Homophone: One of a pair (or more) words that are pronounced alike but that differ in meaning, origin, and sometimes spelling (e.g., to, too, and two; made and maid).
Homograph: one of a pair (or more) words that are spelled alike but differ in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation. Examples: include ‘bow’ (of a ship, ___ and arrow); ‘fair’ (pleasant appearance; market value); ‘row’ (quarrel; ___ of corn).
Homonym: one of a pair (or more) words that are spelled and pronounced alike but differ in meaning (the noun quail and the verb quail; bank of a river and where you keep your money).
Children love to play with words. Using homophones is one way to encourage children to be fascinated with words, their spellings, their origins, and how words are used in our language. English is filled with homophones and once you get your students tuned into to this concept, they’ll find more and more examples to bring to your attention, too.
A few suggestions you can use:
- Display the definition of what a homophone is (and be sure to distinguish it from homonyms and homographs).
- Provide examples of homophones (which is one way for students to know what these pairs – or trios – are). For example, bear and bare; knight and night; there, they’re, their.
- List one word that is a homophone and see who can spell – and define – its partner(s). For example, give students ‘feet’ and then they can provide ‘feat;’ give students ‘in’ and they can provide ‘inn.’
- Hand out cards to students (that one of them may have created or that you created yourself) and have students find their partner or partners, i.e., the student(s) who have a matching homophone.
- Create a PowerPoint that displays a homophone on the screen – and then challenge students to use that homophone correctly in a sentence and/or to tell what its companion word is (or words are). If you have the PowerPoint set to advance automatically after a set number of seconds, students feel the game-like atmosphere and are energized by that. Let’s make learning as much fun as possible, shall we?
And if you would like to access a PowerPoint that has already been created for you, it’s available at no cost. You can access the homophone PowerPoint as well as others (for free) to help build vocabulary in your classroom by going to Owning Words for Literacy. To get numerous articles with teaching tips (for free), just go to Top Ten Productivity Tips and see what’s there for you to use in your classroom.