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Dialogue and Onomatopoeia

Context for this Lesson


Focus Question: What is dialogue? What is onomatopoeia? How can students create characters that use dialogue? How can students explore moments of onomatopoeia? How can students discover onomatopoeia and dialogue through the framework of comic strip images?

Materials: various comic strips from newspapers (3-4 in the largest size possible), beret, drawing pad, dry erase board or dry erase dialogue/sound bubble cut outs, dry erase markers


 Artifacts: Have students sit on the floor in a circle. Place the three different comic strips in the circle. These comic strips should include dialogue and onomatopoeia. Allow time for everyone to look at them and read them. Make sure everyone has gotten a chance to see all of them.

Describe: Who can tell me what these are? What do they look like?

Analyze: What is going on in these strips? What is being said, if anything? How can we tell that something is being said? Who are they talking to?

What kinds of sounds, if any, are in this comic strip? What do those sounds mean? How do we know that they are sounds? How do we know how to pronounce them?

Reflection: -Why is it important for comic strips to include sounds and conversations? -Where else do we encounter written conversations and sounds?

SHARE info about topic: Students, do you remember what we were talking about in our English time yesterday? Let’s think about those two new words that we learned yesterday. As they answer write “onomatopoeia” and “dialogue” on the board. Who can tell me what these two words mean? Review with the class that dialogue is a conversation that is written down. Have a student provide an example, and write it on the board. Repeat process with “onomatopoeia” and work with the class to discuss how that describes a sound that is written out in words. Also, include an example on the board. Great thinking everyone! Now let’s go back to the comic strips we were looking at. What elements of the comic strips did we talk about? That’s exactly right, the conversations and the sounds. What similarities do those conversations and sounds from the comic strips have with dialogue and onomatopoeia? That’s right, they are the same thing! Wonderful! Now that we have recognized this, we have seen a real-life use of the onomatopoeia and dialogue in those comic strips. We’ve seen how that comic used conversation and sounds to tell a story or a joke.

Transition: So, who do you think writes and illustrates these comic strips? Well, today we have a very special treat. We actually have the privilege of one of these artists coming to our classroom today! She has a very particular reason for coming to our classroom today. She has a contract with the newspapers to create a new comic strip. Who can tell me what a contract is? Right, it is an agreement that says she will do her job. So, she has a contract that says she needs to come up with a brand new comic strip. But, she is feeling completely uninspired! She doesn’t have any characters, or anything for them to say, or any sounds to make. However, she heard that you guys have some pretty bright imaginations and she wants your help with this comic strip! Everyone, when I come back into the room I am going to be a different person who needs your help. Are you ready to meet our special guest?


(Teacher in Role (TIR) leaves room, puts on beret and holds drawing pad to become “Janie Jacobs”. She re-enters confidently)

TIR: Hello everyone, I’m Janie Jacobs! Maybe you’ve read some of my comic strips in the newspaper! Thank you for letting me come into your class today! Shake hands with students during the introduction. I’m sure your teacher told you that I’m having a little trouble with my new comic strip. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t come with anything! I’m relying on you all to help me out with that! I know that your imaginations are exactly what I need! So, from what you all know about comics, what does it take to create a comic strip? What do you need to make one? (Characters, pictures, words, joke, etc.) Okay so we’re going to do a few exercises to see if we can’t come with something brilliant!

 TABLEAU Explain that this is an exercise where they will be freezing their bodies in different positions. I often use this technique when I am drawing my cartoons. Sometimes I need to visualize what a character would look like in certain positions. You all are going to help me explore different kinds of movement and gestures, through an exercise called Tableau. Clarify that they are free to use their imaginations to choose their poses. The students will work through three different “poses”, ultimately freezing in a final one. The class will count to three and then shout, “Freeze!” The students will “hit” a different pose for each number and then freeze their body after all numbers have been called. Students should understand that, in this instance, their bodies are positioned in dramatic ways with no specific requirement or “theme”. They are given the freedom to explore how their bodies can hold themselves and the facial expressions that accompany. The students will have three seconds to position themselves however they would like to and freeze. This exercise will be done in pairs. Let me demonstrate how you all will do this. Can you help me count to three so that I can freeze in my tableaux? 1-2-3-FREEZE! TIR demonstrates how to strike three different poses that correspond to the numbers and freeze in a dramatic facial expression and position. Make sure students understand how to participate. Okay, so let’s see what you all can do! Can I have two volunteers? Position the two volunteers at the front of the class. You two will freeze together in a tableau. After you are frozen, the class and I are going to talk about what characters you might be, and where this scene might be taking place. So, all of you out here (point to the rest of the class) be thinking of all the possibilities! You can do something together or separate, it is completely up to you! Are you ready? Begin counting.

After the pair freezes, ask the class questions along the lines of: What are these characters doing? How do we know that? Where do you think they are? Why is that?

What might these characters’ names be? What do you think their relationship is? How can we tell? What do you think they might be saying to each other? Where do you think the characters in this scene are? What sounds do you think might be in this scene? How would those sounds correspond to where the characters are? How can we best understand those sounds? (i.e. phonetic spelling) After these questions have been discussed, have students write a line of dialogue in a dialogue bubble and hand it to the characters to hold over their heads. Have students also write out onomatopoeia in the sound bubbles and place them near the “origin” of the sound in the scene. Each scene should contain at least one sound and dialogue for each character. When finished, the image should resemble a comic strip. TIR will scribble furiously in her drawing pad as the scene ideas are discussed- every idea is an inspiration! Repeat with different sets of partners as time allows. Try to include the class as much as possible in the imagination of the scene and rotate in as many groups as possible.

Possible side-coaching:

"Remember to think of levels! Is this character sitting, standing, dancing?'

"Remember, you might have to freeze for a bit of time, so pick a position that is comfortable."

"Don’t forget about your eyes! Where are they looking?"

"Use the space and utilize your partner as well!"

Transition: Wonderful ideas, everyone! Wow, how times flies! Unfortunately, I have another appointment today, so I have to get going, but thank you so much for your brilliant ideas and imaginations! I think I’ve got some great starts in my drawing pad and I couldn’t have done it without you! Now remember all that we talked about today and if any of you want to become a comic strip artist, you just give me a call! Your teacher will be returning to the classroom after I leave the room. Be sure to fill her in on what she missed! TIR leaves room, takes off beret, and re-enters as the facilitator.



  • So, who did we just get a visit from?
  • What did you all do when Janie Jacobs was here?
  • What did you do with your bodies?
  • What did we do with the dialogue and sound bubbles?


  • Where and when would people need to write down conversations? Or sounds?
  • Why is it important to know what dialogue and onomatopoeia are?
  • How can we use dialogue?
  • When do we describe sounds? When do we use onomatopoeia? 


  • Why did we use real people instead of pictures?
  • Why did we write on the bubbles? Why did we put them in certain places?
  • Why do you think we did that?
  • How did you write sounds?
  • How did we come up with dialogue and/or sounds? 

EVALUATE: Did students have enough prior knowledge to participate with minimal assistance?

  • Did students have enough direction and instruction to participate?
  • Were students able to come up with different scenes and perspectives in Tableau?
  • Were students able to enjoy both sides of Tableau?
  • Was Tableau effectively paced? (too long or too short)