What are alliteration, assonance and consonance?

Alliteration and assonance
When analysing poetry your primary-school child might mention alliteration, assonance and consonance. We explain what they've been taught to look out for in literacy lessons.

What is alliteration?

Alliteration is the repetition of an initial letter or sound in closely connected words (for example, in the sentence: 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.', many of the words start with the letter p).

Alliteration is often used in poetry to create an effect. The repeated sound is in the stressed syllable of the word: The dreaded dawn arrived

It is sometimes used in children's songs:
Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot,
Nine days old.

Children will be encouraged to look at alliteration in poetry and stories. They may also come across it when discussing persuasive writing in advertising, for example:

  • Don't dream it. Drive it.
  • You'll never put a better bit of butter on your knife.

Alliteration makes writing sound punchy and can be memorable for the person reading it.

A good alliteration activity for children is to show them a sentence like the following:
Walter walked warily to the waterfront.

Teachers could encourage children to think of their own character, and then write a sentence similar to this one containing a verb, adverb and noun that all start with the same letter. This activity helps children to think about different word classes and is a fun way to encourage them to play with language, thus improving their writing skills.

What are assonance and consonance?

Assonance (or vowel rhyme) is the repetition of a vowel sound in a sentence to create an internal rhyme. The sound does not always have to be at the start of a word. For example:
The moon rose over an open field
proud round cloud

Consonance is the repetition of consonants in quick succession in a sentence:
grassy summer days
pitter patter

Alliteration may be taught in early Key Stage 2, but assonance and consonance would probably not be taught until Year 5 or Year 6 English.

Alliteration, assonance and consonance are effective tools in creating an effect and making writing more memorable.