Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Fun Lessons for K-1

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Homonyms and multi-meaning words are lessons that add dimension to reading.  When students start to understand words can have more than one meaning, the things they say can be funny.

Once I had a student ask about how my throat could have a “horse” in it. AND I once had a student with a thick southern accent tell me I shouldn’t be teaching about “hail” because her mama said it was a bad word.  We were obviously learning about types of weather and I couldn’t really offer an explanation without telling the students how to say “the bad word,” so I just told them I would never say a bad word in the classroom and we were talking about a type of weather.

Of course, this wasn’t really a homonym confusion, it was more a accent confusion, but it is funny to interact with them.  

In this blog post, we’ll explore engaging whole group and center lessons to make learning about these language nuances enjoyable for young learners.

What is a Homonym?

Homonyms are words that share the same spelling OR pronunciation but have different meanings.

Homonyms can be further classified into homophones (same sound, different meaning) and homographs (same spelling, different meaning).

Example: an animal bat and a baseball bat

What is a Homophone?

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings.

Despite the similarity in pronunciation, homophones may be spelled differently and have distinct definitions.

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Example: two, to, and too OR bear and bare

What is a Homograph?

Homographs are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings. Unlike homophones, homographs may or may not sound the same when pronounced.

Example: a heavy metal lead pipe or the lead a line down the hall

By understanding these distinctions, teachers can effectively guide students through the intricacies of language and help them navigate the fascinating world of homophones, homonyms, and homographs.

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words Lessons & Centers

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Homonym Anchor Chart:

Students can help create a homonym anchor chart with pictures and words. Students can help arrange the title and interactively write the words on the chart. They can a match provided pictures, both representing a meaning.

Make sure you allow students to participate in making the anchor chart. You can pass out title words and picture cards (that would be 11 students) and have the rest of the class help you interactively write the words.

When students help write, ask one students to write one phoneme.

Homonym Partner Hunt:

Create a scavenger hunt within the classroom or school environment. Hide objects that represent homonyms, and ask students to find and match the objects with their corresponding meanings. This activity promotes movement and critical thinking.

Students can use homonyms puzzles. They can have the word on the table and two students will have pictures that represent two meanings of the word.

They can hunt to find their partner and create the three piece puzzle.

Homonym Independent Center:

Students can pick a word out a pile, glue it to a folded paper and illustrate at least two meanings of the word. They can also use the word in a sentence for each picture.

Students can also be given a 3-piece puzzle and a homonym. Students write the homonym in the big piece and draw pictures in the smaller pieces.

Older students might be asked to write sentences in the small pieces.

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words Mentor Texts

Amelia Bedelia

Peggy Parish wrote such an endearing character when she wrote Amelia Bedelia. Poor Amelia, she is always getting confused with the help of homonyms.

In Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia, Amelia is tasked to call the roll and she screams, “Roll!” at the student’s lunch. In Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, she makes Chocolate Chip Cookies with chocolate and potato chips (which sounds good to me) and she “pitches” the tent in the bushes, instead of pitching it to sleep in it.

And In Amelia Bedelia, instead of “trimming” the fat from a steak, she “trims” it like a Christmas tree and she “dresses” the chicken in clothing instead of “dressing” it for cooking with spices.

All of these words (roll, chocolate chip, pitch, trim, and dress) are homonyms and multi-meaning words…she just picked the wrong meaning. It wouldn’t seem like a big deal, except it changes the meaning…and that’s a big deal.

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Dear Deer

This is such a cute book about homonyms. The author, Gene Barretta starts with a letter. “Aunt Ant” writes a letter to her “Dear Deer.”

Aunt Ant now lives and zoo and tells her about her friends. The illustrations help with understanding as the MOOSE loves MOUSSE and shares it with the Ant who ATE EIGHT helpings.

“HEY, the elephant THREW  a pail THROUGH a big bale of HAY.” All of the homophones are capitalized.

How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear?

This one is fun! And who doesn’t love a Bare Bear? The book describes the distinction between homonyms (“Homonyms are words that sound and also look alike.”) and homophones (“Though homophones have matching sounds, their meanings aren’t the same.”).

The play on words is fun and the illustrations are delightful. My favorite page reads, “A bee can be. a flea and flee. A burro can burrow a hole.”

Hour of the Olympics

Yes, this is a Magic Tree House book and it isn’t written specifically to teach homonyms and multi-meaning words. But, if we’re going to read a book…why not look for lessons? (I love Magic Tree House books and I’ve used them for so many lessons.

On page 3, Jack throws back the covers and jumps out of bed. Using a think aloud, I might say, “Hmm? I know when I read a book, there is a front cover and a back cover, is that the kind of “cover” we’re talking about in this sentence?” Let them tell you the difference.

Using another example from the text, the word “fair” is used twice in the book with two different meanings.

On page 11, “Doesn’t it look like a big fair?” Annie is asking Jack about seeing a field of tents in the distance. Then, later, on page 16, she declares, “That’s not fair. What if a woman wanted to be in a play?”

Both times the word is pronounced and spelled the same, but the meanings are different.

Homonyms and Multi-Meaning Words: 4 Ideas Fun Lessons for K-1 Cathy Collier

Using the text, let the students tell you the difference in meanings. Other multi-meaning words in the story are play, safe, box, waved, notes, and pigtails. If you’d like to look at the Hour of the Olympics, check out the link.

I also have homonyms and multi-meaning word lessons in my Midnight on the Moon, Tonight on the Titanic, Dingoes at Dinnertime, and Thanksgiving on Thursday.

More Books

Dear Mousse by Victoria Hudson

If you were a Homonym or a Homophone by Nancy Loewen

The Bat can Bat by Gene Barretta

Teaching homonyms and multi-meaning words to kindergarten and first-grade students can be both educational and entertaining. By incorporating whole group and center lessons, educators can cater to different learning styles and provide a well-rounded understanding of these language concepts. Utilizing mentor texts adds a literary dimension to the lessons, making the learning experience memorable and enjoyable for young minds.

If you would like to get a free set of ideas for teaching homophones, fill out the form below and it will be sent to your inbox. This does add you to my newsletter, an easy way to keep in touch. You can, however, unsubscribe at any time.

Cathy Collier

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