Creating with sounds and onomatopoeia


Saoirse McTernan

Dublin City University

This lesson was created for a 5th class which included a number of students that used English as an additional language (EAL). However, I believe the lesson could be altered and used with any class regardless of the linguistic makeup of the class.

I drew on my own literacy lesson plans, the new Primary Language Curriculum and various online educational resources including those available through Poetry Ireland and Language Explorers websites to inform the lesson plan.
This lesson focuses on bilingual poetry with the aim of developing literacy skills.

The aim of the lesson is to enable students to:
1. Manipulate language to explore onomatopoeia in various languages and in poetry
2. Engage positively and purposefully using various languages known to them in poetry writing
3. Use the poetry writing feature of onomatopoeia and explore code-switching to create a bilingual poem
4. Develop an awareness of languages and linguistic diversity.

The lesson focuses on using onomatopoeia and drawing on the poem ‘The Sound Collector’ by Roger McGough as inspiration to write a bilingual poem in pairs. The poem describes the sounds, using onomatopoeia, in the home as they’re collected up by the sound collector.
Pair work would work well in a class of mixed ability and linguistic makeup. In this class, teachers are encouraging an awareness of the different languages used amongst the students.

The lesson starts with a whole class discussion on the topic of bilingual poetry. Students could share any bilingual poetry known to them and I would read them an example of a bilingual poem. Elicit from the students why poets write bilingual poetry and discuss the different languages used in the class, to develop students’ awareness and appreciation of linguistic diversity.
The class briefly revise the concept of onomatopoeia and why poets use it. Revise the poem ‘The Sound Collector’ and recap ABAB rhyming style. Students then watch a short video which describes how onomatopoeia differs between languages.

language explorers

Here is an example.

Ask student to work in pairs to brainstorm as many examples of onomatopoeia in all the languages known to them in 2 minutes. Students could record these on mini white boards or paper. The class would discuss how many examples each pair could think of and I would ask students to share some examples, these could be recorded on the board or on a chart. 5. I would then ask students to brainstorm environments that their onomatopoeia words could represent e.g. the zoo, the farm, the playground etc. 

These could be used for the setting of their poem. This step could be altered depending on your class.
Some teachers may prefer for all students to write about the same environment. I decided to keep this flexible as the class I was planning for were very creative and experienced at creative writing.
I knew that they would not be happy sticking to one setting for the whole class. Then students start writing their poems in pair, using the ABAB rhyming style. They may need to work together to brainstorm more onomatopoeic words in their languages for the chosen setting of their poem. 

Students can then use a simple writing frame based on the poem ‘The Sound Collector’, where they fill in their onomatopoeia into prepared sentences. Those who prefer a challenge can write their own poem on the same theme of the sound collector and use their own onomatopoeia.
Early finishers could begin to rewrite their finished poems neatly on lined paper and illustrate it for a poetry display in the classroom. Once students have written their poems, volunteers can sit in the poet’s chair and read their poem to the class. You can carry out a whole class discussion where the class offers the poets feedback and discuss the different languages used in each poem.

I believe this is a relatively simple but effective way to use the linguistic diversity of the class as a resource and also to promote the use of different languages and code switching in the class in a fun and creative way. I would love to hear from any teachers who try out this lesson idea, it would be great to hear any feedback on how the students engaged with the writing activity and if it was effective.

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