Easy and Brilliant Ways to Teach What is a Onomatopoeia

What is an Onomatopoeia?  It’s hard enough to say the word and teach students how to say it, never mind explaining the concept on a kid level.  However, teaching literary devices and figurative language can breathe new air into their writing.  Literary devices help students go from telling a story to showing it.

Onomatopoeia Def Just Won’t Cut It

Teaching our students the onomatopoeia def is simply not enough for them to truly understand this complex literary device.  We have all had those days where we are teaching our students by standing at the front of the room and simply telling them what they should know.  We forget all the things we’ve learned in college and from our experience, and it shows.  Literary devices and figurative language are important parts of being able to write well, but our students won’t use them if they don’t find them fun and interesting. 


The Struggle to Teach What is a Onomatopoeia

The usual culprit of our lapse in teacher judgment is time.  We are always in such a time crunch that we are stressed and struggle to create or find a well-prepared lesson that will help us teach these concepts the best we can.  Let’s put a breath of fresh air into our students’ writing with literary devices, so they will be more successful writers and we can grade more interesting writing. 


5 Easy Steps to Teach What is a Onomatopoeia

To successfully teach your students onomatopoeias you only need five steps.  With these five steps, your students will go from introduction to implementation of onomatopoeias in their own writing.  Beyond learning how to be better writers every student will have fun with these lessons.

What is a Onomatopoeia From Other Perspectives

Onomatopoeia Definition

50 Examples of Onomatopoeias You Never Thought of

Onomatopoeia: Word Lists & Examples

Time-Saving Teacher Tips for Teaching Onomatopoeia Def

I have some awesome time-saving teacher tips that will help you teach your students how to use onomatopoeias successfully. I researched the best lesson, ideas, and activities and brought them together in one place just for you.  When you’re finished with this article you will be more than ready to teach onomatopoeias. 


What is a Onomatopoeia to Your Students?

The actual literary definition of onomatopoeia is complex and so far from a kid level. Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz, hiss).” The examples make this definition much more accessible, but as teachers, we can do better.  

Fortunately, the world is full of teachers who have all come up with ways to explain it to kids.  I have scoured the internet for definitions that students might understand and have several to share with you.

  • Words where the sound of the word mimics the meaning.
  • Sound words.
  • Noisy words.
  • A word that names a sound, but also sounds like that sound.
  • Sound imagery because the imagery is descriptive language that appeals to the senses and onomatopoeias appeal to the sense of sound.

Now you have some options of what definition you’d like to use with your students as you introduce it.  Here is a great way to go about the introduction.

1. Have students imitate a bee.  They will hopefully feel a little silly buzzing.  After a few moments, you can explain the zzzz in buzz sound like a bee.  That’s what makes it an onomatopoeia.

2. Repeat this with a few other words such as hiss, moo, pop, and boom. (You may notice this list went from animals to objects to help them get into it.  It can feel extra strange pretending to be an explosion, especially with older students.

3. Play this Onomatopoeia Video for your students. It’s a bit cheesy so it should make them laugh and solidify what you’ve discussed as a class.

what is-an-example-of-a-onomatopoeia

What is an Example of a Onomatopoeia in Literature?

Now your students hopefully have a good understanding of what onomatopoeia is.  Let’s check their understanding and add clarification for anyone who needs it.

4. Create an Onomatopoeia Web.  On the board write the word onomatopoeia.  Ask students for some examples. Hopefully, they are full of them.

5. Next your students are going to try to pick out some onomatopoeias in books and poems.  You can use anything you have on hand, but here are a few options

a. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? By Dr. Suess

b. Dear Fish by Chris Gall

c. Bells by Edgar Allen Poe

d. Any Shel Silberstein book

e. Comic books, especially old school Batman

6. If you want to take your lesson one step further ask your students to highlight all sensory detail.  Use one color for each sense. 

What is a Onomatopoeia Purpose in Literature and Writing

Wow! Your students have learned so much already, but we aren’t done yet.  It’s so important that your students understand why they are learning something.  What is the point?  Why do they need to do it?

This is something that my gymnasts love and hate about me.  I stop them from doing gymnastics to talk about it all the time.  I want my gymnasts to understand why they are doing a specific drill.  What is it teaching them about the trick they are dying to get and how they need to apply that little swing of the arms to the trick so they don’t fall on their heads?

7. The purpose of onomatopoeia is that it adds vividness to their writing or poem.  Let’s be honest that is what their writing lacks and why it’s so boring to read and grade.  It’s flat, but once they add onomatopoeias the reader will feel like they are experiencing what the characters experience.

Practicing What is a Onomatopoeia

This is where everything gets a little bit more fun.  I love to incorporate hands-on learning in any and every lesson I can.  I don’t always have time, but my students’ understanding grows the more I successfully implement hands-on learning.

8. Word Art

In onomatopoeia word art students will pick an onomatopoeia word to illustrate.  You can provide options or they can pick from previous activities.  They can make “boom” explode, “splash” can have water popping out, “pop” can be bouncing in the air. 

9. Scavenger Hunt

They’ve already done a little bit of this, but it’s good independent or partner practice.  Give them an alphabet chart or just a piece of paper.  Let them gather a list of onomatopoeias from books.  It can be a great notebook resource to look back at.

10.  Sorting Game

I love giving students a list of onomatopoeias and having them sort through them, matching them with a reasonable person or item.  If you’d like my What is an Onomatopoeia Game you can grab it from my TpT store.


Applying Onomatopoeia Def By Putting Onomatopoeias in Their Writing

I always tell my gymnasts that if they practice the drill, but never put the pieces together in the trick it’s pointless.  They have to use what I taught them so they can get better. 

There are a few ways you can help your students start applying onomatopoeias. 

11.  In small groups or independently students can look in some books and add onomatopoeias on sticky notes. They can share with friends or as a class.

12.  With a partner or independently students can reread a recent draft and try to add some onomatopoeias.

13.  Independently students can write a new story with onomatopoeias.

What is a Onomatopoeia Magic

Your students writing should become more vivid with onomatopoeias.  Their work should be more enjoyable to write and read once they implement onomatopoeias.  It’s well worth the time and effort to teach them.  However, we also need to talk about where onomatopoeias fall in state standards.  In the common core standards for ELA, onomatopoeias fall under figurative language.  These are the standards listed for grades 4/5/6. 

  • Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
  • Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.

However, depending on your state it could be much more specific so be sure to check it out.  It’s important to know that onomatopoeias are figurative language.  Figurative language falls under the bigger umbrella of literary devices.  So basically you can put any standard that mentions literary devices or figurative language as the standard you are working on with your students.

More Poetry and Writing Articles.

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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