Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Fun With Tanka Poems

Recovery Curriculum Resources from Leeds Museum and Galleries

These resources are designed to support a recovery curriculum and can be used in any education setting. They complement the ‘Supporting the Return to School for All Pupils’ guidance in Leeds and the PACE approach of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.

Silver wreath sculpture by Junko Mori.
Silver Poetry Spring Fever Ring by Junko Mori

Born in Japan, Junko Mori was inspired by the coastline of North Wales where she now lives.

This silver wreath is made up of 31 different hand-made parts clustered to create a ring of flowers and leaves. Some parts of the silver are polished to make them shiny, while others are left white. The number 31 references the Japanese poetic tradition of the ‘Tanka’ in which 31 syllables are used.

Watch the YouTube video of Junko Mori explaining how she made it:


Expressive Communication

Tanka is a type of ancient Japanese poetry that follows specific rules on the amount of syllables used. The poem as a whole has five lines that add up to 31 syllables. An example below could be:

  1. Line 1 – 5 syllables 'Gaze up at the trees' 
  2. Line 2 – 7 syllables 'Look as far as you can see'
  3. Line 3 – 5 syllables 'Autumn is coming'
  4. Line 5 – 7 syllables 'The red leaves are falling down'
  5. Line 5 – 5 syllables 'Crunching on the ground'

Tanka poems can be based on any theme.

  • Set your class the challenge of writing a Tanka poem; either in groups to create five lines between them or each group takes a line to combine together at the end.

Silver wreath sculpture by Junko Mori
Silver Poetry Spring Fever Ring by Junko Mori


Part of a recovery curriculum means enjoying being back in the classroom with a chance for fun and laughter.

  • Inspired by the number 31 as used in Junko Mori’s wreath, come up with some circle time games with each pupil assigned a number from 1 – 31 (teachers included if needed). For example, arranging your circle from oldest to youngest or alphabetical order.
  • For a nature theme assign each pupil with a different nature item. Pupils can role play being a tree, bird, flower, different animals etc. and play a memory game to remember what their classmates are.
  • Adapt circle time games to abilities and interests with the aim of working together, problem-solving and decision making.

Acceptance and Empathy

Junko Mori describes this silver wreath as a symbol of the circle of life and infinity.

  • Give each pupil a blank circle and choose a theme such as ‘What Makes Me Unique’, ‘What Makes Me Happy’ or ‘What Are My Favourite Things’. Pupils fill in their circles with drawings, collage, writing and pictures. Take time for pupils to share and discuss their circles, celebrating what makes us different.

Curiosity, Creativity and Collaboration

  • Give each pupil the task of finding something from nature or make something nature inspired. It could be a leaf, a twig, a flower, whatever they choose. If possible, the amount of nature items should equal 31 pieces inspired by Junko Mori’s wreath above.
  • Using whatever you have to hand make a wreath/ ring shape from cardboard. Invite each pupil to add their piece to your classroom nature wreath. Add a loop of string and hang up!
  • Discuss how each individual piece is important, but together they make something new and beautiful.

Silver wreath sculpture by Junko Mori
Silver Poetry Spring Fever Ring by Junko Mori