• Jan MacWatters

Homonyms, homographs and homophones... oh my!

Why your 3rd grader should be familiar with these… and how to develop that awareness.

It is important for everyone to be able to read well to be successful in life. Whether you agree with standardized testing or not, developing reading skills is important at every level of your child's education. Today we’ll talk about the STAAR test and how to work with your child at home to help them develop the skills they need to do well on STAAR but also to do well in life. I'll recommend books for you to find at your school library or local library and then you just help your kids to practice their reading by providing the opportunities to read to you or with you at home.

What is the STAAR and why is it important?

STAAR testing - 3rd grade reading - Test dates in April 2021

It's an assessment of your child’s ability to read, understand, and communicate about what they are reading. It's important to concentrate on the skills and not the method of assessment.

What should my 3rd grader be able to do?

You can read the 3rd Grade ELA TEKS here to know what it is that students are expected to be able to do in Texas schools. Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down the skills that your children will need and recommend books to read alone or together to help your students develop those skills.

In today’s post, we’ll look at the need to develop awareness of grammar and spelling.

(Note: It is important to remember that these skills are developed throughout elementary school, and not just mastered in the third grade)

By third grade, children should be able to identify, use, and explain the meaning of antonyms, synonyms, idioms, homophones, and homographs in a text.

If you’re thinking you’re going to have to look the definitions up, you’re not alone. Many adults also have difficulty and that’s okay,

Simple definitions:

Homonyms are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation, with different meanings.

The dog barks at the noise. The tree has bark to protect the trunk.

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have different meanings.

I used the shoe to shoo the fly away.

I can buy flour and flowers at the supermarket.

I pair the pear with the apple.

Homographs are spelled the same way, but have different pronunciations and spellings.

I close the door and leave for school.

My house is close to the school.

Why are these important at this level?

We all know people who accidentally misspell words that are commonly used, and it does not leave a good impression. We don’t expect children to be perfect at this but they should be starting to develop an awareness of the importance of grammar, spelling and pronunciation. This focus on how words are spelled and pronounced simply helps children improve their ability to read without assistance.

What children enjoy?

Children like to play with words. Isn’t that why we all loved Dr. Seuss? Why we love kids poetry books? Children love language that makes them laugh, that sounds cool, that rhymes, or doesn’t (even when you’re expecting it to) and they like pictures that help them to understand when they get stuck. They may not have explicitly discussed grammar in class (or more likely they don't remember) but they will learn that language is fun if they spend some time reading fun books, even if the goal of the book is to develop the awareness of a grammatical point.

Why practice at home? Don’t they do that in school?

The more children read, and the more they are read to, the better their reading skills. . (and notice the homographs in that sentence). We don’t expect our children to develop athletic ability without practice, and we should not expect children to become good readers without a lot of practice. They might get some practice in school, but it will never be enough.

What should I have my students read?

Picture Books to develop an awareness of homophones, homographs and homonyms.

Gorgeous artwork and / or photos, coupled with clever wordplay will help your students learn the basics without feeling like they are studying for a test. These books are especially suitable for the struggling reader or the student just beginning to learn English and just as much fun for adults. If you're not sure what all the grammatical terms mean, don't let that put you off You can learn together.

If you were a homonym or a homophone. (Nancy Loewen and Sara Gray)

You loves Ewe. (Cece Bell)

How much can a bare bear bear? What are homonyms and homophones? (Brian Cleary)

I see the Sea - Teaching homophones. (Mary Lindeen)

Dear Deer. A book of homophones. ( Gene Baretta.)

The bat can bat: A book of true homonyms. (Gene Barretta)

A bat cannot bat, a stair cannot stare: More about homonyms and homophones.(Brian Cleary)

“The King who Rained” (Fred Gwynne)

The Scholastic Pocket Dictionary of Synonyms, Antonyms, and Homonyms” -Good basic reference book to add to a home library

Other Fun Stuff to do:

Take a walk and look at the signs all around you. Talk about “Kwik” vs “quick” and other things you (or your children) notice.

Have siblings read aloud to one another. Older kids can help younger ones and review their own knowledge at the same time.

Have someone be the “reader” while preparing dinner. Discuss what was read during dinner. Talk about new words? What other words might have been used (synonyms)? How to figure out what a word means if you’ve never seen or heard it before. (context clues)

Have a competition to make up the silliest sentence and share them. (Great in the car)

Keep a notebook of all the fun words with different meanings that you come across. (Try Reading “The RIght Word, Roget and his Thesaurus” by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet to help them develop this skill.)

Create a list of individual words such as pear, colonel, stair, pen and let students figure out the word that goes with it. (pair/pear, colonel/kernel, stare/stair)

Write a sentence or even a story using as many of the new words as they can.

Students can create a presentation or write an illustrated story to highlight the differences between each set of words. Share the slide show with grandparents and other family members. There is nothing like an authentic audience to motivate children into sharing their newly developed abilities. Teachers may give grades, but parents and family members can give honest feedback and discussion and that will go a long way to cementing the learning.


Don’t be shy at the library. If you cannot find the books you want, ask the librarian. They will be happy to help you find specific books but they can also guide you to other free resources that can be helpful.

Follow the The Charter School Librarian, Plus online at https://www.thecharterschoollibrarian.com/blog or on facebook / instagram at https://www.facebook.com/thecharterschoollibrarian

Throughout the coming year, this blog will be dedicated to helping parents help their children to learn using your local library as a resource. Facebook and Instagram will have reviews for different types of books, but they will still be connected to a specific skill or one of the TEKS.

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