Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Onomatopoeia with Joy Cowley's Books—with FREE download!

This is a guest blog post from first-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan. If you like what you read here,   you can see more of Lyssa's posts here , or   check out her own blog here !

Sound plays such an important role in reading.   Sounds of letters, sounds of animals, sounds of laughing, sounds of repetition, and talking fill our earliest reading experiences and hopefully continue! As readers develop, they sometimes add their own sounds to stories. I have inserted my own sound effects more than once or twice during a read aloud.

Last fall, I was reading with a first grader when he skipped the speech bubbles on the page in his book and quickly turned to the next.   I asked him about those bubbles and he said they were “nothing.” I reread the story to him with the speech bubbles and asked if he noticed the difference. He did, indeed! We then read it again and he acted out the speech bubble words (animal sounds). The story made a lot more sense and he sounded happier reading it! We decided we might want to pay attention to the pictures and the details in the pictures.

We then went on a sound hunt in other books.   I do this with my class, too. We define onomatopoeia and discuss how it impacts the books we’ve read. We discover after reading several books that the author has a purpose for adding these words. They are part of the story.

They love the “SQUISH SQUISH” of   Wishy-Washy Tractor , the” HOO HOO” in   Spooky House , and the “PURR PURR” in   Sloppy Tiger on the Bus , all by Joy Cowley. Students then work with a partner to find sound words in other books. They record the words as they find them. They love sharing these with the class! From there, we create an amazing class list. This list is used as an anchor for both reading and writing.  

First graders really like the   sound   of onomatopoeia. More importantly though, when they discover the value it adds to the stories they love AND the stories they write, it is quite powerful!

I have included the definition, recording page, and the anchor chart (we complete on the SMARTboard.) I hope your class enjoys them as much as we do!


Lyssa Sahadevan is a first-grade teacher in Marietta, GA. She loves reader's and writer's workshop, is a former Teacher of the Year, and shares ideas at   www.mymommyreads.com .


To download information sheets with key features about Joy Cowley's two series   Joy Cowley Early Birds  and the Joy Cowley Collection which contains the books show in this post, click the images below. To download the Joy Cowley Onomatopoeia Packet, click the image to the right.