Exploring sound in nonsense poems

Nonsense poems, puns and limericks are an effective resource to engage students in learning about rhyme and other aural effects in poems, for example,

Limerick 41 in Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear.

There was a Young Lady whose nose,
Was so long that it reached her toes;
So she hired an Old Lady
Whose conduct was steady,
To carry that wonderful nose.

Onomatopoeia words sound like the words they refer to. Examples of onomatopoeia words include – clang, whoosh, beep, pop, toot, quack, buzz, for example,

Toot! Toot! by Anonymous

A peanut sat on a railroad track,
His heart was all-flutter;
The five fifteen came rushing by
Toot! Toot! Peanut butter!

Activity 1: limericks

After reading several limericks, have students identify the rhyming (AABBA) and other patterns such as the rhythm (have students mark the beat) and the beginning (There was a …) Students in pairs can then create their own limericks. Have pairs share their limericks and discuss the rhythm and rhymes. Students could be encouraged to give constructive feedback and share ideas for improving the poems.

Activity 2: sounds like

Give students examples of onomatopoeia words and read the Toot! Toot! poem. Model for students how to replace ‘Toot! Toot!’ with other more modern train sounds like ‘Clang! Clang!’ or ‘Whoosh! Whoosh!’ or the sounds of crushing nuts such as ‘Crunch! Crunch!’ or ‘Squish! Squash!’

Students make and name sounds like a ‘thump’ on a wooden floor or a ‘screech’ or excitement, ‘squawk’ of laughter and the teacher can record these on a board or poster.

Introduce musical instruments and have students name the sounds they make or make up words to fit the sounds. Students could write their own short poems using onomatopoeia words.

References

Australian curriculum – ACELT1606: Examining literature: Understand, interpret and experiment with a range of devices and deliberate word play in poetry and other literary texts, for example nonsense words, spoonerisms, neologisms and puns. ACELT1600: Examining literature: Discuss the nature and effects of some language devices used to enhance meaning and shape the reader’s reaction, including rhythm and onomatopoeia in poetry and prose.

NSW syllabus – EN2-2A: Understand, interpret and experiment with a range of devices and deliberate word play in poetry and other literary texts, for example nonsense words, spoonerisms, neologisms and puns - discuss the nature and effects of some language devices used to enhance meaning and shape the reader's reaction, including rhythm and onomatopoeia in poetry and prose.

NSW literacy continuum – Comprehension, Cluster 9, Marker 7: Analyses a text by discussing visual, aural and written techniques used in the text.

Return to top of page