If you are a teacher, you have probably come across students who constantly use commonly confused words such as “there” and “their,” “your” and “you’re,” and “its” and “it’s” incorrectly. It can be frustrating, and you may find it challenging to assess their writing skills when their work is riddled with spelling and grammar errors. This issue is particularly noticeable in 7th and 8th-grade students who should already have a firm grasp of these basic concepts. When these words are misused it appears to be a lack of attention to detail and can give the impression that they have not taken the time to proofread their work. (even if they have) So, what can you do to help your students finally master these commonly confused words? We’re going to break it down for you.
Step 1: Teach Explicitly
The first step in helping students master commonly confused words is to teach them explicitly. List the most commonly confused words on the board and provide clear definitions and examples of the homophones. Perhaps even create a sweet and simple handout they can keep in their ELA notebook or folder to reference. Taking this moment to review the differences in meaning between the homophones will give students an opportunity to better understand when to use each word correctly.
For example, you’ll simply remind students that “their” refers to something belonging to someone, while “there” refers to a place. By making these differences clear and providing references, students will have something concrete to build their knowledge on moving forward in their writing skills.
Step 2: Play a Game
Once students have reviewed common homophones, it’s time to play a game! A fun and interactive game will help students to better understand the differences between homophones and cement their knowledge. This game is called “Homophone Hit,” and students will love the competitive and fast-paced nature of it!
To set up the game “Homophone Hit,” write down common pairs of homophones on large pieces of paper and hang them around your room. Use the cafeteria or even outside if possible. There should be one homophone on each piece of paper, written or typed large enough to be easily visible from a distance. You may even want to laminate these for future use!
Divide your class into two teams. Students will compete against each other one at a time. At the beginning of each round, say a sentence that includes a homophone. After the full sentence has been spoken, yell “Go!” and one student from each team will race over to the correct spelling of that homophone and slap that poster lightly with their hand.
The first person to slap the poster will receive a point, which you can tally on the board. To keep students on their toes, use some of the homophones more than once. So just because a poster has been used once doesn’t mean it will not be the answer again!
The winner of the game is the team that receives the most points! A time-saving way to come up with all your sentences for the game is to use Chat GPT and ask it to come up with a sentence with a particular homophone.
Use this game throughout the year as a spiral review to solidify their understanding!
Step 3: Check for Understanding
Once students have played the game, you may want to do a check of understanding. For each set of homophones from the game, have students create ONE sentence that uses each word correctly. For example, “Do you know this essay is due tomorrow?”
Based on how well they do with this check for understanding, you’ll know if it would be helpful to play the game again or if students are all set for correctly using homophones in their writing!
Teaching explicitly, playing a fun game, and checking for understanding are essential steps in helping students master commonly confused words. Try out “Homophone Hit” in your classroom and watch your students’ writing improve!