What Do Feelings Sound Like?

Lead a poetry writing activity to use "sound effect" words to describe different emotions!
Ages 8-10 / 20
min Activity
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  • Learn about and explore onomatopoeia (sound effect words)
  • Create a poem that uses sound effect words to describe the sounds of different feelings

Supporting Research

Emotional literacy is the ability to identify and label one’s feelings, understand others’ feelings, and learn how to manage feelings in a healthy way. Emotional literacy in children has been linked to positive outcomes around academic achievement, social relationships, and overall well-being. During this activity, students will reflect on their emotions and what they feel like (mindfulness), and explore how other people experience and express their emotions (diplomacy). 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.

Activity Partners


  1. Begin the activity by introducing students to a big word: “onomatopoeia”. (on-no-mot-toe-pee-uh)

    You might say: “Does anyone know what onomatopoeia means? It’s a special type of word that sounds like the noise it’s trying to describe. You can think of them as “sound effect” words, like “buzz” or “clang”! Can you think of any other examples?”
  2. Review the example onomatopoeia words on the "What Do Feelings Sound Like?" handout, and ask students to write down at least four more onomatopoeias in the space provided on the handout.

    Then, ask students to share their words with the rest of the class, and write them down on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone.
  3. Next, students will write a poem that shows the sound of different feelings. Students can use the poem template on the second page of the handout, or come up with their own structure.
  4. After they finish, students should choose three more feelings and write sentences (or another poem!) with onomatopoeia words to describe them.
  5. Invite students to share their favorite line from a poem that they wrote, either in small groups or with the rest of the class.

    Then, engage them in a reflection by asking the following questions:
    • Was it easy or difficult to include onomatopoeia in your poems?
    • How did you decide which words to use for each emotion?
    • What are some similarities and differences between the words that we chose?
    • Do people experience feelings in the same way? Can you share an example from a classmate’s poem?

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.