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How to teach your child homophones

22.04.22

The top 10 most commonly confused homophones are:

  1. affect / effect
  2. you’re / your
  3. which / witch
  4. here / hear
  5. are /our
  6. buy / by
  7. accept / except
  8. weather / whether
  9. their / they’re / there
  10. to / two / too

Too bee or not two be? That is the question. Or, should we say, that is not the spelling.

It’s not surprising children find homophones tricky. 

Homophones are two or more words that sound alike but that are spelled differently and have different meanings. A few groups are: saw and sore, wait and weight and two, to and too.

Homophones are different to homographs – which are words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings and may have different pronunciations, such as wind and wind: ‘I can feel the wind on my face. Wind up the kite before it gets tangled.’ So, they have the same spelling but a different pronunciation.

There are so many homophones, and we commonly teach them in a drip-fed manner in primary year groups, so by the time children get to Year 6 they should have come across most of them. Ones that children still confuse by the time they leave primary are some of the most commonly used words – such as there, their and they’re and you’re and your.

A top tip for teaching your child homophones if they’re struggling is to try and NOT teach them in pairs – so, don’t teach bare and bear at the same time. If children meet the same sound and different spelling at the same time, they are more likely to confuse them. It helps if they are taught in context (in the structure of a sentence) and spaced out – not in the same lesson. Its a bit like meeting four new people; meet them all at once you may struggle to remember their names. But meet them individually in different places and you will be able to associate a place with a face and name.

There are so many homophones that this might be time consuming, so look at the most commonly confused ones first.

Happy ‘homophoning’!