Standard Lesson

Swish! Pow! Whack! Teaching Onomatopoeia Through Sports Poetry

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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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.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

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

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology




Student Objectives

Students will:

  • define onomatopoeia and discuss the use of onomatopoeia within a poem.

  • utilize creative and critical thinking skills to compose a sports poem using onomatopoeia effectively.

  • collaborate with a partner to respond to a peer's poem as part of the writing and revision process.

  • synthesize language and illustrations within a flip book.

  • practice effective presentation skills by sharing their flip book with their classmates.

Session One

  1. Ask students to respond to the following prompt at the beginning of the session:  "Imagine that you are at a sporting event such as a football or soccer game, a gymnastics or swim meet.  What sounds do you hear?"  Instruct students to record a list of sounds in their writing journals.  Encourage struggling students by asking them to consider specific sounds: the athletes, the crowd, the officials, etc.

  2. Ask students to share their journal responses.  As students offer their suggestions, record them on the board, overhead, or other projector. 

  3. Lead a discussion of the responses. Ask students to comment on the similarities and differences they see among the various words. Guide students to note that some words are labels for a sound (e.g. scream, whistle) while other words attempt to recreate the sound they represent (e.g., crash, swoosh).

  4. Students who are already familiar with the term onomatopoeia will likely be able to provide this term; otherwise, introduce the term and have the class agree upon a definition of onomatopoeia.

  5. Have students decide which words on the board are examples of onomatopoeia and which are not.

  6. Inform students that the class will be looking for how an author uses sound words to enhance the meaning of the poem as you distribute copies of the poem "Analysis of Baseball" by May Swenson.

  7. After distributing the poem, ask a student to read the poem aloud while the rest of the class follows along.

  8. Lead a discussion about the poem.  You may ask students to point out examples of onomatopoeia and discuss how the use of onomatopoeia adds to the poem. If you wish, refer to the Annotated Copy of "Analysis of Baseball" for a detailed list of questions.

  9. Have students listen to the audio file of "The Sweetest Roll" from Rimshots by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and lead a brief discussion on sound words in that poem.

  10. Introduce the writing assignment by distributing and discussing the Sports Poetry Flip Book Project handout and Sports Poetry Flip Book Rubric. Answer any questions students may have on the expectations for the assignment.

  11. With time remaining, students may begin drafting their poems.

Session Two

  1. Begin this session by reviewing and reinforcing the concept of onomatopoeia. Show a segment from a sporting event and have students write down examples of onomatopoeia.  After viewing the video, allow time for students to share their findings with the class.

  2. Offer the Example Sound Words handout if students need additional assistance incorporating onomatopoeic words into their poem.

  3. Let students use the remainder of the session to continue the draft of their poem. As students write, monitor their progress and confer with students if needed.

  4. As rough drafts are completed, place students with a partner for peer response.  After exchanging drafts, students can complete the Peer Response to Sports Poetry handout. Depending on your students' familiarity with peer response, you may need to go over the handout with them to clarify the process.

Session Three

  1. Begin the session by briefly demonstrating the Flip Book Student Interactive so that students understand the final format for the assignment.

  2. Students will use this session to finish peer response, if necessary; revise their writing based on peer feedback; and illustrate their poems. 

  3. They may move to computers to start using the Flip Book student interactive. Remind students that they need to print as they finish, as they cannot save their work in the Flip Book student interactive.

  4. As students continue the writing process, monitor their progress and confer with students if needed.

  5. If students finish early, they should prepare for their presentation in the next session.

Session Four

  1. Give students a few minutes at the beginning of class to read over their poems and prepare for presentations.

  2. Remind students of respectful audience behavior such as remaining quiet, making eye contact, and acknowledging their peers' efforts through applause after the presentation.

  3. Students will present their flip book projects to the class and be assessed according to the Sports Poetry Flip Book Rubric.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Use the Sports Poetry Flip Book Rubric to assess students’ written and verbal performance.  Additionally, observe students’ participation in class discussions and confer with them during the writing process.

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