Using Alliteration –Writing With Your Ear

We first meet alliteration in those early rhymes, chants and tongue twisters so much a part of the early primary years of schooling. It’s the literary technique that involves the deliberate repetition of the initial sounds of particular words. Examples are plentiful in literature: ’Swollen steams snatched the nests from ducks and forced moles from their earth fortresses.’ (The Boat, Helen Ward and Ian Andrew.)

We often think of alliteration in relation to poetry, but other writers use this technique too, as the example above shows. Alliteration used in this way directs attention to a particular phrase and it is more likely to register in the mind of the reader. Alliteration adds rhythm. It adds a lyrical quality to the writing. However, it is important not to over use alliteration. Used in moderation it can be highly effective.

One of our tasks as teachers is to teach students not just to pay attention to meaning in the sentences they write, but to listen to how they sound to the reader. Some young writers use alliteration quite naturally, but most students need to be actively encouraged to experiment with alliteration when they write.  You could begin by conducting an inquiry to seek out examples in literature. Collect and display evidence of other writers using this technique.

Here are a few I found among my book collection:

She snatched a patch of grubby lawn. She scuffled with the dirt.’
Mrs Biddlebox, Linda Smith

‘ Fox slipped through ferns and across leaves like a shifting shadow.’
Fox and Fine Feathers, Narelle Oliver

‘Through the wind and the rain came the bellowing and bleating of beasts
The Boat, Helen Ward and Ian Andrew

‘The silence steals into corners and cracks, nooks and crannies. It spreads and suffocates everything, like a hot, dry blanket.’
Raindance, Cathy Applegate and Dee Huxley

Once students ‘get it,’ invite them to try it for themselves. They will then be writing with their ears!


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