionary.

Annabelle Smith: "skate" and "frying-pan".

I saw the dead skin

Skate on my dinner; it came

From the frying-pan.

Victoria Elliott

English teacher, Harrogate Grammar School

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