EL Support Lesson

An Introduction to Onomatopoeia

Use this lesson to help your ELs learn common English sound words. It can be a stand-alone lesson or used as support for the lesson Onomatopoeia practise.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theOnomatopoeia practiseLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theOnomatopoeia practiseLesson plan.

Students will understand the concept of onomatopeia and be able to use them in writing.


Students will be able to identify onomatopoeia and differentiate between verbs and adjectives using sentence stems and a word bank.

(2 minutes)
Graphic Organizer Template: Frayer ModelTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferencePractice Onomatopoeia!Onomatopoeia Visual Glossary CardsVocabulary Cards: An Introduction to OnomatopoeiaGlossary: An Introduction to Onomatopoeia
  • Play a short audio recording from the Onomatopoeia video linked in the Related Media section to demonstrate several common sounds (i.e., a cow mooing, a horn honking, buttons beeping). Explain that these are common sounds we hear every day.
  • Tell students that there are words that imitate the sounds they describe. These "sound words" are called Onomatopoeia. Write this key term as a heading on a piece of chart paper with the sub-heading "sound words."
  • Play the audio recording a second time and, on the chart paper, write an onomatopoeia for each sound (i.e., "moo," "honk," "beep"). This is the start of a word bank that will be used throughout the lesson.
  • Tell students that today they will be learning to identify onomatopoeia in texts.
(10 minutes)
  • Read a picture book aloud that contains onomatopoeia, like Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?By Dr. Suess. Invite students to repeat sound words aloud as they arise in the book.
  • After the book is finished, have students turn and talk to a partner to list as many sound words as they can remember from the book. Then, call on volunteers to suggest sound words that can be added to the word bank.
  • Explain that some sounds have more than one word to describe them. Give the example of rain, which is associated with the onomatopoeia "dibble dopp" in the book. On the word bank, write other onomatopoeia that are associated with rain, like "pitter patter" or "drip."
  • Likewise, some onomatopoeias are associated with more than one thing. Give an example like "chirp," which could describe the sound a bird makes or the sound a cricket makes.
  • Remind students that the onomatopoieas they are learning about are the EnglishWords for sounds, but in other languages, the same sounds may be written or verbalized in a different way. Give an example, such as in Spanish a dog says "guau." Then, invite students to share sound words in their home language(s).
  • Tell students that they will be working together to create a visual glossary for some of the sound words they've learned.
  • Hang up an empty pocket chart and explain to students that they will be playing a "mingle game" in order to build the visual glossary.
  • Hand out one card from the Visual Glossary Card worksheet to each student. Tell students that some people received a picture card and some received an onomatopoeia.
  • Model the activity for students (i.e., hold up a picture card and make some sounds that could go with it, then hold up the matching word card and read the card aloud). Explain that students should study their own card and think of possible matches before finding their partner.
  • Instruct students to stand up and walk around the room, looking for the person who has a card that matches their card. Give a reminder that each pair of students will have one picture and one onomatopoiea.
  • Once students have found their mingle partner, tell them to place their matching cards together in the pocket chart. When the mingle game is complete, there will be a visual glossary for twelve common sound words.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that onomatopoeias can be used as different parts of speech, including Verbs(action words) and Adjectives(words that describe a noun). Show students the Vocabulary Cards worksheet to review the definition of each part of speech.
  • Point to the word "quack" on the visual glossary and explain that, by itself, this is just a sound word. But when we see it in a text, the onomatopoeia will often be used as a part of speech to form a complete sentence.
  • Use the word in a sentence, like "The duck quacks loudly." Underline "quacks" and explain that, in this sentence, the onomatopoeia is also an action. It tells what the duck is Doing, so it is being used as a verb.
  • Write another sentence, like "The quacking duck followed me home." Underline "quacking" and explain that, in this sentence, the onomatopoeia is DescribingThe duck, so it is being used as an adjective.
  • Discuss the difference between the verb and adjective form of the onomatopoeia:
    • Ask students to study the two sentences and think about how the onomatopoeias are different in each.
    • Tell students to turn and talk to a partner about their observations. Offer sentence stems to support the discussion, such as, "When the word is used as a verb, it..../But, when it is used as an adjective, it...."
    • Call on students to share their thoughts and record key points on the board (i.e., when it is a verb, it comes after the subject/when it is an adjective, it comes before the subject).
  • Hand out the worksheet Onomatopoeia practise and display a teaching copy. Direct students to look at the second section. Read the instructions aloud.
  • Instruct students to work with a partner to complete OnlyThat section of the worksheet.
  • Ask students to identify which sentences used the onomatopoeia as a verb, and which used it as an adjective.
  • Then, invite several volunteers to come add words from the worksheet to the class word bank.
(8 minutes)
  • Direct students' attention to the third section of the practise Onomatopoeia! worksheet. Read the paragraph aloud as students follow along.
  • Tell students to re-read the paragraph to themselves and circle examples of onomatopoeia in the text. Remind students to use the class word bank for support during this activity.
  • When they are finished with the paragraph, have students turn and compare their answers with a partner. Tell students to circle any examples of onomatopoeia that they missed. If partners can't agree on a word, tell them to underline it.
  • Ask students to share any words they couldn't agree on and clarify misunderstandings as needed.
  • Call on volunteers to share examples of sentences from the story in which onomatopoeias are used as a verb, and examples in which they are used as an adjective. Highlight verb examples in one colour and adjective examples in another colour.


  • Provide additional sentence frames to support students during speaking tasks. (e.g., "An example of onomatopoeia is____And it is used as a ____.")
  • Support students in completing the Frayer Model for one of the key terms, like "onomatopoeia."
  • Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
  • Strategically pair beginning ELs with more advanced ELs or students who speak the same home language.
  • Provide additional word level practise by guiding your students through the first section of the Onomatopoeia practise worksheet.


  • Encourage advanced ELs to compose sentences and responses without sentence frames, or with shortened sentence stems.
  • Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in class discussion.
  • Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Write a sentence on the board that contains onomatopoeia, such as, "Ted grunted as he carried the heavy bags." Do a choral reading of the sentence with the class.
  • On their own personal whiteboard, have students write the onomatopoeia they see in the sentence AndIts part of speech (i.e., grunted/verb).
  • Instruct students to hold up their whiteboards and scan their answers to gauge understanding.
  • Repeat with several sentences, like the following: "The neighing horses ran right towards me."
(3 minutes)
  • Use a 3-2-1 protocol to wrap up the lesson. Hand out an index card to each student and tell them to write their name and:
    • Three examples of onomatopoeia
    • Two ways onomatopoeia can be used in a sentence
    • One sentence containing onomatopoeia
  • Call on non-volunteers to share.

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