Homonyms are words that are spelled the same but that have different meanings. The words pound (meaning "to hit something") and pound (meaning "a measure of weight") are examples of homonyms — they sound and are spelled the same, but they have different meanings. The same goes for kind (meaning "nice") and kind (meaning "a type of something"). The following resources provide a variety of homonym activities as part of the language arts curriculum.
Get the homonym instruction started early with preschoolers and kindergartners. As kids are just beginning to read, they can benefit from common sight words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Try out this lesson plan for beginning readers that includes a homonyms worksheet.
- Introduction - Write the word "bat" on the board. Lead a discussion about what "bat" means. (Students should identify at least two meanings of the word: the flying animal and a baseball bat, and possibly the verb form "to hit a ball"). See if students know other words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.
- Direct Instruction - Explain that these types of words are homonyms, which means "same" (homo) and "name" (nym). Homonyms sound and are spelled the same, but they have different meanings.
- Guided Practice - Read a book about homonyms (such as See the Yak Yak by Charles Ghigna). At each pair of homonyms, see if students can identify the multiple meanings. Write each pair on the board along with "bat" and other student examples.
- Independent Practice - Pass out the homonym worksheet below. Have students work individually or in pairs to cut out and paste the picture next to the correct word.
- Closure - Ask students to share their worksheets in front of the class or on a document viewer. Discuss which words were the trickiest and which ones were the easiest.
Download and print this worksheet for independent practice in the above lesson. You can also use it as a homework activity or for review in small groups.
Now that students are familiar with the concept of homonyms, challenge them to tell the difference between homonyms and homophones, which are words that sound the same but have different spellings. Add this homonym lesson plan to your next language arts unit to review the important vocabulary difference.
- Introduction - Write the words "right" and "left" on the board. Ask students to list all definitions they can think of, either by calling out answers or writing them on the board themselves. (They should come up with "correct" and "the direction" for "right," and "past tense of leave" and "the direction" for "left.")
- Direct Instruction - When a student lists "to create words with a pencil" (or something else that defines "write"), note that this is actually a homophone. "Right" and "right" are homonyms, and "write" and "right" are homophones. "nym" means name, while "phone" means sound.
- Guided Practice - On one side of the board, list other homophones that students may know, and accept answers from volunteers. (Encourage them to think of words they commonly confuse, such as "two/too/to" and "there/their/they're"). On the other side, list homonyms that sound and are spelled the same.
- Independent Practice - Have students choose one of the homonyms listed on the board. Pass out paper and art supplies, and tell them to draw a line in the middle of the paper. They write the word at the top of each section (spelled the same), then each definition. Students then draw the definitions to show the difference. Encourage them to be creative and funny.
- Closure - Have students share their illustrations. For an extra challenge, have them cover up their words and definitions and see if their peers can guess what the homonym was.
Need some more homonym activities to add to your curriculum? Try out these fun ways to teach homonyms for any grade level.
Using a list of common homonyms, write down both definitions of a homonym on two index cards. (For example, you would write "the movement of the ocean on the beach" and "saying hi with your hand" for the word "wave.") Don't write the word. Give every student an index card and have them find the partner who has a definition that matches the same word as theirs. Or, if you need to make it less challenging, give two students the definitions and one student a card with the word, and have all three kids find each other.
Plan hilarious skits with homonyms!
- Put a list of homonyms on the board or pass out a paper with various homonyms.
- Have small groups choose a few homonyms (more for advanced or older students) and assign a short skit project.
- Students should use the misunderstandings around homonyms as part of their plot (for example, someone can ask what direction they should turn, and when another character says "right," the first person thinks they mean "correct.").
- Have them perform for their class and vote for the funniest skit.
Once students have mastered the difference between homonyms vs. homophones, they can move on to homographs (words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently and have different definitions).
- Write 10-20 homonyms and 10-20 homographs on index cards.
- Mix them up and put all the cards into two boxes or piles.
- Split the class into two teams and give each team one set of cards.
- Set a timer for one minute (longer for younger students) and have the students work together to sort the cards into homonyms and homographs.
- Encourage them to read the words out loud so they can tell the difference.