FEATURE: Everything Zen - A Guide to Digital Haiku
December 21, 2014
Steve Bambury pulls together some apps around the theme of haiku poetry - from appreciation to composition and presentation.
The new curriculum for England has a bit of a renewed focus on poetry in the English class. Poetry has always been something that I myself have found hard to teach. It's kind of like telling the time in Maths - some kids just get it and others find it the most obscure, inaccessible topic. Oh, and they want it to rhyme. It ALWAYS has to rhyme.
One type of poetry that I did love teaching was the Japanese art form of haiku. I think part of this stems from it being the literacy focus during my first ever Ofsted inspection way, way back to be honest though I do love that simple elegance of the form. For the uninitiated, haiku are poems of 17 syllables, that date back to feudal times in Japan. In English, they traditionally take a three line format with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5 and focus on nature thematically.
One thing that I have always incorporated into the teaching of haiku is what the Japanese poets referred to as a ginku - a walk in nature to engage the senses and search for inspiration. Back when I lived in the UK, I worked at a lovely rural school that had a peaceful wooded garden area that was perfect for this. Here in Dubai, it's a little trickier. - especially when trying to avoid the sounds of traffic!So what I'm going to detail here is a digital approach using the iPad, so anyone, anywhere can access the art form in a multi-sensory manner.
APPRECIATION AND DECONSTRUCTION
If you want to start by immersing your students in examples of haiku so that they can better appreciate the form, check out the THF Haiku app from The Haiku Foundation. A super collection of hundreds of acclaimed haiku, the app will allow students the chance to deconstruct what makes the four unique. I like to do this collaboratively in small groups. Give them some post it notes and an iPad with the app on it. Have them note down the stylistic and structural features of the poetry and then compare notes with other groups to filter them down into those that are agreed upon as the common elements.
THE DIGITAL GINKU
Lee Parkinson recently showed me the Epic Zen Garden app as an alternative to Epic Citadel. This is essentially a tech demo for the unreal engine that places you in an absorbing 3D world, inspired by the Japanese tradition of the sensory garden. It has cherry blossoms, butterflies, a koi pond and spectacular views - not the least of which is seen when you zoom out to find this serene image floating on an Avatar-esque Island in the sky. It makes a digitally authentic setting for students to engage the sense of sight, hearing and touch. As suggested in the recent addition to Chemistry of Combos, they could snap screenshots and then annotate these elsewhere, be it collaboratively in an app like Bai Board or in something more commonplace like Explain Everything or Skitch.
Now the only issue with Epic Zen Garden is that it won't work on older iPads. For those that need an alternative, you could try out the Zen Gardens app. Perhaps not quite as immersive, it nonetheless provides a choice of four 3D settings complete with subtle animation and suitable sound effects that you can toggle camera views within.
THE HAIKU DESIGNER
We've features the great range of free apps from ReadWriteThink a few times here in the site. They actually have one that is particularly well suited to the topic at hand, simply called Haiku. The app allows students to build a digital word bank before crafting a final haiku. The inclusion of syllable counters is a great touch, both in the brainstorming section and on the final writing page. Completed poems are presented elegantly against a choice of authentic background image or an imported one, meaning that an image snapped on a ginku walk can be used too. As with all the RWT apps, the fact that the final piece can be exported to the camera roll is a definite plus too.
GIVING LIFE TO THE POEM
Poetry should be a living, breathing thing so performance should be a crucial element of any poetry study. The advent of mobile technology has meant that performance capture is a more than viable option in any lesson. iMovie is the obvious choice but you may well have your own preference as to a child friendly editing package. Of course a little DoInk Green Screen never hurts if you don't have a decent backdrop (or you wanted to place the reader into the Epic Zen Garden.) As for those uncomfortable with performing on camera, why not give them the option of giving their voice to an avatar instead using Tellagami?
It's worth noting to students that traditionally he poems were read twice in succession, thus allowing for more imagery to be included in the film.
ZEN AND THE ART OF PRESENTATION
What about if you wanted somewhere to collate and present all this great work? It may seem like I'm going for a cheap laugh here but Haiku Deck genuinely makes a great choice. It's minimalist vibe and focus on imagery over reams of text stems from the art form it takes its name from, so why not go with the (zen) flow and take a step into presentation serenity? Building a presentation in Haiku Deck is a real joy as it is so quick and painless. The focus is on powerful imagery and language, so it really is appropriate for this task. The video below is a useful link highlighting a potential Haiku Deck + iMovie combo:
Other options here could include the use of the ubiquitous Book Creator to build a multimedia ebook around the theme (or collating a class book via Dropbox even.)That's all for now. I hope you've found some of these ideas useful and can incorporate them into your practice somehow.