What are homophones?
Homophones are sets of words which have the same pronunciation, but different spellings and meanings.
The word 'homophone' derives from the Greek words 'homo' (meaning 'same') and 'phone' (meaning 'sound').
Whether two words are homophones can be dependent on a person's accent, as the pronunciation of words can differ from region to region.
Some common homophones include:
- to, too, two
- there, their, they're
- see, sea
- knew, new
- I, eye
- hear, here
- no, know
- ate, eight
What are near homophones?
Near homophones are sets of words which have almost the same pronunciation, but have different spellings and meanings.
Near homophone examples:
- loose, lose
- hiss, his
- quite, quiet
- wary, weary
- accept, except
- recent, resent
- advise, advice
Why are homophones important?
Exploring homophones gives children the opportunity to practise and improve their spelling, as well as helping them to expand their vocabulary. The understanding that some words can have more than one meaning is also crucial to the development of comprehension skills.
Homophones in the National Curriculum:
Homophones appear in the National Curriculum from Year 2 onwards, in the spelling section under the heading 'Writing – transcription'.
Year 2 homophones
The National Curriculum states that children in Year 2 should be:
- learning new ways of spelling phonemes for which one or more spellings are already known, and learn some words with each spelling, including a few common homophones
- distinguishing between homophones and near homophones
Year 3 homophones and Year 4 homophones
The National Curriculum states that children in Year 3 and Year 4 should:
- spell further homophones
Year 5 homophones and Year 6 homophones
The National Curriculum states that children in Year 5 and Year 6 should:
- continue to distinguish between homophones and other words which are often confused
Children should be encouraged to investigate the use of different homophones in both reading and writing. If you discuss the morphology (internal structure) and etymology (origin and meaning) of the words, it can help children to remember the differences between the spellings.
Here are some activity ideas:
- Try to look at and discuss a new pair of homophones each day. As a morning starter, display two matching homophones and ask children to write a definition for each, or show two images depicting a pair of homophones, and ask children to write the correct spelling of each one. For either of these options, you could also challenge children to write sentences using each homophone in the correct context.
- Use these Homophones Game card sets to play matching pairs, snap or 'Go Fish'.
- Show children sentences where the incorrect homophone has been used - can they identify it and spell out the correct homophone?
- Devise a cloze paragraph or set of sentences where homophones are the missing words - can children use their knowledge and understanding to choose and spell the correct word to match the context?
- Make a class collection of homophones - how many can they find? As an extra challenge, they could attempt to identify a pair of homophones starting with each letter of the alphabet!