K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • be able to describe and discuss artwork, particularly the No’om sculpture.
  • demonstrate an ability to write a haiku poem.
  • be able to describe how a poem and a visual artwork are similar and different.

Teacher planning

Time required

Two class periods

Materials needed

  • Background information on haiku — one per student (or have each student pull up this website on a computer)
  • Copies of Funeral Relief of No’om, Wife of Haira, Son of Maliku — one per student
  • Picture book or story from fourth grade reading book (Teacher’s choice) — one copy per pair of students
  • Paper
  • Pencils

Technology resources

  • Computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector
  • Computers or laptops for each student (optional)


Funeral relief of No’om, wife of Haira, son of Maliku
Students write a haiku about the sculpture in the picture.
Open as PDF (409 KB, 1 page)

Teacher background

Palmyrene funerary art background information
This document provides background information for educators on Palmyra, Palmyrene Funerary Art, and the bust of No’om.
Open as PDF (87 KB, 1 page)
No’om poster
This poster from the Ackland Art Museum provides background information for educators on the bust of No’om.
Open as PDF (3 MB, 1 page)
No’om brochure
This brochure from the Ackland Art Museum provides additional background information on the bust of No’om.
Open as PDF (537 KB, 2 pages)


Review the Critical Vocabulary with the students prior to starting this lesson.


Day one

  1. Tell the students that they will be learning how to use descriptive language to write a haiku. Ask the students if they know what a haiku is. Tell them it is a type of poem, and these poems are written in such a way so as to paint a mental picture in the reader’s mind.
  2. Give each student copies of the background information on haiku. If each student has access to a computer, have them pull this website up on their computers instead.
  3. As a class, discuss the activities mentioned on this website. Have the students work on these activities in pairs.
  4. Next, have the students work in pairs to read the pre-selected story together.
  5. Once everyone has finished their story, have the students create a bubble map to brainstorm descriptions of objects, colors, emotions, characters, etc. that they read about in the story. You may walk around to talk with each pair of students during this time. If all the students read the same story, you can do this part of the activity as a class.
  6. Remind students of the meaning and structure of a haiku.
  7. Show the students how to use the words they brainstormed in their bubble maps to write a haiku. You may want to write one together as a class first.
  8. Have students work with their partners to complete a haiku using the descriptive words they brainstormed. Have the students share their poems with the class when finished.
  9. After each pair presents, you may wish to conduct a whole-class discussion. Some sample questions might include:
    1. What does the poem tell us about the story?
    2. What does it not tell us about the story?
    3. Why did you choose to represent certain aspects of the text in your haiku?
  10. Depending on time, students may create more than one haiku.

Day two

Funerary relief in white stone of a woman named No'om, c. 150 CE, with a dark gray background

Funeral relief of No’om, wife of Haira, son of Maliku Used with permission from the Ackland Art Museum. About the photograph

  1. Give each student a copy of the picture of No’om.
  2. Ask the students to describe everything they see in the picture (color, texture, features, symbols, dimensions, how it makes them feel, etc.).
  3. Create a bubble map with the descriptive words you come up with as a class.
  4. You can give the students a brief explanation of what the sculpture is and where it came from.
  5. Have students get back with their partners from the previous day. Have them work in pairs to write a haiku about No’om. Encourage them to use the descriptive words you brainstormed as a class. Remind them that haikus are meant to paint mental images in the readers’ minds.
  6. After the students have written their haikus, have them share their poems with the class. Ask the students to share why they chose certain aspects of the sculpture to represent in their poems. Discuss how hearing a poem about this artwork is different from viewing the artwork.
  7. Have the students return to their seats for a whole-class discussion. Some discussion questions might include:
    1. What did you enjoy about writing a haiku?
    2. What was challenging about writing this type of poetry?
    3. Was it more or less challenging to write a haiku about No’om than it was to write a haiku about the book you read?
    4. What were the differences between writing poetry about something visual versus something written?


  • Ask students to create a different type of representation of the No’om bust. The representation can take on a variety of forms such as a play, a song, a dance, a narrative, etc. Encourage students to still include all of the descriptive words they used when they were writing their poetry. Students can present their work to their classmates.
  • You could also compile all or some of the words that were used during this lesson and give the students an informal vocabulary quiz.


This modification is geared towards English Language Learners, but it can be applicable to the class as a whole, as well: Ask students to pick five of the most descriptive words they have come up with to describe No’om and create a way to demonstrate these words through a nonverbal method (e.g., painting or dance). The rest of the class will be asked to guess the word that the student is representing.

Critical vocabulary

descriptive writing
the practice of describing people, places, objects, or events in details that are specific, creative and appropriate; details often elaborate and evoke one or more of the five senses — sight, sound, smell, feel, or taste
a form of Japanese poetry usually written in seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables; often about nature
a set of mental pictures or images
written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure
one or more letters representing a unit of spoken language consisting of a single, uninterrupted sound

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 3
          • 3.RL.5 Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
        • Grade 4
          • 4.RL.5 Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking...
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.4 With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • 4.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 4.CX.1.1 Understand how the visual arts have affected, and are reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of North Carolina. 4.CX.1.2 Recognize key contributions...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.07: Compose a variety of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama selections using self-selected topics and forms (e.g., poems, simple narratives, short reports, learning logs, letters, notes, directions, instructions).
    • Objective 4.09: Produce work that follows the conventions of particular genres (e.g., personal narrative, short report, friendly letter, directions and instructions).

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.04: Share self-selected texts from a variety of genres (e.g., poetry, letters, narratives, essays, presentations).
    • Objective 4.07: Compose fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using self-selected and assigned topics and forms (e.g., personal and imaginative narratives, research reports, diaries, journals, logs, rules, instructions).
    • Objective 4.09: Produce work that follows the conventions of particular genres (e.g., personal and imaginative narrative, research reports, learning logs, letters of request, letters of complaint).

Visual Arts Education (2001)

Grade 4

  • Goal 5: The learner will understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
    • Objective 5.01: Recognize that art can serve more than one purpose and/or function in a given culture.