Start Learning Homophones
Even the best spellers need extra practice for tricky words like homophones. They sound the same but have different meanings. When an example of a homophone comes up, such as where, wear, ware, I like to explain how you can tell the difference. Where has the word here in it, which means a location. That’s the clue. In fact, you can ask, “Where?” And the answer is “Here.” Along those lines, for remembering wear, your trick might be to ask, “What do you wear on your ear?” Or something silly like, “He wears underwear on his ear.” Ware just has to be memorized. Define it as things or services that people sell. Give examples: hardware, housewares, warehouse. Since ware is used less often, you might just want to teach wear and where for now.
Another good practice is to differentiate there, their, they’re. Point out that there has similar spelling to where, so the trick of looking for the word here applies also. In fact, you can ask, “Where?” And the answer could be there or here, they’re both used to designate location. Their is a little bit trickier to explain. You can point out that it contains the word heir, which refers to a person who is likely to receive something. In other words, they will possess or own something. Their means that more than one person possesses something. Examples: Their cat is black. They own their cat. They’re is, of course, the contraction for they are. Help your child understand that the comma represents the missing a in the two combined words.
Which and witch. Well, the witch has an itch on her nose. The other which just tells us that there’s going to be a choice. Which witch do you want to be for Halloween? When your child has mastered the difference between these two, you might want to point out that sandwich isn’t a which or a witch. You just have to memorize it.
Hear and here. You hear with your ear. And we’ve already talked about here being a location word.
How Can You Practice Learning Homophones?
Use Bubble wrap. Grab some bubble wrap and write a practice word on each bubble with a Sharpie. Then team up with your child. Say one of the words in a sentence, then let them find it and pop the bubble. This is a simple, fun way to practice any group of words.
Put sidewalk chalk to work. Among all the fun pictures your kids might draw on the driveway, you can encourage a little learning. Take a few minutes to sit down with your kids, and practice tough words on the asphalt. Draw pictures to go with them. Decorate the words, making them fancy and colorful.
Write on your windows. Yep, that’s right. Purchase some window markers and turn a big window into a see-through “chalkboard.” Your kids will love, love it and won’t realize they’re practicing schoolwork. Leave their window doodles up for a few days. If the window is by the kitchen table, discuss what’s on the “windowboard” as you eat. An added bonus? When your kids are finished, they’ll probably be delighted to clean the window for you. It’s kind of fun because the process of cleaning is very visible as the marker is washed off. You can also use this idea, of course, to write on mirrors.
Write in the mud, dirt, or sand. Pat a smooth surface with your hand, and do as the Native Americans often did. Write or draw on the smooth ground. It’s super fun, and you’ll be working on sensory exposure as well as spelling.
Make the wait worth it. Write down a couple of practice words while you’re waiting at a restaurant or a doctor’s office. See if your child can tell the difference and use them correctly in a sentence.
Practice on the go. While you’re driving in the car, do a short quiz. “Which there/their/they’re do you use in this sentence? . . . ” Or spell the hear/here that means a location. Better yet, let your child quiz you. It requires more brain power for them to come up with the question; plus they have to know the answer.
More ideas that don’t require explanation: Play hangman. Feature a word a day. Grab a newspaper and encourage your child to circle or highlight every time a certain word is used. Write the word with ketchup on a hot dog or hamburger patty.
Children’s Books about Homophones
These tricks for learning homophones can be introduced one or two at a time. Point out correct and incorrect uses in print or on signs. Do not try to teach all these words in one sitting. In fact, don’t tell your child that they’re going to be learning all these words. Just teach two or three at a time–for as long as it takes. There’s no rush; after all, you have the whole summer to practice.
Because your child will encounter these tricky words often throughout the rest of their lives, spend the time now to teach their proper uses. Later, your child will feel smart when they can teach a sibling, classmate or, someday, a coworker or their own children. Because of your efforts now, your child can gain lifelong reading skills this summer.
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