Games & Activities for Multiple Meaning Words

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Multiple meaning words are one of the biggest challenges in learning the English language. Help students better understand them, while having fun at the same time, by introducing these games and activities.

Multiple Meaning Words

Multiple meaning words (sometimes called homonyms) are words that even though they are spelled the same, can mean different things. Homonyms also sometimes refers to words that are spelled differently, but sound the same. These can be one of the greatest challenges in learning the English language, both for non-native speakers and for young children as their English skills improve.

We can make their work easier by providing fun games and activities to help them learn. Let's take a look at a few ideas for games that can help students learn about multiple meaning words.

Homonym Snap

This game involves creating cards with pictures on them. Create a list of multiple meaning words, and for each word, you need to create a card with a picture that represents each meaning. For example, you could have a picture of someone closing a window, and two people standing super close. Or you could have a picture of someone resuming a paused TV show, and a picture of someone's resume. Two cards for each word. Print your images onto card stock, and cut them out to form cards. This can be done by creating a table in a word processing program, and pasting images into each square.

To play the game, students work in pairs, each with one set of the cards randomly shuffled. The students put one card each face-up on the table at the same time. They keep revealing cards until the two cards are meanings of the same word. When this happens, the students shout 'snap!' The first person to say the word Snap gets to keep the pair of cards as one 'point.' The game continues until all the pairs have been found, and the person with the most points wins.

Red Ink Activity

Kids get used to teachers putting red ink all over their work. It can be demoralizing, to the point that many teachers no longer even use red. However, students will be the first to enjoy the process of using red ink themselves. One activity for learning word meanings that are spelled differently but sound the same is to give them an essay or piece of text where the wrong word is used (even though it sounds the same when spoken). Tell them how many errors there are, and see if they can find them all, circling them in bright red ink.

A similar activity can be done with words that are spelled the same, where students simply identify which words in the text are multiple meaning words.

Finding the Words

This activity involves positioning various objects around the classroom that have names that are multiple meaning words or hiding pictures that represent multiple meaning words in some way.

Here are a few examples:

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