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Argument Haiku

posted: 11.19.09 by Barclay Barrios

One of the teachers in our writing program stopped me in the hall to share his success using argument haiku in class.  I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite activities.  In the book I’ve paired it with a Kwame Anthony Appiah selection, but it’s a versatile tool.  I’ve used it with any number of readings and have used it in peer review exercises as well.

The actual activity is simple: take an argument from a paper or a reading and summarize it as a haiku—three lines of seven, then five, then seven syllables.

I’ve always found anything vaguely creative or arts-and-crafty tends to engage students.  In part I think it gets students excited because it breaks up the usual atmosphere of the writing classroom and in part I think it’s because students love doing something different and in part everyone loves writing haiku (especially bad ones).  But the secret is that it takes a lot of thinking to make this exercise happen and that’s why it is so useful.  Students need to identify the very core idea of an essay to break it into seventeen syllables.  And when used in peer review, authors quickly learn whether or not they’ve successfully expressed and supported their arguments.

We’re reading Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” right now in our standard assignment sequence.  If I had to make a haiku for that essay I would try:

Global supply chains
Bring peace; terrorists use them
Too. Ai-yah!  Flat world!

Or maybe:

Collaboration
In the flat world works both ways:
Both for peace and war.

Are there any specific readings you would pair with this assignment?

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Emerging, Rhetorical Situation
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One Response to “Argument Haiku”

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