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.
“What does a cow say?”
(Student makes a mooing sound.)
“Great! Now can you say that like a cow?”
“What does a frog say?”
(Student makes a ribbit sound.)
“Can you say that like a frog?”
“What does a car engine sound like?”
(Student makes an engine sound.)
“Now can you say that like a car?”
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 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.
Learn how a girl and her pony take care of each other with this story and activity from All About Reading Level 2.
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.”
If you had fun learning about onomatopoeia, then you’ll love our other Fun with Words posts! Here are a couple of our favorites:
I won’t beat around the bush—this blog post about teaching idioms takes the cake!
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!