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Swish! Pow! Whack! Teaching Onomatopoeia Through Sports Poetry

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Swish! Pow! Whack! Teaching Onomatopoeia Through Sports Poetry

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Ann Kelly Cox

Normal, Illinois

Amanda Jenkins

Normal, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students explore different poems written about sports by reading and listening, looking closely at the use of onomatopoeia in each piece. After a discussion of the poems, students view a segment of a sporting event and generate a list of sounds used in that event. Using their lists as a springboard, students then create their own onomatopoeic sports poems, draw accompanying illustrations, and compile their work in a flip book. Finally, students present their flip books to the class.

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Sports Poetry Flip Book Project: This handout provides guidelines for students for writing and illustrating a flip book containing an original sports poem.

Flip Book: Students can publish their work using this online tool, which allows them to type and illustrate tabbed flip books up to ten pages long.

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In his book Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices, Ralph Fletcher notes that male students are often disengaged and disenfranchised in the writing classroom.  He believes that boys "get an unfriendly response from their teachers when they try to write about high-interest boy topics," which, according to Fletcher's research, include "teams, sports, and the confidence they get from sports" and "activity with their fathers [such as] sporting events."  Giving them the choice to write about such topics can create an environment that will engage male writers.

Additionally, Fletcher believes that we can further engage male students by incorporating drawing into writing activities.  Brain research shows that girls' brains are more verbal, whereas boys are more spatial.  Fletcher notes, "allowing boys to draw while writing will make it more fun and help them feel invested."

Further Reading

Fletcher, Ralph.  Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices.  Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2006.


Newkirk, Thomas. "Misreading Masculinity: Speculations on the Great Gender Gap in Writing." Language Arts 77.4 (March 2000): 294-300.

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