How to Write a "Sound" Poem

by Bruce Lansky

I was astounded to learn that people in different countries describe the sounds that animals make differently. For example, here in the U.S. we describe the sound a rooster makes as "cock-a-doodle-do." However, some Europeans describe the sound as "coo-coo-ri-coo."

Ask your students to try to describe a sound they hear every day--the sound of the wind, the rain, the dishwasher, a train ("choo choo" is one way to describe the sound)--and then have them write a poem incorporating the sound.

Here's a poem about rain:

Drip Drop
Drip drop, drip drop,
darned rain won't stop.
Dropping on my windowpane,
it is driving me insane.

--Bruce Lansky

Here's a short poem that popped into my mind one day while sitting on a bench near the railroad tracks in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Choo Choo
Chuga-chuga, chuga-chuga, chuga-chuga, chuga-chuga, chug.
Choo Choo!
When I hear a choo choo train I think of all the many things that I
should do.

--Bruce Lansky

As you can see, your students' poems should describe the sounds and also where the sounds "take" them.

For example:

--What does the sound call to mind?
--How do they feel when they hear the sound?
--What does the sound seem to be "saying"?

This calls to mind an old jingle for Alka Seltzer that goes like this:

Plop plop,
fizz fizz,
Oh, what a
relief it is!

Wouldn't it be fun for your students to try writing something like that?

Sound poems written by kids are often fun to read. However, rhythm can be a problem. As you can see, I got the rhythm for the two sound poems above from the sounds themselves. Younger elementary students will probably find it a lot easier to get started writing a sound poem if they follow the rhythm and rhyme pattern of the poem below:

Tick tock, goes the clock. (A)
Bow wow says the dog. (B)
Quack quack says the duck. (C)
Croak croak says the frog. (B)

This poem has a very simple rhythm and rhyme scheme that most lower-grade elementary-school children should be able to follow:

DUM DUM, da da DUM (A)
DUM DUM, da da DUM (B)
DUM DUM, da da DUM (C))
DUM DUM, da da DUM (B)

I'd suggest starting with this exercise and then seeing what other rhythm and rhyme patterns pop into your students' heads.

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