Teaching Homophones To Elementary (with Bonus Lesson Slides)

By Becky F

Homophones are fun but tricky words in English. This is because they sound the same but differ in spelling and meaning. Understandably, students and adults alike mix up homophones when writing, which could alter the meaning of a sentence. The word homophone means "same sound" and is derived from two Greek words. "Homo" means same, and "phone" means sound.

According to the school curriculum, teaching homophones begins formally in the second grade. When students can distinguish between homophones, it will help them with reading and comprehension. Additionally, their knowledge of homophones will allow them to convey themselves clearly in writing.

When teaching homophones, teachers can make the lessons quite fun and "punny" using jokes and silly imagery. However, there are many practical tips on how to make the content of your homophone lessons memorable, including using picture references, activities and understanding each word's etymology and morphology.

Tips For Teaching Homophones

There are hundreds of homophones in English, so as teachers, we must help students distinguish between these words that sound similar but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

Before getting to the teaching tips, however, we should acknowledge a few things:

  1. Different accents can affect whether words are considered homophones or not. Depending on a person's accent, they might pronounce words differently, for example:
    • Knotty and naughty would be considered homophones in some American English dialects but not British English.
  2. Know the difference between homophones, homographs, and homonyms.
    • Homophones sound the same but have different spelling and meanings. E.g., Henry got bored of staring at the board. (Bored and board are homophones.)
    • Homographs are words spelled the same but pronounced differently and have different meanings. E.g., Wind down the window so I can feel the wind in my hair. (Wīnd and wĭnd are homographs.)
    • Homonyms have different meanings but are spelled and pronounced the same. E.g., She left the keys under the pot on the left side of the staircase. (Left and left are homonyms.)

Teaching Homophones Simultaneously vs. Apart

Ideally, teachers should only introduce homophone pairs where the word's letter combinations have already been taught.

An example of homophones that can be taught simultaneously is "pair" and "pear." The vowel combinations "ai" and "ea" are taught early in the curriculum, and these are high-frequency words.

However, it would be best to introduce specific homophone pairs apart to avoid confusion. For example, "wait" and "weight."  Since the "eigh" letter combination is taught a while after "ai," it would be preferable to give some time before introducing the two words as a homophone pair.

Picture The Difference

Children learn best through a variety of examples, including images. For example, when teaching a homophone pair, a teacher can use images to help students picture the words' differences.

For example, a picture of meat on a plate and a picture of two people meeting. Images should be as clear (not obscure) as possible.

Another great idea is to get students to draw pictures of one or more of the homophone pairs in a space under their list of homophones. The pictures don't need to be works of art, and they can be fun to draw. The teacher can draw her version on the board, and students can giggle at her 'artwork' and use it as a reference for their drawing.

E.g., a bear with bare arms, a pear with a pair of glasses, or pieces of meat shaking hands, meeting.

Use Dictation For Context

When a student knows the context of a word, there is a better chance of them choosing the correct homophone. So, to set our students up for success, we should use dictation to clarify between homophones. For example, your top speller in the class might write the incorrect homophone (spelled correctly) in a spelling test because there was no context for the word.

Keep A List Of Homophone Pairs In A Notebook

As students learn homophones, teachers can suggest that they keep a notebook to help them remember the pairs. They can organize the pairs phonetically. E.g., knight and night would be written under "n" or in any other way that can help them find the words quickly.

Teach Etymology And Morphology

Depending on your students' age, you can teach them the etymology (root word meanings and origins) and morphology (how a word changes meaning with a prefix or suffix).

Not all children will appreciate knowing the etymology and morphology of words. Still, it will help some to distinguish the differences in spelling homophones.

For example, consider the homophone pair "mode" and "mowed." Mowed comprises the root word "mow" with the suffix "ed." If used in the present tense, it would be incorrect to say, "I mo the lawn."

Over-Pronounce Words

Many homophones will have a word with a silent letter. E.g., knit and nit, or knight and night. It can be helpful to students to pronounce these silent letters to help students distinguish between the homophones. For example: 

  • The king's k-night rode his horse at night.
  • A nit can't k-nit.

Homophone Activities

There's a plethora of homophone activities on the internet. Whether you create your own activities, borrow ideas, or download activities, teaching homophones can be enjoyable, memorable, and fun.

Some ideas include the following:

  • Matching a word to its definition, using a word bank,
  • Watching a YouTube lesson on homophones,
  • Doing crossword puzzles,
  • Using riddles, songs, and humor to teach homophones, and
  • Playing homophone games like a memory game or Snap.

What's Included in Our Bonus Lesson PowerPoint Slides

This is a complete lesson for teaching What are Homophones. It is primarily designed for teaching primary grades.

Students will be able to:

  • Define the term 'homophone'
  • Give examples of homophones
  • Recognize and distinguish homophones in text

You can preview the lesson here before downloading the lesson's Powerpoint slides

Download ppt Slides For This Lesson

Editable Lesson Slides included

We hope this post is helpful for you to develop and deliver the lesson to your students. You can also check out more lessons in Teachers Resources

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