I’ve said time and time again that read-alouds are an absolutely perfect time for sneaking in some learning with our kiddos, I believe there the sky’s the limit as far as what concepts, terms, and ideas we can teach our little ones during these times.
My kiddos love to learn ‘big’ words, so when I introduced Maddy and Owen to ‘onomatopoeia’ during our bedtime reads last week, they were all over it. Paired with a little print referencing, some superheroes, and some really silly books, it was time well-spent. (And they had no idea they were learning along the way!)
- Print Referencing and Onomatopoeia: Print referencing is really nothing to be afraid of; it’s simply paying attention to the print (form, features, and function) on a page, pointing out and chatting about it with our kids. That’s it.
Onomatopoeia, on the other hand, is much more exciting in my opinion. I have always been a lover of words, and ‘onomatopoeia’ is one of my faves for obvious reasons–it’s fun to say (it just rolls off of your tongue!), it’s like no other word I use, and the meaning is just plain cool. Onomatopoeia is using words whose sound suggests its meaning, like buzz, hiss, pow, or bang. So fun.
So when Maddy, Owen, and I read Superhero ABC, by Bob McLeod, along with Mungo and the Spiders From Space, by Timothy Knapman, print referencing and onomatopoeia were obvious connections and emerged naturally during our reading. Superhero ABC is an alphabet book that incorporates superheroes for each letter, along with tons of alliteration (repeated initial consonant sound in words).
Mungo and the Spiders From Space is a wacky book where Mungo, the little boy, is peacefully enjoying his book about Captain Galacticus trying to save the universe from the evil Dr. Frankenstinker when all of a sudden, Mungo jumps into the book and saves the day! With tons of onomatopoeia and wild and crazy text features, Mungo lent itself to many learning opportunities, even in a short time, even with a silly, silly book.
Drawing attention to text features, even simple words on a page, helps our little ones’ early literacy skills.
Initially, all I did to throw in a little print referencing was simply point to the words as I read them. I did this as we read through the comments and description on the pages of Superhero ABC. Maddy can read on her own at this point, so this was more for Owen. But we all got involved.
In the first few pages of the text, I’d point to the words as I read: Choke! or Caw! on Captain Cloud’s page, or Gross!, *Gulp!*, or She Grins and Giggles with Glee! on Goo Girl’s page.
When I hit ‘E’, The Eagle’s page, where the little squirrel says EEK!, I said, Hey! Do you know that there’s a special name for words like this–‘eek’? Words like ‘ouch’, ‘bam’, and ‘buzz’ are called ‘onomatopoeia’. Isn’t that a wonderful word, ‘onomatopoeia’? I love it. I always have. It was one of my favorite things to teach kids because it’s so cool.
Like a big nerd, I had them each say it themselves a few times, saying it slowly at first and then speeding through it so it barely came out correctly.
From that point on, Maddy took over as ‘the pointer’, and by ‘T’ (The Terrific Three’s page–and just in time for Upside-Down Man’s page), Owen took over. I’d read the word, and they’d point to it. It was a simple, but important, exercise for Owen to listen for the sounds in the words I was saying and then look around on the page for words with letters that made that sound.
It’s silly, playing with onomatopoeia in the first place, but it was a cool way of also working on phonological awareness–figuring out which groups of words created the sounds I was saying.
By the time we finished Superhero ABC, we were ready to read an actual story, and Mungo–with all its superhero silliness and unusual text layouts–was a really cool (totally random and completely lucky) follow-up.
I read the story, and for the first few pages, I’d point to the words as I read them just to make sure Owen was following the left to right movement of text and so both he and Maddy could appreciate onomatopoeia when we bumped into it.
Sometimes I’d read a page with particularly unusual fonts or spacing without pointing to the words. Instead, I’d say something like:
- I just read, Boom! and Zoom! two great examples of onomatopoeia. Owen, can you point to either ‘Boom!’ or ‘Zoom!’?
- The rocket ship went, vrooom-vrooom. Take a minute and search for those words on the page. Can you find them? Who can point to them?
- Wow! I just said a word in a really loud voice, and the author showed me he wanted that word read loudly because all of the letters are in uppercase. Look on this page for that word and point to it when you find it. Good. Now read it exactly the way the author wants us to read it.
- Sometimes this author shows us how he wants us to read certain words by making the whole word bigger than the other words. Like this one here, ‘Yeerrpp!’
- How do you think he wants us to read this word, ‘HOORAY!’? Like this, ‘hooray!’ (in a tiny voice) or like this ‘HOORAY!’ (in a big, booming voice).
That’s it. We rocked it out with some serious onomatopoeia and print referencing, superhero style, and then Maddy and Owen hit the sack. Here’s to hoping that their dreams were comic-book crazy.
Print referencing is easy–and it can be done with just about any book, to any degree, at any time. It’s as simple as putting your finger at the top left of a page when you begin reading and touching the last word at the bottom right of a page.
It can be pointing to the title of a chapter or a character’s dialogue. It can be asking a child to point to a letter in a word or a word on the page (just always remember to give choices–Can you find the word ‘dog’ or ‘cat’?–so that we’re setting our kiddos up for success!). Print referencing can be just about anything relating to the form, features, or function of print on a page.
These two books are about as close to comic-book reading that my kiddos do at this point, but I do know that comic book reading can yield some really worthwhile results for reluctant readers. In fact, I found Jason Ranker’s article, “Using Comic Books as Read-Alouds: Insights on Reading Instruction from an English as a Second Language Classroom” (The Reading Teacher, December 2007) incredibly interesting and packed with ideas.