For students who have not had any exposure to homophones, they can be frustrating and confusing. For students who have studied the sound alike word pairs, they can be a source of linguistic challenge and entertainment. Either way, your ESL class will benefit from some experience with these unique word buddies in English! The next time you talk about homophones with your ESL class, keep the following tips in mind.
How to Teach Homophones
English is full of homophones. Giving your students a set which they can reference will help ease their anxiety when it comes to different words that sound the same. This set of 706 sets of homophones that Alan Cooper compiled will help your students reduce their anxiety about homophones.
Encourage your students to keep their own list of homophone pairs in a vocabulary notebook. From time to time, ask your students to write sentences that use both members of the homophone pairs in the same sentence.
Sometimes what your students need most of all when it comes to homophones is practice. Giving them fill in the blank sentences or a cloze paragraph which test homophones will help them understand which word goes with which meaning.
Dictating sentences that contain homophones is also beneficial to your students. If you collect their papers, you can see which of your students is having trouble with the sound alike words.
It is not difficult to find online quizzes that test homophone comprehension. Giving your students a list of sites with these activities will give them resources they can use in their free time to do further homophone study.
You can give your students practice matching homophones with the correct definitions by creating your own crossword puzzles. Simply give the definition of the word as the clue and have your students fill the answers in the chart.
By writing pairs of homophones on index cards you can create your own set of Go Fish cards. Teach your students how to play the game if they do not already know how then use your cards to make matching pairs.
You can use these same cards to play a game of homophone memory. Students lay all the cards out face down on a flat surface and take turns trying to match pairs of homophones to each other.
You can play a relay race to review homophones with your class for a more energetic activity. Divide your class into two groups and have one person from each group come to the front board. Read a sentence which uses one of a pair of homophones. The first student to correctly write that homophone on the board scores a point for his team. The first team to reach fifteen points wins.
Similarly, you can play homophone Pictionary by showing the two people at the board a homonym pair on an index card and having them race to illustrate the words. The first team to guess the homophones correctly scores a point.
Riddles can be another fun way to review homophones with your students. Ask your class a riddle which has a homophone pair for its answer. For example, what do you call a naked grizzly? A bare bear. Challenge your students to come up with some homophone riddles of their own. You can display the riddles on a bulletin board and challenge your class to come up with the answers during their free periods.
Have your class list the letters of the alphabet from A to Z on a sheet of paper. Starting with each of the letters, see how many homophone pairs they can think of. Allow your students to work in groups and see if anyone can make a complete set of 26 homophone pairs.
Divide your class into small groups and challenge the groups to write one sentence with as many homophone pairs as possible. What is the highest number of homophone pairs that a group can put into a logical sentence?
Homophones are not a phenomenon unique to English. Group your students by their native languages to see if they can make a list of the homophones in their native tongue.
Homophones can be fun as long as you take time in your class to talk about the unique word pairs in English. Try doing one homophone activity each day or spend a few days on a homophone unit. With some experience, exposure and entertainment, homophones will be fun for your class rather than fearful!