Saturday, July 8, 2017

Make Some Noise with Onomatopoeia!

Onomatopoeia Super Hero Comic created using Google Drawing.

Slurp, bang, thud, boom, pow, crunch, sizzle, splat, ka-boom!!! Onomatopoeia words are full of action, silliness, texture, and fun. Onomatopoeia is defined as a poetic structure of words used to convey sounds. However, when I teach the concept to my students I simply explain that onomatopoeia is a sound word.

Onomatopoeia words add flavor and excitement to our writing. They are a wonderful way to hook a reader into our writing, and to lift the words off of the page and into our imaginations. What would you rather read about, lightning flashing across the sky, or lightning crackling across the sky? Bacon frying, or bacon sizzling and popping in the pan? Books falling to the floor, or books falling to floor with a thud? I know which I would choose. I'm a sucker for onomatopoeia every time, and so are my students once I teach them about onomatopoeia.

Onomatopoeia words are all around us. They are sounds in nature like leaves rustling, a stream gurgling, or thunder booming. They are the sounds of eating and drinking like the slurp of a spaghetti noodle, the fizz of soda pop, and the crunch of a potato chip. They are the sounds that animals make like the moo of a cow, the chirp of a bird, or the roar of a lion. Did you know that different languages use different onomatopoeia sounds for animals? In Spanish a rooster says quiquiriquí instead of cock-a-doodle-doo, a bird says pío instead of tweet, and a frog says croá, croá instead of croak.

Onomatopoeia words always make me think of action. Perhaps this is why they are used so frequently in comic books. Fight scenes are peppered with pows, zaps, and boings. When I introduce onomatopoeia, I like to have the students brainstorm onomatopoeia words and include an action with them for the rest of the class to imitate. A kick becomes a ka-pow, a wrist and hand flick a slap, and holding one's noise and keeling forward an achoo! The activity gets us all moving, being silly, and having fun with onomatopoeia.

A hilarious book to read to students while noticing onomatopoeia words is the picture book The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch. The book, which combines mystery, onomatopoeia words, and bathroom humor is sure to make students and adults (me) giggle. The story is about a little mole who wakes up one morning, pops out of his hole only to have some animal do his business (poop) on his head. Since, the mole is near-sighted and can't see who the perpetrator is, the rest of the book involves him interviewing a variety of animals to figure out who is the culprit of his unfortunate incident. Each animal explains what his business looks like, and the author includes an interesting array of onomatopoeia sounds to describe it as well.  The rabbit's business flies out with a rat-a-tat-tat, the goat with a plippety plop, and the cow with a kerplosh. 

The Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch.

Yes, it's gross and a bit juvenile, but I guarantee it will capture your students' attention. I have students listen with a notebook in hand to write down their favorite onomatopoeia words from the book. They love repeating the various sounds, and getting all of us to cry out, "Ewwww, and disgusting," all over again. If you are uncomfortable reading this type of book aloud to your students, or can't get a hold of the book, there are several read aloud versions on YouTube. Here is the link to the read aloud version of the book. There are also many other books that illustrate onomatopoeia in perhaps a less potty humor form: Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss, Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

There are lots of activities that students can do to practice, write, identify, and play with onomatopoeia.
Students can create their own Super Hero Comic in Google Drawing, Slides, or Seesaw. Then students can add speech bubbles, and call outs to highlight the onomatopoeia words being shown. They can take pictures of each other to make themselves the super heroes, find images, or even draw their own.

A challenging activity my students also enjoy tackling is to write a poem about an activity using only onomatopoeia words. Students should only mention their chosen activity in the title, and not read the title when they are sharing with the class. Afterward, the class can guess what activity the poem is about by listening to the onomatopoeia words. My students have had lots of fun trying to identify whether their classmates are writing about football, soccer, rodeo, skiing, or even cooking.

Early Morning, Making Fried Eggs
By: Casey, 6th grade

Stretch, stretch
Step, step, creak, creak
Sizzle, Sizzle
Click, click
Om, om, om

Free photo Fry Fried Yolk Breakfast Egg Frying Pan - Max Pixel

Onomatopoeia is a lively way to add pop, sizzle, and pow to our writing. Like the words itself, onomatopoeia allows our students to get moving, get active, and make some noise in their writing.

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