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One of the hardest parts of teaching English, or any language with a written element, is terminology.


I’ll never forget how my mum came home from teaching adults French one night saying that her students couldn’t understand silent “e”s and “s”s on French words, so she had written hav on the board. Then asked them how to read it. She then had written have, repeated her request and asked why they sounded the same, but were written differently?

“Because it is!” they chorused. Yup adults, children, English as an additional language students; they all have the same struggles, and often the answer to a but why? question is…… because it is. In Primary schools though, we have labels such as split digraph, silent e, and more and the children are taught not “because it is” but “because this word has a silent e at the end.”

SPaG Terminology

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar terminology is, in my experience, a mystery to most parents and carers. In fact, to anyone who hasn’t joined the education community! Consequently, it is hard for them to support their learner’s work. And as there is nothing better to aid learning than a supportive community, I make it my aim to include as many people as possible and ensure they have a clear and solid understanding of the way concepts are delivered and reinforc.3ed. This starts by ensuring we all know exactly what the terminology (words!) mean. As such I have planned a series of posts that will allow you to learn, or share, what these technical words and phrases mean, are used for and any misconceptions that commonly occur.

To be 100% honest, it has always baffled me why kids as young as 5 need to know words such as adverbial, although they always seem to love the multi-syllabic technical language labels such as grapheme, metaphor and even carnivore, herbivore and omnivore. But in my experience kids really do latch onto these labels!

This series is going to start with something that creates puzzled frowns whenever I mention it to uninitiated adults: homophones.

What is a homophone?

Let me explain it to you. Homophones are pairs (or more) of words that sound the same when spoken, but have both a different meaning and spelling when written down. I love looking at word etymology (origin) with kids and when we look at the word homophone it breaks down to homo meaning same, and phone which means voice or sound. Examples include blue and blew, here and hear and night and knight. But be careful, because there are other pairs of words that are spelt the same, but sound different.


If words have the same spelling or pronunciation as each other, but they mean entirely different things, they are known as homonyms. Words such as: bow and bow, read and read or book and book.


What is the difference between a homophone and a homonym?

Basically, to recap homophones sound the same but have different meanings and spellings,

Homonyms look the same but either sound different to each other, or are spelled differently.

How does knowing this help my child?

Children in England learn pairs of homophones and their differences across the Primary Age range to help them with fluency in reading, and to improve the quality of the writing and spelling. There are sets of homophones for KS1, Lower KS2 years 3 and 4 and Upper KS2 years 5 and 6. As you may expect the complexity of the pairs of homophones in KS1 is less than the KS2 homophone pairs, but they genuinely make an impact on the level that is given for assessed writing.

Which homophone pairs do they teach in English Primary Schools?

The English National Curriculum for Primary Schools covers every element of the subjects we expect 5-11 year olds to know. And as you can imagine it covers a lot of material. The pairs of homophones that our kiddos are expected learn are broken down by Year group and listed below (followed by a handy, pinnable infographic I made just for you!).

KS1 Homophones (Year 1 and 2)
  • bear / bare
  • be / bee
  • blew / blue
  • hear / here
  • hair / hare
  • night / knight
  • quiet / quite
  • read / red
  • right / write
  • sea / see
  • son / sun
  • too / two
Lower Key Stage 2 Homophone pairs (Year 3 and 4)
  • accept / except
  • affect / effect
  • bawl / ball
  • berry / bury
  • brake / break
  • caught / court
  • fair / fare
  • grate / great
  • groan / grown
  • heal / heel / he’ll
  • knot / not
  • mail / male
  • main / mane
  • meat / meet
  • medal / meddle
  • missed / mist
  • peace / piece
  • plain / plane
  • rain / reign / rein
  • scene / seen
  • threw / through
  • weather / whether
  • whose / who’s
Upper Key Stage 2 Homophone pairs (Year 5 and 6)
  • advice / advise
  • aisle / isle
  • altar / alter
  • affect / effect
  • ascent / assent
  • bridal / bridle
  • cereal / serial
  • complement / compliment
  • descent / dissent
  • desert / dessert
  • device / devise
  • draft / draught
  • farther / father
  • guessed / guest
  • heard / herd
  • lead / led
  • licence / license
  • morning / mourning
  • passed / past
  • practice / practise
  • precede / proceed
  • principal / principle
  • profit / prophet
  • prophecy / prophesy
  • stationary / stationery
  • steal / steel
  • wary / weary

I hope this has been helpful summary of the basics of homophones. Stay tuned for more education terminology explained in future posts. Do you have any questions you need answers too? Leave a comment or email me direct on hello@zoedidthat.com so we can chat more! And don’t forget to join fellow educators for regular tips, tricks and freebies in the zoedidthat newsletter!


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