Exploring the effects of sound in writing

Home learning focus

Learn how to use sound for effect in your writing and experiment with different techniques by applying them to some everyday activities.

This lesson includes:

  • three videos to help you understand the use of alliteration and onomatopoeia as well as rhyme and repetition

  • three activities

Learn

Alliteration

This is where consecutive words begin with the same letter and, more importantly, the same sound. An example is: The rifles rapid rattle. The repetition of the 'r' sound echoes the sound of machine guns being fired.

Watch this clip to understand alliteration.

What is alliteration? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from 'My Rival's House' by Liz Lochhead.

Onomatopoeia

This is where a word makes the sound of the thing it describes.

An example is: The ringmaster cracked his whip. This implies the whip makes a sharp, loud sound.

Another example is: Stuttering rifles rapid rattle. The stuttering imitates the action of a machine-gun being fired.

Watch this clip to understand onomatopoeia.

What is onomatopoeia? How and why would you use it? Bitesize explains with examples from ‘In the Snack Bar’ by Edwin Morgan.

Watch the following clip to see how Benjamin Zephaniah puts some of this to work in his humorous poem Clever Trevor, which describes how a footballer scores and celebrates a goal.

Notice how as well as onomatopoeia and alliteration, he also makes use of other sound effects like rhyme and repetition.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah describes how he used to think nurses were women, police were men and poets were boring, until he became one.

Practise

Activity 1

Check your understanding. Make a list of ten onomatopoeic words on a piece of paper. Now find an alliterative adjective to accompany each.

Here is an example:

Onomatopoeic wordalliterative adjective
Baaaa Sleeping sheep in a shed

Activity 2

Write a humorous account or poem of someone doing an ordinary activity:

  • washing up
  • making a cup of tea
  • putting the bins out
  • completing the perfect flip on a trampoline

Include some onomatopoeia, alliteration and perhaps some rhyme and repetition. Enjoy playing around with sound.

Top tip

Start by jotting down all your thoughts and ideas about the activity you have chosen. Then add in sounds that you associate with it.

Example

Washing up: squirt of washing up liquid, bubbles, splash of water from taps, clash of cutlery, chiming china cups and plates, crash on draining board.

Could begin:

He squirts the sticky liquid in the bowl, watches frothy bubbles fizz to form their foam with spurting splash of water from the tap…

Activity 3

Test your knowledge of the techniques you've learnt about in this sounds quiz from SAM Learning.

Click the image below and scroll down to today's activity.

Sounds quiz

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about useful ways of thinking about sounds and how you might use them in your writing.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you explore different forms of poetry and language.

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