the use of words that sound like the thing that they are describing, for example 'hiss' or 'boom'
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
Do animals really speak different languages?
Click on the image to see some wonderful examples of onomatopoeic animal noises in different languages. These are provided on the University of Adelaide website.
I thought that planning a lesson around this idea would provide some well-deserved fun activities for our learners as they have worked hard in the last two lessons on their writing, whilst also having good focus on vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation.
We had a lot of fun exploring how we use words to immitate sounds. It's very interesting and often amusing to find that these words can be very different in other languages. Whilst our main focus is on the English language we were also able to appreciate the wonderful (and very amusing) differences amongst the several languages within the class.
Introduce the topic
Focusing on a picture of a large ornate gong on the board, students were asked what this is in their own languages. The variations were quite noticable but students immediately understood that although there were some differences we can see that the words in some way represent the sound a gong makes. This helped the learners to understand the topic of the lesson.
Learn new vocabulary
The learners were given the task of matching words with the correct pictures on a handout, first working individually, then they compared their choices in their groups before feeding back their answers to the whole class. After drilling pronunciation we moved on to the next activity.
Focus on selected onamatapaeic words (activating the vocabulary through guided practice)
Using a slideshow students were first shown an image and asked what words they would use in their own language to describe the sound, variations were fed back to the class and then the English version was presented, we then focused on the phonetic quality of the words and drilled pronunciation. Working together sentences were elicited and discussed using these words. This was repeated with all 19 onamatapeic words chosen for the lesson. We had a lot of fun using the words together, creating 'flocks' of sheep/ducks and 'packs' of dogs and so on. This was greatly enjoyed, much to the amusement of the learners themselves and to the volunteers at the group observing the lesson.
Free (unguided) practice
The learners were then set the task of writing a few sentences using their choice of the vocabulary, these were then fedback to the class followed by peer and teacher correction.
We then played a game where the class were shown random images, the first person to shout the relevant word/sound scored a point. This became very competitive with some very effective use of the target language.
This video demonstrates how interactive whiteboard software was used to enhance our lesson on onomatopoeic words. Please note that this is provided as an example and does not reflect the 'real time' aspect of the activities used throughout the lesson.
Let's practise using the words