Words that imitate the sounds characters and objects make, like pow!, meow, hiss, and choo-choo, are examples of onomatopoeia. Stories with descriptive, lively words like bang!, whoo-whoo, and buzz are fun to read and listen to.
Comics, graphic novels, advertisements, poems, and songs use onomatopoeia. Say, Snap!, Crackle!, Pop! to your students, and ask what comes to mind. Many will respond with the name of a breakfast cereal. Once students have learned the concept of this figure of speech, they can create their own comic strip, advertisement, story, or song using onomatopoeia.
Onomatopoeia words and phrases are commonly used in childrenís books to describe animal sounds. These sounds are not spelled and pronounced the same across cultures. Multicultural classrooms will have fun finding out how different languages express animal sounds. Examples of English versions of common animal sounds are:
meow | cat
woof | dog
oink | pig
buzz | bee
roar | lion
tweet | bird
moo | cow
neigh | horse
hiss | snake
These words are close imitations of actual animal sounds. Although onomatopoeia words and phrases are often used in picture books, they can be challenging for children to read. Many have vowel or consonant blends in their spelling. Onomatopoeia words and phrases found in favorite stories can be used for spin-off phonics lessons, or as teachable moments for students still learning to read.
Here is a list of picture books to use for onomatopoeia lessons:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.: This alphabet and rhyming book demonstrates numerous examples of sounds objects in the story make. Many examples are in big, bold letters, making it easier to point out the use of onomatopoeia.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin: From the cover throughout the story, this book is packed with animal and object sounds. In this story, a group of rebellious cows type demanding letters to Farmer Brown.
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper: This classic story about a small engine that helps a stalled train filled with toys embeds good examples of onomatopoeia in the inspirational storyline.
Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candace Fleming: Bunnies munch away in this humorous book. Itís a nice read aloud with repeating phrases and obvious examples of onomatopoeia.
This book, If You Were Onomatopoeia (Word Fun) by Speed Shaskan, introduces the concept of onomatopoeia in a fun way to students. It includes a variety of creative examples. Look for it in your local library, or find it on Amazon.com.
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Teachers of older students might want to check out KA-BOOM! A Dictionary of Comic Book Words, Symbols & Onomatopoeia at your library. It is also available at Amazon.com.
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