Fun Homophones Activities
Games to introduce and practise the important point of words that sound the same but are spelt differently
The topic of words that sound the same is incredibly useful for EFL students, but it is difficult to know what to actually do with homophones in the classroom. This article introduces some practical classroom activities that can be used with all kinds of classes.
The first thing students need to be able to do is identify that words are pronounced the same, either when listening to or when seeing the words. One fun activity is to ask them to race to react as soon as they hear or see a homophone. For example, the teacher reads out or flashes up a list of words and as soon as there are two words that are pronounced the same (e.g. “fair” and “fare”) next to each other, the students stand up, raise one hand or shout out. You can also do this with the words not having to be next to each other, e.g. students reacting when you reach the word “there” in the list “their hat heat hot hit there”. As with this list, it is often a good idea to mix up homophones with minimal pairs, and you can do so with most of the ideas below.
Homophones Or Not Reactions
A variation on the reacting game above is asking students to react whenever words aren’t homophones, e.g. keeping still and quiet when they hear or see “bi by buy bye” but reacting when they reach the last word of “here hear hair”.
Homophones Search Races
A more active approach to identifying homophones is to ask students to search for them. The easiest way is to give them a huge list of words on a worksheet and to flash up one word or picture that students should find the homophone of as quickly as possible. When they think they have found the right one they can shout out the spelling, write the word on a large piece of paper and hold it up, or use magnetic letters to spell it out. You can play the same game with homophones in a complete written text. It is also possible to do something similar with a listening. Play or read out a text that includes homophones, asking students to just identify how many they hear the first couple of times they listen. They can then listen again to try to write them down or identify them in a list that is given to them at that point.
Homophones Dictionary Race
Another place you can ask students to search for homophones is in a dictionary. You could ask them to just search for as many as they can in five minutes, or give them words and ask them to guess how their homophones might be spelt and then search for them to check. This is a good way of practising spelling rules like silent letters and Magic E.
Homophones Run and Touch
Mainly for young learners, an even more active version of searching is to put pictures or written words around the room and ask them to race to find and touch the homophones of the words you write up or draw on the board.
Blindfold Board Race
Another really active game is to put a blindfolded student in front of the board with a pen and ask their classmates to shout instructions for how they should move the pen to help them do a homophones exercise on the board. This can be done with any of the usual boring textbook homophones exercises, e.g. circle the option that is a homophone, circle the odd one out, circle the two homophones in the big list, find the homophones in a word search, or join the homophones with a line.
A more sit down game that can be adapted for homophones is pelmanism (= memory game/pairs). Students spread a set of homophones cards face down on the table and take turns trying to find pairs, e.g. the card that has “fined” and the one with “find”. As with most of the games here, the cards could be pictures or written words.
This is a well known pronunciation game that can be adapted for use with homophones. In the original version in the book Pronunciation Games, students are given a kind of tree where each branch splits into two and then two again. At each split they follow one of the two branches depending on whether they hear one of two sounds, e.g. left for v and right for b. You can then check whether they heard the right sounds by seeing which branch at the end of the tree they end up at. In the homophones variation, students take the left branch if the two words they hear and/or see are pronounced the same, or the right branch if they are different.
Same or Different Reactions
This “same or different” idea can also be used in reacting games. If students see and/or hear words that sound the same, they do one thing (e.g. hold up their right arms, run and touch one wall or hold up a card that says “same”), and if the words are pronounced differently they do the opposite.
Homophones Same Or Different Pairwork
One of each pair is given a list of words, maybe given in bold in context in whole sentences. Their partner is given a similar list of words, some of which are homophones, again maybe in whole sentences. Without showing their worksheets to each other, they read out their words (and then the example sentence if they have them) to work out which words are homophones and which ones are not.
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic blog.