Introduction to Figurative Language: Onomatopoeia

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10534

Pow! Exploring music, poetry, ads and comic strips, you'll zoom through this lesson on using onomatopoeia to grab your reader's attention. You can choose between 2 projects to show your understanding!



English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!



Watch this rather strange video called "Ylvis-The Fox (what does the fox say?)" below:

How does it look, taste, feel, smell?

This is the third of the Related Lessons in the Introduction to Figurative Language series. It is recommended that you complete the previous lessons found in the right-hand sidebar before moving ahead with this lesson.

Sometimes our writing needs just a little extra something. Now that we have learned about similes and metaphors and what they can to do to add depth to our writing, we still look for new and exciting ways to get our readers involved.

One way to do this is to appeal to all five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell). Good use of adjectives and adverbs — especially when combined with similes and metaphors — is one way to do this.

Figurative language can be used describe the way something looks.

For example, when talking about someone who is very tall, figurative language may be used to describe that person: "The person towered awkwardly over the crowd like a skyscraper in a small town."

Figurative language may be used to describe the way something tastes.

  • "The rich chocolate slowly danced on my taste buds like a graceful ballerina and it was pure heaven."

Figurative language can be used describe the way something feels.

  • "I thought the snake would be slimy, but to my surprise, its scales were dry, smooth, and slightly bumpy like an old basketball."

Figurative language can be used to describe the way something smells.

  • "My mother's new perfume filled the air; it made me sneeze several times because it was like fresh-cut roses and a hint of church after a wedding."

What's that sound?

The most difficult of the five senses to describe is sound. That's where onomatopoeia comes in very handy. It givesyour writing the actual zing that your reader can really hear.

Have you ever read a comic book where the villain gets a punch from the good guy? If so, then you know that the punch usually comes along with a "POW!"

Maybe you have read about an item that is dropped with a great big "SPLAT!"

Think back to your preschool days when you were learning about animals and reading books with animal sounds. A few good books that come to mind are Hear That? by Tama Janowitz and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss.

In the book, the cow says, "Moo." A cow doesn't really say moo, but it makes a noise that is similar to the written word moo. Much like ducks don't say quack and bees don't say buzz. The video at the top of the lesson shows more examples of onomatopoeia.

These are all sound words that give readers the idea of the sound.

Imagine the sound of a sink faucet dripping into something that already is partially filled with water. How would you describe that sound to someone who has never heard it? Think about how you would tell a story about that particular sound keeping you up all night without being able to describe the sound. It would be pretty frustrating.

With onomatopoeia there are a number of ways we can explain the irritating noise: ploop, bloop, plink, tink, etc. Onomatopoeia gives us the freedom to make up these words so that we can do our best to reproduce the sound in writing.

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