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You've Taught Homonyms,
Now Teach Heteronyms



Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts



Brief Description

Can your students tell a homonym from a heteronym? Heres plenty of heteronym practice, and a printable work sheet too.


Students will

  • learn how homonyms and heteronyms differ.
  • rewrite sentences with heteronyms in them.


homonym, heteronym, word meaning, spelling

Materials Needed

Lesson Plan

Your students have undoubtedly heard of homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled different and have different meanings, for example, their and there or write and right), but have they heard of heteronyms? Heteronyms are words that share the same spelling but have different pronunciations and meanings.

Write the following sentences on a black/whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper:

  1. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  2. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  3. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  5. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  6. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into the sewer line.
  7. Geometry was not a subject to which Steve wanted to subject himself.
  8. After a number of injections, my jaw got number.
Have students read the sentences to themselves. Then ask a student to read aloud the first sentence. Ask the student to explain how the heteronyms in each sentence are pronounced and what they mean. Invite others to help out where needed. The students answers should be similar to those that appear in the table below. Accept reasonable variations.

Word Pronunciation/Meaning 1 Pronunciation/Meaning 2
does (DUZ) performs (DOZE) more than one female deer
refuse (refuse) to deny (REFFyoos) garbage
bass (BASS, rhymes with mass) a fish (BASE) a string instrument
polish (PAHLish) shine (POElish) from Poland
row (ROUW) a fight (ROH) steer a boat
sewer (SOwer) one who sews (SOOwer) place for human waste
subject (SUBjekt) theme of study (subJEKT) to force upon someone
number (NUMber) one, two, three (NUMMER) more numb

Next, present this Heteronym Practice work sheet to students. Have them work on their own or in pairs to rewrite each sentence by using a synonym or short meaning for each of the underlined heteronyms.

These are the sentences found on the work sheet:
1. They were too close to the door to close it.
2. The bandage was wound around the wound.
3. The farm was used to produce produce.
4. Paul had to desert his car in the desert.
5. He thought it was time to present the present.
6. When shot at the dove, it dove into the bushes.
7. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
8. She was content with the content of the letter she composed.
9. Father was not going to contest the results of the contest.
10. A permit from City Hall will permit you to fish in the river.
The following table provides the answers to the work sheet. Note: Students might give responses that vary slightly from these. Please accept reasoned responses.

Word Pronunciation/Meaning 1 Pronunciation/Meaning 2
1. close (CLOS) near (CLOZE) to shut
2. wound (WOWND) coiled up, wrapped (WOOND) to injure
3. produce (proDOOS) bring forth, grow (PROdoos) vegetables
4. desert (dihZURT) to leave (DEZert) arid/dry region
5. present (PREZent) a gift (preeZENT) to give
6. dove (DUV) a bird (DOEV) jumped off
7. sow (SOUW) a pig (SO) to plant seed
8. content (kunTENT) satisfied, happy (KAHNtent) text
9. contest (kunTEST) to argue, dispute (KAHNtest) a match of skill, game
10. permit (PERmit) a document giving permission (perMIT) to allow some event to occur

Finally, post a chart on the wall that looks like the one below. Challenge students to write a sentence for each pair of heteronyms on the chart. You might offer a reward for the best/most thoughtful sentences. You might have students work on their own or in pairs. You will likely get better sentences when students are allowed to work in pairs.

Word Pronunciation/Meaning 1 Pronunciation/Meaning 2
wind (WHINEd) to coil up (WINd) the blowing air
tear (TARE) to rip (TEER) fluid in eye
lead (LEED) to guide (LED) a metallic element
perfect (PERfekt) exactly correct (perFEKT) to make correct
object (ubJEKT) to complain (AHBjekt) a thing


Assess students work sheet or original sentence efforts. The answer key to the work sheet appears above in the Lesson Plan section.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

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