ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Oceans: A Sensory Haiku

Use your senses to explore and capture a virtual visit to the ocean.


Key Staff

This lesson can be taught by the classroom teacher. No outside assistance is required.

Key Skills

Making Art: Composing and Planning
Creative Thinking: Creativity and Innovation


After exploring a virtual ocean with their five senses, students capture the sensory experience by writing haiku, bringing science and creative writing together as one

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Organize information using a visual map
  • Use vocabulary specific to oceans
  • Understand the constant change that occurs at an ocean shoreline through erosion and deposition
  • Write a sensory haiku about the virtual ocean visit
  • Create a class haiku poster

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative Learning
  • Discovery Learning
  • Self-Directed Learning
  • Reflection
  • Group or Individual Instruction

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Internet Access
  • Projector
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

  • Review the “virtual ocean visit” video
  • Review the River of Words website
  • Review Poetry Teacher’s web site on haiku writing
  • Obtain Water Music: Poems for Children (Jane Yolen) and Least Things (Jane Yolen)
  • If available through the library system, obtain a copy of River of Words (Pamela Michael and Robert Hass), the publication by the organization of the same name. (There are two currently available: 2003 and 2008.)

Prior Student Knowledge

Understanding of the five senses.

Physical Space



Large Group Instruction


  • Check computer/Internet/projector
  • Clean blackboard/whiteboard and have appropriate writing instruments for board
  • Silence any noises in the classroom, such as music, aquarium filter, etc.

Accessibility Notes

  • Hearing impaired students will need an alternative first sense to start the lesson
  • Students with sensory challenges may find that their “other senses” compensate for the sensory loss
  • Students that struggle with vocabulary may need more individual attention as they seek words to describe what they are sensing



1. Capture the sound of the ocean. This exercise works best as students return from another area of the school (lunch, recess, art, etc.). Have only the audio of the virtual ocean video playing as they enter the room. (Turn off the monitor but leave the speakers on.) Gesture to students to remain quiet. Have them gather with you near the blackboard or whiteboard. Leading by example, write one word to describe what you’re hearing on the board. Encourage students to add additional words.


1. Review the five senses.

2. Create a sensory portrait. Each student will draw a portrait of themselves, showing only their five sensory locations (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands – no face or body). Use available art tools.

3. Introduce haiku as a form of poetry to capture senses and moments in time. Use the student-written, award-winning haiku titled "Lucky" to show an example of nature haiku and to dissect the 5-7-5 haiku pattern. Focus on the use of thoughts rather than complete sentences. Introduce students to the River of Words project. Share one of the student-produced publications, if available.

4. Introduce children’s author and poet Jane Yolen. Share select nature haiku poems from her books (Water Music: Poems for Children and Least Things). Ask students to count the beats of each line as the haiku is read aloud. Ask them to identify sensory words.


1. Take a virtual field trip to the ocean. Using the virtual ocean video, students visit the beach and use their five senses to capture the experience.

2. Have students write descriptive sensory words near the appropriate body parts on their sensory portraits. For example, the word “gritty” could be placed by a hand; the word “crashing” could be placed near an ear. Encourage students to use their imaginations to provide words for smell and taste. Ask them to notice any changes that occur throughout the video as the ocean is in motion.


1. Have each student write one or more nature haiku using the sensory portrait and corresponding words. Remind students that haiku poetry has a 5-7-5 pattern and involves thoughts and phrases, not complete sentences.

2. Create a classroom sensory haiku poster. Each student will trace his or her hand onto the poster board. Students will then write their individual haiku poems within the hand traces. Display the poster.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing


Science Standard 2: Understands Earth's composition and structure



Mary Beth Bauernschub
Original Writer

Carol Parenzan Smalley

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Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



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