Students interact with multiple-meaning words on a daily basis. They’re in the books they read, the TV shows they watch, and a part of daily conversations. However, multiple-meaning words and homographs can be very tricky for students, especially ELL students! Hence why it’s important for teachers to explicitly teach students these words and how to identify their meanings in context. Here are some ideas to help your students practice understanding words with two meanings (or more!).
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1. Introduce Multiple-Meaning Words Using Books
Read-aloud are a great way to introduce students to new concepts and to model how vocabulary is used in context. The book, “The Bass Plays the Bass and Other Homographs” by Gene Barretta is one of my favorite picture books to introduce multiple-meaning words to my students.
Multiple-Meaning Words Anchor Chart
Start your unit by creating a premade multiple-meaning words anchor chart that lists the different homographs in the book. As you read, stop and discuss the meanings of the word and how they vary from page to page. Have students write the definitions on a post-it note and stick it on the anchor chart. This visual helps students understand how one word can be used in different forms – such as an adjective or noun.
Multiple-Meaning Words Graphic Organizer
This graphic organizer is the perfect reference tool for all of the multiple-meaning words students are learning. Simply have students glue this mini anchor chart into their notebooks and get started!
2. Whole-Group Introduction using Whiteboards
Individual whiteboards are a great tool to use with students! Here’s a fun whole-group activity to introduce and review multiple-meaning words using mini whiteboards.
- Choose and write a multiple-meaning word on your teacher board. (Don’t read the word aloud! This could give it away to students if you chose a homograph.)
- Ask your students to write a sentence using the vocabulary word on their whiteboards.
- After students finish, ask them to put their whiteboards in the air.
- Read a few of the sentences aloud and point out the different ways that students used the word in their sentences.
For example, if you wrote the word tie on the board, one student may have written, “I tie my shoe,” while another may have written, “The man is wearing a red tie.” Open up a class discussion about the differences in the meanings of the word tie.
Remind students that words that look and sound the same can have different meanings.
3. Multiple-Meaning Words Review Activities
Once you’ve introduced what multiple-meaning words are and have given students examples, let’s give them hands-on activities so that they can practice applying their knowledge.
Vocabulary Strip Activity
This hands-on vocabulary activity is perfect for small groups or literacy centers. You can customize it using holiday decor for a fun, holiday-themed center. I used Halloween buckets and eggs when I prepped this activity, but any buckets or containers will work!
To prep this multiple-meaning word activity, you’ll need:
- FREE multiple-meaning word vocabulary strips
- buckets or baskets (one for each word)
- small containers or plastic eggs
- popsicle sticks & sticky notes (not completely necessary!)
Download the vocabulary strip freebie (linked below) or create your own set of words, sentences, and definitions. Label each bucket with a multiple-meaning word and cut out the vocabulary strips. Then, set all of the materials up at each group or center.
Students will read through the mixed-up strips and decide which multiple-meaning word that definition or sentence frame goes along with. After they’ve decided, have them place the sentence strips into an egg and drop it into the corresponding word bucket.
Multiple-Meaning Words Vocabulary Strip Activity
Add this hands-on, low-prep activity to your small groups or literacy centers to give them practice with multiple-meaning words. Students will enjoy putting the sentences into eggs and choosing the correct bucket.
Task Cards to Teach Multiple-Meaning Words
Incorporating task cards into your literacy centers is another great way to expose students to multiple-meaning words in context. This vocabulary task card set includes a fun multiple-meaning words game.
In small groups, students play Multiple-Meaning Matching. In this activity, students will have word cards, cards with two definitions, and cards with sentence frames.
Students will lay out the multiple-meaning word cards on a flat surface. They must find the definition card (containing both definitions) and sentence cards to match each word.
By the end of the game, students will find two sentences and definitions to match each multiple-meaning word.
Vocabulary Task Cards & Center Activities
Give your students practice with multiple-meaning words along with other 3rd grade skills using these fun and engaging literacy center activities!
Find Your Partner
Students need opportunities to move around throughout the school day– especially during content activities! A ‘Find Your Partner’ game is a fun way to do just that.
To play, give each student in the class a strip with a different definition. Then, have students walk around the room to find their partners. Their partner has a different definition that matches the same multiple-meaning word. Once students have found their match, students will walk over to the corner of the room where their word is posted on the wall. After everyone is at a corner, the teacher will check to see if students found their correct match.
I hope these ideas and tips help make teaching multiple-meaning words and homophones easier!