National Poetry Month: “A Thousand Paper Cranes” inspires writing

April 24th, 2013

On this last full week of April, we continue our National Poetry Month celebration with some student poems inspired by Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and the classroom project centered around the book. We will have one more Poetry Month post next week and you still have time to download our free e-book about teaching poetry.

A Thousand Paper Cranes Inspire Writing

By Lynne R. Dorfman

When I was teaching third grade, my students read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. They were so moved that we searched for websites and more information about Sadako. We asked a fourth-grade class to join us, and we participated in a project with children around the world by sending a thousand paper cranes to Hiroshima for their Peace Day on August 6. The entire initiative for this project came from the students.

Because the students wrote daily in my classroom, conferred, and published frequently, I decided to offer other options to make the project come to life for them. Some of the students interviewed their grandparents or great-grandparents about World War II to gain their perspectives. We experimented with tanka, haiku, bio poems, and persona poems, so we could send our poems to Japan as well. Students wrote letters to family members to talk about what they were doing. We even created a scrolled banner that said, “Peace for the World: Let the Children Become the Peacemakers.” Ethan’s aunt helped us translate our motto into Japanese. Then Ethan carefully painted the letters on parchment paper for us. We displayed our work in the hallways, packaged our cranes with the banner and poetry, and mailed them to Japan. Later, we created a class book of memories with poems, letters, journal entries, and photographs. I still have that book and a newspaper clipping about our project.

Often I write with the children, and sometimes I publish my work alongside theirs in hallways and class books. My students have always viewed me as a member of the writing community. When we have conferences, they’re always writer to writer. They help me revise and see things differently. I am grateful for all the writers in my life. We help each other move forward and imagine the possibilities. A small sampling of our poetry is included here.

Peace for the World
By Lynne R. Dorfman

Blue ghosts linger above Hiroshima’s dome
While deeply scarred faces wander below.
White doves circle a lone statue—
Sadako, stretching outward to release
A crane that joins the flock of peace birds—
Thousands of origami cranes litter the ground.

Silent onlookers remember loved ones lost
As lanterns, fragile warm-yellow swans,
Glide across the cold, black waters.
Families place rice cakes on altars for spirits . . .
For the blue ghosts, for Oba Chan,
And now, for Sadako, too.

Atom bomb brings a mushroom-shaped cloud,
Brings sickness and snatches children
Oh, so slowly . . . oh, so slowly.
Hoping the gods would grant her wish, she labors.
Thick, swollen fingers make fold after fold,
More paper cranes for the hospital ceiling.

Her family waiting, watching, wondering
Who will be the next to join Oba Chan.
It should not be the children . . .
It must not be the children . . .
It will not be the children . . .
Struggling with clumsy fingers,
She makes one last crane.

Remembering Sadako,
she lives.
All over the world
making paper cranes.
Blue ghosts


Young, brave, superstitious
Lover of good luck signs
Who feels frightened and guilty at the same time
Who need enough strength to fold a thousand paper cranes
Who fears death from the dreadful leukemia
Who gives her love and happiness to everyone
Who would like to see herself back on her feet and running
Granddaughter of Oba Chan

—Bio poem by Andrew B. , grade 3

Running, flying fast.
So many cranes to fly with . . .
Sadako still lives.

—Haiku by Alexis & Danielle, grade 3


Wanting to get on her feet again
And run, run, run.
Tangled up in pain,
She still dresses in the kimono
To please her mother.
They need no words.
They ache together.

—Andrew L., grade 3

Folding paper cranes
She bravely fights her illness . . .
Running in the wind.

—Adam, grade 3


Entry Filed under: Writing

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