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Beep! Bang! Boom! Let’s Learn about Onomatopoeia

cat using the onomatopoeia word 'meow'

You know that dogs bark and cats meow—but have you ever wondered how these words came to be? Say bark and meow out loud—do you notice anything interesting? That’s right—they sound like what they mean!

When a word sounds like or imitates the thing it describes, it is called onomatopoeia (ŏn–ō–mah–tō–pē–uh).

Here’s one to try with your student: “What sound does food cooking in a frying pan make? Did you make a hissing sound with lots of s’s and z’s? That’s because the food sizzles!”

Onomatopoeia is more common than you might think, and we teach it beginning in Level 1 of the All About Reading program. In fact, English contains so many of these words that it can be easy to overlook that everyday words like splash, knock, buzz, and clap are all examples of onomatopoeia.

Have some fun by trying these other examples with your student.

a cartoon illustration of a cow with a speech bubble saying 'moo'

“What does a cow say?”
(Student makes a mooing sound.)
“Great! Now can you say that like a cow?”
Moo!

a cartoon illustration of a frog with a speech bubble saying 'ribbit'

“What does a frog say?”
(Student makes a ribbit sound.)
“Can you say that like a frog?”
Ribbit!

a cartoon illustration of a racecar with a speech bubble saying 'vroom'

“What does a car engine sound like?”
(Student makes an engine sound.)
“Now can you say that like a car?”
Vroom!

How Do We Teach Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia can be a lot of fun, but it can also be tricky for students to read these words if they’re not familiar with them. Take a look at how we teach onomatopoeia in the All About Reading program to get some extra practice! As you read the stories included below, have your student circle any examples of onomatopoeia they come across.

Learn the sounds of the circus with this story and activity from All About Reading Level 1.

AAR Level 1 Story and Activity to help teach onomatopoeia

AAR Level 1 introduces onomatopoeia in Lesson 27 with an activity called “Swish and Flip!” Many of the words introduced here are encountered in “The Big Top” and subsequent stories.

Download Level 1 Onomatopoeia Activity “Swish and Flip!”
Download Level 1 Story: “The Big Top”

Learn how a girl and her pony take care of each other with this story and activity from All About Reading Level 2.

AAR Level 2 Story and Activity to help teach onomatopoeia

Students are exposed to more examples of onomatopoeia in an activity from Lesson 24 called “Clip, Clop, Crack!” Many of the words introduced here are encountered in a short story called “Champ.”

Download Level 2 Onomatopoeia Activity “Clip, Clop, Crack!”
Download Level 2 Story: “Champ”

More Fun with Words

If you had fun learning about onomatopoeia, then you’ll love our other Fun with Words posts! Here are a couple of our favorites:

cartoon illustration of a piece of cake

Teaching Idioms: It’s a Piece of Cake!

I won’t beat around the bush—this blog post about teaching idioms takes the cake!

cartoon illustration of a moped

Fun with Portmanteaus

Introduce your student to portmanteaus and open up a whole new world of fun with words!

Now that we’ve learned all about onomatopoeia and how to spot these fun words, please share your favorites in the comments below!

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Ashley Little

says:

Looks amazing! I absolutely love how this is laid out for children to learn!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Ashley!

Christine

says:

This looks great! Can’t wait until my kids get to these since they are fun to teach!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Christine,
Oh, yes! Onomatopoeia’s are so much fun!

Aleka

says:

These are so fun, my kids love them!!

Brittney

says:

I love that AAR doesn’t leave any gaps in teaching children to read and covers it in an approachable way!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Brittney!

Monica Baker

says:

Love to try your pre reading curriculum.

Ashley Ramon

says:

So excited about starting next week with my daughter!

Merry

says: Customer Service

OH how fun! I hope you have a great start to your homeschool year! :-)

Kara

says:

These are super fun!!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Yes they are! Thank you, Kara.

Rhonda

says:

We had fun with these. Thank you!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Rhonda,
Thank you for letting us know that your enjoyed this! You’re welcome.

Sarah Mesa

says:

Love all the info here! Very resourceful!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Sarah!

Kim

says:

I just learned what this was with my son not too long ago!

Laura

says:

This is great!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Laura!

Katie

says:

My son learned about onomatopoeia words in Level 2 this year and now he points them out by himself all the time! AAR does a great job introducing this concept and making it fun.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Katie. I love that your son enjoys pointing out onomatopoeias!

Angela Bennett

says:

My son loves reading onomatopoeia words!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Onomatopoeia words are so much fun!

Jenn

says:

AAR Level 1 is our top contender at the moment for our next school year. Thanks for the glimpse! I could see both of my girls thoroughly enjoying this.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Jenn,
I’m glad this glimpse of All About Reading was helpful! You can also find multiple full lessons of each level in our All About Reading Samples.

Beth

says:

I love idioms.

Robin

says: Customer Service

We do too, Beth!

Carrie

says:

My daughter and I enjoyed going through the Level 1 Onomatopoeia activity. Thank you!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Carrie! Great to hear you and your daughter enjoyed it!

Rachel

says:

My 2 year old loved to meow when we did this lesson with my Kindergartner!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Rachel,
How cute! I love that your toddler could join in on the lesson!

Katherine

says:

So interesting!

Sara Wilke

says:

My kids have loved learning about onomatopeias! AAR does a great job with teaching it in a fun and easy to understand way.

Isabel

says:

I have never heard of Onomatopoeia before until teaching my children with this amazing curriculum. LOVE IT.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Great to hear you are learning new things along with your children, Isabel!

Linda Torres

says:

So interesting! Honestly I have never heard of onomatopoeia. I love that the all about learning resources are so thorough.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Linda!

Willow

says:

The best thing about this curriculum is the constantly updating site with activities and information to make it easier.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Willow!

Noreen

says:

Great resources, thanks!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Noreen!

Shilo

says:

Looks so fun

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Shilo!

Hilllary Rupert

says:

Thank you this was so fun for my daughter!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Hillary,
Thank you! It’s great to hear that your daughter enjoyed this!

Shannon A

says:

Well, that looks fun! But then i think just saying onomatopoeia is fun.

Robin

says: Customer Service

I agree, Shannon! Onomatopoeia is right up there with parallelogram and antidisestablishmentarianism for being just plain fun to say!

Lisa

says:

So fun! Looking forward to getting to this as we’re working through Level 1 now.

Alex P.

says:

This program looks like it would be a lot of fun and keep my child’s interest. I can’t wait to use it.

Amy Charpie

says:

Thank you for making this fun for my kiddo who has dyslexia!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Amy! It’s so great to hear that your child is enjoying reading!

Kim McBride

says:

This is a very good learning tool>