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A lesson inspired by the NNWP's
Six by Six
Print Guide: Traits Writing for Little Writers

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About this lesson's author:


Polly Schebetta teaches first grade at Spanish Springs Elementary in Spanish Springs, Nevada. She created this lesson while attending the Northern Nevada Writing Project's "Picture Books as Mentor Texts " inservice class.

This Lesson:
Onomatopoeia Adventures

Focus Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson's Mentor Text:

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

Thirty-six trait-based lessons for
primary writers can be found in:

The lesson on this page was inspired by the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Six by Six Guide. Click here to see how to order your own copy, which contains thirty-six trait lessons like the one found on this page.

Big Ideas behind this Lesson:

Trait Focus: Word Choice – The concept focus is on word choice as Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is used to describe words that look like the sound they are describing. For example, when you rattle a jar of hard candies the word “rattle” describes the sound. “Drip” is the sound of water slowly hitting a puddle.

Standards Addressed:

  • Identify examples of imagery, sensory words, similes
  • Prepare a legible final draft to display or share.
  • Demonstrate phonological awareness of spoken words through rhyming, concept of word, syllable awareness, onset and rime awareness.


We start the discussion by first going outside and observing some of the older students in the school during PE (physical education) class. Before leaving our classroom, I would remind my students that sounds are all around them and that today on our “observation” we will be listening to sounds that we hear during PE. Maybe they will pay particular attention to the sound a rubber ball makes when it bounces, or the sound of a rope being struck against the ground during jumprope, or they could listen to the sound of children running across the blacktop, etc. Each student would need a clipboard (or something hard to write on), paper and pencil to record their sound observations.

We would come back to our class and share our sound observations, and write/draw on a chart things like:

  • Red rubber ball – boing!
  • Jump rope – swish
  • Children running on the blacktop – stampede of cows
  • Birds on fence – tweet
  • Construction across street – thud
  • PE whistle – brreeeep!”

I would explain that all of these “sound observations” have a very important (and long) name: onomatopoeia! We’re going to read a fun Halloween book that has repeated text, and onomatopoeia.


Read The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams aloud to the class. The more animated you act the better. Don’t be afraid to let your “little actor/actress” shine through. Sometimes, this is the “hook” to really get students engaged – and eventually writing!

In this story, a little old woman ventures into the forest in the autumn to collect herbs and seeds. Along the way, it gets dark and the little old woman hears two big shoes go “CLOMP, CLOMP” followed by other sounds. Repetition of phrases is also seen in this primary mentor text. If the students haven’t already joined you in reading, “Two shoes go CLOMP, CLOMP, One pair of pants go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, One shirt go SHAKE, SHAKE,” etc. then have then join in for a choral reading of these repeated sections on the second read aloud of the book.

I recommend that when reading to young children, the teacher should read aloud a book at least twice. The first read-aloud is for pure enjoyment, and the second (or subsequent readings) are to focus on the trait.



Hand out this patterned text fill-in graphic organizer for students to fill-in. “At the ______ there was a First Grader Who Heard . . .” If needed, have students work in pairs or groups. Possible settings can include: At the beach, In the garden, At the grocery store, At Chuck E. Cheese, etc.

Example story:

  • In the garden, there was a first grader who heard a bee: buzz, buzz, buzz
  • And he heard the water moving from the hose to water the flowers: gush, gush, gush
  • In the garden, there was a shovel shoveling the soil: kazik, kazik, kazik
  • And finally, in the garden, there was a first grader who was happy: Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!

Tools Needed:

Clipboard or something hard for each student to write on during their “observation”, paper, pencils, chart paper, patterned text fill-in graphic organizer, plain paper, colored construction paper, the use of a laminator and a binding machine.


Students draw a picture to go with their “At the _______ there was a First Grader Who Heard . . .” Be sure to tell students to write some of their onomatopoeia words in their picture with a speaking bubble around them. (As seen in a comic book.) Then students may copy their rough draft from the graphic organizer on to nice (but lined) paper. Individual writing is mounted on construction paper with the picture on the left and the writing on the right. Laminating each student’s page ensures that when the pages are put together for a class book, the pages will stay somewhat intact. I have found that students love to read the class book over and over again as a “Read to Self” or “Read to Parner” activity within the classroom. Because the text has a repeated pattern, once students can read their own page, it is fairly easy for them to decode their friend’s writing page using picture clues, and deciphering the onomatopoeia words as a clue.


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