7 Ways to Support Children with Homophones

What is a homophone? 

The word homophone comes from ‘homo’ meaning same and ‘phone’ meaning sound. So, homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled different and have different meanings. 

Having been a primary school teacher for over 20 years, I have frequently come across pupils that struggle with homophones when it comes to spelling them correctly. I’ve often been asked “How can I remember which spelling is the correct spelling?”

The problem with homophones is that they can trip you up! Homophones are tricky because they sound the same when spoken but have a different meaning and a different spelling. The English language has more than 441 homophones at the last count- 396 pairs, 40 triples and 5 quadruples. So it’s no wonder that children find this confusing as it can be difficult to know which meaning is intended in a particular context.

Why do children confuse homophones? One reason that some children have difficulty is that they may not have a very strong grasp of spelling or grammar. Homophones are often misspelt or misused in children’s writing. Let’s have a look in a bit more detail……

a) Auditory Similarity - Homophones sound alike when spoken, so if you rely solely on your sense of hearing it may be difficult to distinguish between the two.

b) Spelling Differences - Since homophones often have different spellings, it can be confusing for individuals who rely on written language.

c) Contextual Understanding - Understanding which homophone to use often depends on the context of the sentence. Children and even adults can struggle to choose the correct homophone without a clear understanding of the context.

d) Language variations - Homophones can vary depending on local dialect and regional accents. Different regions might pronounce words similarly but use different homophones.

e) Memory & Recall - Remembering the correct spelling and meaning of homophones requires good memory and recall skills. Mixing up homophones can be a common mistake when these skills are still developing, especially in early language learning.

So why is it important to teach homophones?

1.      It helps children to broaden their vocabulary and grammar.

2.      It helps them to understand the difference between 2 similar sounding words.

3.      It gives children the opportunity to practice and improve their spelling.

How can we help children with their memory and recall skills of homophones?

Practice and exposure to a variety of sentences using homophones in different contexts can be helpful, along with engaging activities that involve reading, writing, and speaking. These can enhance their familiarity and understanding of homophones over time.

Here are a few activity suggestions to try, many of which can be found as part of the Superhero Spelling Programme:

1) Homophone art-create visual representations of the homophones as a memory cue 

2) Homophone silly song or rhyme - Make up a silly sentence, song or rhyme to help you visualise the homophone. That’s one of SHS Super strategies!

3) Word puzzles and games- Create wordsearches with pairs of homophones to reinforce spellings.

4) Homophone matching game - Create cards with homophones (1 word per card) and their definitions or corresponding image. Have the child match the homophones into the correct pairs. 

5) Sentence building - Provide sentences with blanks where the homophones should be inserted. The child needs to choose the correct homophone and spelling to fill the gap.

6) Homophone charades - Act out homophones and the child guesses which homophone is being portrayed. E.g Flower- someone will act out pretending to hold a flower and smell it.

7) Homophone story writing - Ask the child to write a short story or paragraph using a set of homophones. This allows them to practise using the homophones in context and reinforces the correct meanings.

Many of the above activities can be found as part of the Superhero Spelling Programme. If you would like to find out more about Superhero spelling, then visit our website on www.superherospelling.com where you can take a free trial and watch a demo.

Why not also have a look at our other blog posts by Monster Phonics:



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