Homophones (KS2) Explained For Parents

Mum helping her daughter learn homophones on a tablet.
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Spelling, grammar, maths - there's a lot to keep up with when it comes to homework, and if your primary child sometimes brings home resources that leave you scratching your head, you're not alone.

Primary teaching has changed hugely since most of us were in school, and sometimes it can leave us feeling a little out of our depth. Luckily, there are lots of resources out there that can help even the most grammar-averse of us get to grips with just what the National Curriculum has in store for our kids next.

In this article, we talk about homophones: what they are, what your child needs to know about them, and what kind of teaching resources and activities can help them get the hang of which word gets used when.

What Is A Homophone?

Homophones are words that, while sounding the same, have different meanings. They're very often spelled differently; for example, there, their and they're, or your and you're. However, it is also possible for two words to have the same spelling and still be homophones. Examples include lead (the metal) and lead (that you'd use for a dog), or wind (that blows) and wind (the window up). These are called homonyms.

English also contains something called near-homophones. These are words that sound almost the same, but not exactly. Think of examples like quite and quiet, or wary and weary.

One thing to bear in mind is that homophones are based on RP accents. If you (or your child) speak with a different accent, you may find that the two words don't sound quite alike for you. This is absolutely fine - as long as your child can classify them as homophones and knows how to spell and use them, that's all they need.

Older sister teaching her younger brothers about homophones.

What Do Children Need To Know About Homophones?

The most common homophones are introduced in KS1, during Year 2 English teaching. These are simple words like bee and be, or blue and blew. As children move into KS2, they will learn more complex ones. Although the concept is statutory (must be taught) at KS2, there is no definitive list of homophones that have to be covered. This means it will be up to your child's school which are taught and when. In practice, most schools use the suggestions in the National Curriculum as a resource, and follow the homophone list below:

Table showing the lists of homophones for all of Key Stage 2.

As more homophones are introduced, teachers will often send home a resource pack or some worksheets to help your child practice and remember them. This will often be similar to the resources your child's teacher will be using in school, such as asking the child to fill in a gap in a sentence by choosing the correct homophone to fill in the blank, or presenting a word and asking the child to include it in a sentence.

Tips, Tricks And Resources

There are all kinds of ways that primary-age kids can practice their homophones to make sure they know them well. Just keeping a homophones list up on a wall or desk where they will see it often can help in teaching them the words. Educational websites have lots of resources like printable worksheets, and bookshops often carry  SPaG activity books targeted at different year groups.

If your child tends to get bored with worksheets, there are also plenty of other resources you can try. Homophone games, like playing homophone scrabble or writing homophones on cards, shuffling them and asking the child to match the pairs, are always popular. When they get confident with this, you can re-use the cards as a resource for a writing activity, having them pick a card at random and write a sentence using the word on it.

Colourful stationery supplies for making a homophone list.
Image © Pixabay

Activities like this can really help kids build their vocabulary and become more confident in telling homophones apart. Drawing or picture-matching activities can also be helpful when teaching younger children and more reluctant writers. In these, the child has to match the correct homophones to pictures representing the different meanings, or for older children, draw a picture or symbol to represent it.

Spelling games can be a great resource for helping your child to memorise their homophones. These can be verbal (give the child a homophone and they have to spell it) or written (making crosswords or word searches, for example). There are also lots of educational apps out there to help children with spelling and grammar, which present the teaching as a game.

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