Homonyms

Strategy

The spelling of words which are homonyms is commonly confused. Homonyms must be explicitly taught through guiding learners to understand the purpose and meaning behind the variations. Students can create classroom displays for easy reference.

The English K-10 Syllabus Volume 1: English K-6 provides a comprehensive glossary for teachers to refer to. Definitions for homonyms are found on page 136.

Homograph: A word with the same spelling as another, but of different origin and meaning, for example wind (the wind blows), wind (wind the clock).

Homonym: A word having the same sound and the same spelling, but a different meaning, for example strike (verb), strike (noun).

Homophone: A word having the same sound as another but different spelling and meaning, for example bear, bare.

Here are some commonly confused homonyms to display. These homonyms will need systematic and explicit instruction.

Example of homonyms. (PDF 13.44KB)

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Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1

To reinforce the correct meaning and spelling of commonly confused homonyms, discuss the meaning of the word homonym with students.

Explain that it refers to words having the same sound (and often the same spelling) but with a different meaning. Consider the etymology of homonym: homo = same, nym = name.

Brainstorm a list of homonyms and display children’s responses. Consider the grammatical categories, for example meat is a noun (a naming word), meet is a verb (a doing word).

Activity 2

With assistance from students write a selection of the homonyms in sentences for display.

Make “fit it” cards, for example

Use the “fit it” cards to match by covering the same word and then placing the same word in the correct gap.

Activity 3

Follow up with cloze activities, where the student reads the sentence and writes the correct word. Sequence the level of difficulty, e.g.

(words are provided) here, hear

  • Come ........... and look at this.

(words not provided)

  • Come ........... and look at this.

Activity 4

Construct a proofreading activity with a focus on correct usage and spelling of homonyms.

Students circle the mistakes and write the corrections above.

When re-reading for spelling errors ask:

1. Does it look right?

2. Can I see a letter or group of letters for all the sounds I can hear when I say the word?

3. Is the word made from a word or a group of words I know?

4. What sources can I use to check the spelling?

(Programming and Strategies Handbook NSW Department of Education and Communities 1999 p 96-97)

Online resources

sites.google.com/site/easygrammar4kids/homonyms

References

Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1780: Recognise homophones and know how to use context to identify correct spelling

NSW syllabus reference

EN2-5A: Uses a range of strategies, including knowledge of letter–sound correspondences and common letter patterns, to spell familiar and some unfamiliar words

NSW literacy continuum reference

COMC10M7: Comprehension, Cluster 10, Marker 7: Responds to and analyses texts by discussing the ways language structures and features shape meaning.

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