Homographs: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Homographs can be challenging, especially for young learners. Read the following lesson to learn about homographs and discover some tips on using context clues to identify homographs.

What Is a Homograph?

Read the following sentences and keep your eye open for one word that appears in each:

  • The fly buzzed around the potato salad on the picnic table.
  • Airplanes fly over the mountains to get to the airport.

The word 'fly' was repeated in both sentences, but it has very different meaning in each. In the first sentence, the word 'fly' refers to that pesky little insect with wings. In the second sentence, the word 'fly' is a verb referring to what the airplanes do when they're soaring high above the mountains.

These are homographs in action! Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Most homograph pairs are pronounced the same, but they don't have to be.

Identifying and Defining Homographs

Since homographs are words that have multiple meanings, how do you know which meaning is being used? Readers can figure out which form of a homograph is being used by looking for context clues, the words around it that clue you in on the definition.

Example 1

Let's look at the homograph 'bat' in the sentence below and use context clues to find its meaning--whether it's referring to the animal or the object used to hit a ball in baseball:

  • When my sister goes up to the attic, she's always afraid that she will see a bat flying around.

In this sentence, the sister is frightened by the possibility of seeing something flying in the attack. Baseball bats don't fly, so it can't be that. But the animals called bats do fly, and people are often afraid of them. So, from the context clues we can find that the type of bat referred to here is the flying mammal.

Example 2

Let's practice our context clue skills with another sentence:

  • The young pitcher impressed the high school baseball coach with his fastball.

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