Games for Teaching Homophones
By Megan Starnes
A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same or sounds the same as another word, but has a different meaning. Homophones can be tricky and confusing for young readers.
Practice truly makes perfect when learning to read and understand the differences in these similar words. These games and activities for classroom practice will provide a fun, interactive way to practice and learn the spelling and meaning of common homophones.
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1. Homophone Charades
This game will require multiple people to play, including one adult to be the moderator to ensure that children are reading and acting out the words correctly.
- Slips of paper
- Bag, box, bowl, or other container
- List of homophones on a board, poster, or large paper in view of all players
Write several homophones on slips of paper. Write the same list of homophones on the board or on a poster in clear view of everyone playing the game. This will serve as a reference list to add clarity to the game and to confirm that the players guessing the word are guessing the correct spellings. Fold the slips and mix them up in the container. Allow the children to take turns drawing words from the container and acting them out, to the best of their ability. Make sure to read the word yourself to ensure that the child understands the correct meaning of the homophone. Because some words may be more abstract, you can choose to allow a one or two-word hint. The guessers must raise their hands and guess the word, and they must be able to point to the word on the large reference list. Try to allow each child a turn acting out the words.
2. Homerun Homophones
This is another engaging homophone game with rules similar to baseball, designed to get children moving while practicing homophones. It has two versions, with the first version only requiring that children recognize the homophone in print, and the second version requiring that the children produce the spelling of the homophone themselves.
- Homophones written or printed on signs large enough to read from several feet away
- A room large enough to set up four areas as “bases” and one “pitching” seat in the middle
- Printed Homophone Picture Cards
- For Version 2: Pre-written sentences using the homophones in context for the teacher to read
Split the children into two teams. Teams should have at least four people each, to avoid having everyone “on base” and no one to “bat”. Or, if you have teams smaller than four, you can allow children to take two “bases” for each correctly guessed word. You can choose to limit the game to a number of rounds or to play until one team reaches a certain number of points.
Version 1 (easier): The “pitcher” (the adult leading the activity) will stand in the middle and hold up a sign with a homophone written on it. The “batter (the child whose turn it is) will stand at home plate and read the word. The child will then try to either 1) match the homophone to the appropriate picture OR 2) use the homophone correctly in a sentence that shows understanding of the meaning of the word. If correct, the child moves to the next base, and the next child takes a turn. If incorrect, the child goes to the end of the line for their team. For every person that makes it around the bases to home plate, the team gets a point. When three children guess incorrectly, that team is out, and the other team gets a turn.
Version 2 (more difficult): The “pitcher” (the adult leading the activity) will stand in the middle and hold up a picture representing a homophone, or say a homophone and read a sentence using it in context. The “batter” (the child whose turn it is) will stand at home plate and spell the word out loud. If correct, the child moves to the next base, and the next child takes a turn. If incorrect, the child goes to the end of the line for their team. For every person that makes it around the bases to home plate, the team gets a point. When three children guess incorrectly, that team is out, and the other team gets a turn.
3. Homophone Headbands
In this homophone matching activity, children work collaboratively to match the correct spellings to pictures representing various homophones. It is meant to be played like the party game Headbandz, as keeping the children from seeing their own word or picture add an extra challenge. For younger readers who may struggle with the concept, you can remove the headbands and just give them the word or picture cards. This will allow them to see their own picture or word and simply find the child with their match, taking out the confusion that could arise in the collaborative aspect of the game.
- Printed Homophone Word Cards and Homophone Picture Cards
- Paper strips to make headbands
- Stapler or tape
Make the headbands by printing the word and picture cards and stapling or taping them to paper strips. Assign each child a headband. Because they cannot see what is on their own headband, they will have to collaborate with each other. The children with words on their headbands will have to explain to the children with pictures what their pictures are. Likewise, the children with pictures on their headbands will have to read the words on the other headbands and explain the words with the appropriate context. All the children will have to work together to find the match to their word or picture.
4. Homophone Hunt
For this homophone student activity, you will need to do light preparation while the children are not in the room, but after it is prepared, it can be left and done as a large group, small group, or individual activity.
- Printed Homophone Picture Cards
- Paper or notebook with enough room for children to write homophone words
Print the homophone picture cards and number them. You may wish to keep a master list of the words with their corresponding numbers to reference for checking the children’s work at the end of the activity. Cut them out and place them in conspicuous places around the room. Ask the children to number their papers up to the number of homophones that you have hidden around the room. Allow them to walk around the room, either as a group or in small groups, and hunt for pictures. When they find a picture of a homophone, they must write the word with the correct spelling next to the corresponding number on their paper.
About the Author
Megan Starnes is a preschool professional and freelance writer with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She specializes in play-based activities that are developmentally and academically appropriate, but also fun and engaging for children of all ages. She enjoys activities like rock climbing and kayaking in addition to the fun challenges of curriculum development and preschool management.