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Teaching Onomatopoeia: Elementary to High School

written by: Sarah Malburg • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 3/2/2012

Onomatopoeia may be a long, funny sounding word, but many students quickly pick up this concept. These teaching ideas will help students at all levels master the use of onomatopoeia words.

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    What is Onomatopoeia?

    Onomatopoeia describes words that look like the sound they make. Common examples of onomatopoeia include: bam, bang, bing, buzz, crackle, clang, clatter, creak, ding, dong, fizz, glug, growl, grunt, gurgle, howl, hum, knock, meow, moan, murmur, neigh, oink, ping, pong, pop, plop, rattle, rip, roar, slap, smack, snap, squawk, thud, tweet, wham, whiz, whoosh, yawn, yelp, and zoom

    For all lesson plans, introduce onomatopoeia to students. Ask the class if they have heard or know anything about onomatopoeia. Explain to students what onomatopoeia is and provide them with a few examples. Brainstorm more examples of onomatopoeia as a class. Write these words on the board for student reference.

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    For Elementary Students

    I. Match students with a partner and ask them to create a list of 10 onomatopoeia words. Next, instruct them to use the words to write five sentences. Based on what your students have already studied you could ask for all four types of sentences or compound sentences. Call on various groups to share one or two of their sentences, highlighting the onomatopoeia word.

    II. Pass out comic strips to students. Tell the students they are to highlight onomatopoeia words. Consider placing four or five comic strips onto one sheet and photocopying so all students have the same worksheet. This makes it easier to check and discuss the onomatopoeia words.

    III. Play a nature CD for students such as the rain forest or oceans. As students hear examples of onomatopoeia words, they jot them down on a sheet of paper. After a few minutes, stop the CD and create a T-Chart with students. Label the two columns on the cart: onomatopoeia words and source of sounds. Ask the class to share their words to complete the two columns.

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    Middle School Teachng Ideas

    I. Build off the elementary lesson plan for finding onomatopoeia words in comic strips. Provide students with a worksheet of one or two comic strips. Instruct them to find onomatopoeia words and review the words together. Ask students to create their own comic strip using onomatopoeia words. Create guidelines for the students to follow such as the comic strip must contain five boxes and five different onomatopoeia words. Brainstorm as a class to create a list of onomatopoeia words before starting the comic strips.

    II. Brainstorm as a class to create a list of onomatopoeia words, and write the words on the board for student reference. Tell the students they will create a jingle about one of their favorite products or foods. Explain that a jingle is a catchy slogan for a product that grabs the audience's attention by using memorable phrases and has musical backing. Provide students with an example of a jingle like the snap, crackle, pop jingle for Rice Krispies or the plop, plop, fizz, fizz for Alka Seltzer. Ask students to use a minimum for two onomatopoeia words in their jingle.

    III. Combine teaching onomatopoeia with poetry. Again, brainstorm a list of onomatopoeia words for student reference. Ask the students to write an original poem, preferably a type that has been studied and discussed in class before. Instruct the students to include three to five examples of onomatopoeia in their poem. After the first draft is complete, allow students time to proofread and peer-edit. Consider reading the poems and offering suggestions for final drafts. An additional assignment, ask the students to illustrate their final draft, focusing on the onomatopoeia words.

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    In High School

    Hopefully, by high school onomatopoeia words are old news. Consider a review of all literary terms, including onomatopoeia words, by creating a Mad Libs sheet. Write a silly story or modify a story to meet your needs. Consider including literary terms like onomatopoeia, idiom, personification, alliteration or an oxymoron. Create a sheet of blanks with the literary term or reference needed. Put the students in pairs and allow them to each complete the blank sheet. Then, pass out the silly story and have a few volunteers read their Mad Libs to the class. Review any mistakes in literary terms the students may have provided and ask them to correct the mistake.