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How to Teach Multiple-Meaning Words

February 9, 2022 No Comments
homonyms activities for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms

One of the reasons kids get tripped up in their reading is homonyms (words with multiple definitions). If they only know one meaning of a word – or if they incorrectly assume which meaning is being used – their reading comprehension can really be impacted. So today I’m sharing some multiple-meaning words activities for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade that will help support this word analysis strategy.

What are Multiple-Meaning Words?

Multiple-meaning words, or homonyms, are words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. For example, spring (the noun) and spring (the verb).

By 3rd grade, students are familiar with common homonyms like bat and wave. Now, they need exposure to more complex multiple-meaning words like bright and address. And they need practice using context clues to infer the meaning of a word when they aren’t sure which meaning is being used.

multiple meaning words worksheets for reading workshop

(Re)Introducing Multiple-Meaning Words

“Why was the math book sad? Because it had too many problems.”

Starting with a joke or reading a little Amelia Bedelia is a fun way to kick off your homonyms lessons!

Next, you can create a multiple-meaning words anchor chart with examples and visuals. I love to do this with a read-aloud and then have students add their own examples on sticky notes. (I also give students their own homonyms word lists to add to their notebooks.)

Homonyms Interactive Notebook

Interactive notebooks can help students review common homonyms and expose them to new ones.

The foldable templates included in my Multiple Meaning Words Activities are easy to cut and glue. Students can draw pictures and write definitions for the provided words or use the blank template to add their own examples.

homonym anchor chart and interactive notebook templates

Multiple-Meaning Words Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are a good way to get students thinking about how they know which meaning of a word is being used. And they make a great quick assessment so you know if they’re getting the strategy.

I like to pair simple graphic organizers with short texts or books that students are reading independently.

homonym graphic organizers

Sorting Activity

Sorting homonyms makes it easy to check whether students can identify which meaning of a word is being used in a certain context.

This sort works great for centers, morning work, and early finisher activities.

multiple meaning words sorting activity

Homonym Task Cards

Task cards are always a solid go-to review activity. This set exposes students to multiple-meaning words question types they may see on standardized tests, while teaching them new vocabulary!

This set includes a printable version and a Boom Learning™ digital version.

homonyms task cards for 4th grade

Play Multiple-Meaning Words Games

You can play Beat the Dictionary for a fun review game! When you and your students come across a homonym during shared reading, one student can look it up in the dictionary. Then the rest of the class can see if they can be first to come up with all of the definitions of the word.

“I Have, Who Has?” and fortune tellers (below) are more fun ways to help students review the multiple definitions of a word in different contexts.

homonyms activity for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade

Writing Activities

Finally, it’s helpful for students to practice using homonyms in their writing, too. You can challenge students to use different meanings of the same word multiple times in a sentence or paragraph.

The Bat Can Bat: A Book of True Homonyms makes a great mentor text for this activity.

And of course, they’ll LOVE coming up with punny jokes that feature homonyms!

Multiple-Meaning Words Activity Pack

If you want to save time, my multiple-meaning words activity pack has all these activities ready to go!

Like other word analysis strategies, exposure to new vocabulary words is key to helping your students learn how to tackle homonyms. I hope this post gave you some ideas for differentiated multiple-meaning word activities to try in your classroom!

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