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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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Andrea

says:

We had fun with learning this lesson in AAR level one!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Andrea!

Sara Bonjour

says:

It’s a great word to say and so much fun to teach!

Robin

says: Customer Service

So true, Sara!

Isabel

says:

It was so fun to learn about Onomatopoeia, I’ve never heard of that term so I’m actually learning alongside my kids.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Isabel,
I loved when I learned along side my children! Glad this could help you do the same!

Christina

says:

We just completed an onomatopoeia lesson in AAR 3! We completely went off on a tangent with all the different sound words they could think of. Plus it’s just such a fun word to say.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Christina,
I love how the reading lesson was a jumping off point for further fun learning about words! (And it is so much fun to say onomatopoeia!)

Jeni Schnake

says:

I can’t wait to do AAR 1 with my 5 yo. I think she’s going to love onomatopoeia words. We’re on lesson 22 of pre-reading now so it’ll be a little bit.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Jeni,
You can teach onomatopoeias orally too! It can be a lot of fun to try to find all the many we use day to day!

Marjorie Stevenson

says:

Onomatopoeia are such fun to teach and read!

Kelly

says:

My son really enjoyed this lesson in AAR1!

Robin

says: Customer Service

It is a fun one! Thanks, Kelly.

Jessica

says:

I have always thought onomatopoeia was such a fun word to use that I always share it with the kids I’m teaching. It is such a fun way to add creativity to any conversation or writing.

Robin

says: Customer Service

So true, Jessica! It’s a fun word and a fun concept, and a great way to put some excitement in learning English!

Rachel Gorman

says:

I’ve been looking into this curriculum for awhile now. I think it will be a good fit. It looks colorful and fun!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Rachel!

Do you need help with placement, ordering, or anything else? I’m happy to help!

Dulce H

says:

Wow! Pow!!! Crashhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Great onomatopoeias, Dulce!

Shannon

says:

Onomatopoeia! What a fun word to say. We just covered this along with many other examples of figurative language as we read James and the Giant Peach.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Shannon,
I love approaching literary terms and language through great books! James and the Giant Peach is such a fun one!

Cherie

says:

Clip clop

Robin

says: Customer Service

Great examples, Cherie!

Whitney Guzman

says:

Thank you for this. This is exactly why I love this curriculum/company. So many resources.

Robin

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Whitney! It’s great to hear you appreciate the resources we offer. Thank you!

Rebecca

says:

This is so helpful! Thank you!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rebecca!

Lynette Moore

says:

How do I leave a blog? I’m new to all this and am excited to be able to help my daughter to do better In school with help from ppl like you with a website like this one thanks

Robin

says: Customer Service

Lynette,
You left a great comment on the blog here!

Do you have any questions or are looking for anything specific for you daughter? Let me know. I’m happy to help!

Laura

says:

I think this would be a great unit study or activity for kids who are comfortable with basic language arts and need something to spice up their routine.

Robin

says: Customer Service

So true, Laura! Learning about onomatopoeias is a great way to add some fun in Language Arts!

Melissa

says:

My daughter loves the word Onomatopoeia! 🤣

Robin

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
I agree with your daughter. Onomatopoeia is such a fun word!

Megan

says:

Wow!! This is amazing, what a fun way to explore language.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Megan! It is a lot of fun.

Jennifer Bagley

says:

All about reading sounds like a really fun curriculum! What kid wouldn’t love it?

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jennifer!

Ashley

says:

Love that it makes learning fun and engaging!! Can’t wait to try it out!!

Katie

says:

Love how this program makes lessons so fun!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Katie!

Brittany

says:

So excited to use this with my little one!

Kaylene

says:

I’m so thankful to AAR. I’ve taught two busy boys to read using this program and am starting with my third son this January. It’s perfect for quick, engaging lesson and I’m so thankful I found it early in my homeschooling! It’s made learning fun and so encouraging for everyone involved!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Kaylene,
It’s so great to hear that All About Reading is working well for you and your kids! Thank you for sharing!

Laura

says:

What a cute lesson! Champ was my daughter’s favorite in Level 2!

Mariana

says:

Thank you for making reading much easier for our littles AAR!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Oh, you are so welcome, Mariana!

Terrisa

says:

My littles would find this lesson very fun! Excited to get started will AAR!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Terrisa,
It is a very fun lesson!

Let me know if you have questions or need help with placemen or anything else as you get started in All About Reading. I’m happy to help!

Monica

says:

My students always have so much fun with onomatopoeia!

Robin

says: Customer Service

It is such a fun concept, Monica! Glad your students enjoy it too!

Joanna

says:

This is so helpful!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Glad to hear it, Joanna! Thank you!

Heather

says:

The resources are always so colorful and engaging for young students.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Heather!

Jessica Friday

says:

So much fun!! Love all your ideas

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jessica!