Tanka Poems: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Donald Nicolas
In this lesson you will discover and learn about ancient poems from Japan! These poems are called tanka poems. Did you know that these poems are short and follow some very special rules? After you learn about them you will enjoy writing them!

Tanka Poems

Want to know about a fun type of poem to write? Tanka poetry goes back a very long time. The history of tanka poems began in Japan.

This is the Japanese flag. Japan is where tanka poems originated.

How to Write a Tanka Poem

Tanka poems follow a set of rules. They all have five lines and each line follows a pattern: the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, the third line has five syllables, the fourth line has seven syllables, and the fifth line has seven syllables.

Line 1 - 5 syllables

Line 2 - 7 syllables

Line 3 - 5 syllables

Line 4 - 7 syllables

Line 5 - 7 syllables

What is a Syllable?

This form of a tanka poem has a total of 31 syllables. Syllables are word parts or sounds.

Say the word 'poster'. Clap for every part of the word 'poster'. Did you do it? Great! If you did it right, you should have found two parts to the word 'poster'. Now you can write a tanka poem. Tanka poems are very similar to another type of Japanese poem called haiku. Haiku poems are shorter than tanka poems. Haiku poems follow this pattern:

Line 1 - 5 syllables

Line 2 - 7 syllables

Line 3 - 5 syllables

Example of a Tanka Poem

Tanka poems can be written about any subject, so you can write a tanka poem about your dog, your cat, or even your favorite TV show.


What food do you like?

I enjoy every type

Vegetables and fruit

Hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries

All of them are my delight

Literary Devices

Tanka poems also use (are you ready for a big word?) literary devices. Literary devices are what authors use to make the poem more fun and interesting to you. Some literary devices include rhyme, imagery, similes, personification and metaphors.

Even though not all tanka poems will have these, some will. Imagery, for example, lets you draw a picture in your mind about what you're reading.

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