To, too, or two? Confusing Words: Learning Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs

Designers for Learning - Adult Learning Zone

Part 1: Lesson Description

Lesson Title

To, too, or two? Confusing Words: Learning Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs


Adult learners at Low Intermediate Basic Education level (grade grouping C/grades 4-5) are introduced to words that are frequently confused such as to, too, and two. Learners use three methods to identify which confusing word should be used in speaking or writing: define the word, create a visual image, and find a synonym that has the same meaning.  

Learner Audience / Primary Users

Adult learners, including ESOL adult learners, at the Low Intermediate Basic Education level.

Educational Use

  • Curriculum / Instruction

College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment

  • Level: Adult Education
  • Grade Level: C
  • Subject: English Language Arts / Literacy
  • Strand: Language
  • Standard Description:

Anchor 1:     L 4.1 and 5.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English  

grammar and usage when writing or speaking. (l.) Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).



Material Type

  • Instructional Material
  • Lesson Plans
  • Teaching and Learning Strategies

Learning Goals

The purpose of this lesson is for learners to be able to:

  • Identify words that may or may not have the same spelling and/or sound, but do not have the same meaning: homophones, homonyms, homographs.
  • Visualize a word’s meaning based on its formal definition, sentence context, and synonym(s).
  • Determine which confusing word should be used in written text or spoken language.
  • Reflect on the importance of using correct word(s) when speaking or writing.


  • Designers for Learning
  • Adult Education
  • Homophones
  • Homonyms
  • Homographs
  • Confusing words
  • Words that sound the same but are spelled differently
  • Words that sound different but are spelled the same
  • Words that sound the same and are spelled the same
  • Tricky words

Time Required for Lesson

30 minutes

Prior Knowledge

Adult Learner at Low Intermediate Basic Education level / 4th grade reading level

Know and understand the definition of synonym

Required Resources

Pen or Pencil

Whiteboard/Chalkboard or Paper 

Pre-printed images and student worksheets:

  • Warmup Images.docx (Picture image cards) 
  • Introduction Images.docx (Picture image cards)
  • Embarrassing Homonyms.docx (Example Text)
  • guided practice table.docx (Partially-completed table for group exercise)
  • evaluation table.docx (Partially-completed table for individual assessment)

Lesson Author & License

  • Lesson Author: Teisha Kosiba

Part 2: Lesson

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the learner should be able to:

  • Recognize confusing words (by sound and spelling) in speech and in text
  • Analyze definitions, spelling, and synonyms of confusing words
  • Choose correct homophone/homonym/homograph in text

Lesson Topics

Key topics covered in this lesson include:

  • Confusing words
  • Homonyms
  • Homophones
  • Homographs

Context Summary

This lesson is targeted toward adult learners and ESL/ELL learners that are considered to be at grade 4 or 5 in literacy skills. The first intent is to expand the learner’s basic vocabulary by introducing confusing words (homophones/homonyms/homographs) that can make it difficult to understand which word should be used in speech or text. Once students are able to recognize, define, and select correct wording for speech or text, they can use their skills to progress to more advanced levels of language arts learning that are required to pass the GED exam.

Relevance to Practice

As a learner progresses to more advanced levels or grades of language arts, he/she will be presented with homophones/homonyms/homographs in text and in speech. It is essential that learners understand the existence of confusing words and what can be done to differentiate between them; without this understanding, the learner will be easily confused during reading and comprehension, writing, and communicating by speech. Misunderstanding which word should be used in speech or text could result in a learner’s inability to: progress to higher levels of learning, pass the GED exam, and be able to properly communicate thoughts/messages in school, work, and at home.

Key Terms and Concepts

Homonyms - Words that sound alike and are spelled alike, but have different meanings

Homophones - Words that sound the same but may be spelled differently, and have different meanings

Homographs - Words that do not sound alike but are spelled alike, and have different meanings

Synonym - A different word that has the same meaning

Instructional Strategies and Activities


Time: 3 minutes

Download: Warmup Images.docx

  1. Teacher (holds up image of an ocean wave/page 1 in ‘Warmup Images.docx’) asks class ‘what is this an image of’?
  2. Class responds that it is a ‘wave’.
  3. Teacher asks how to spell ‘wave’ and writes class response on chalkboard/whiteboard, or in large letters on paper: ‘w-a-v-e’.
  4. Teacher (holds up image of a figure waving their hand/page 2 in ‘Warmup Images.docx’) asks class ‘what is this an image of’?
  5. Class responds that the motion is waving, or ‘wave’.
  6. Teacher writes the spelling ‘w-a-v-e’ on chalkboard/whiteboard, or in large letters on paper: ‘w-a-v-e’.
  7. Teacher (holds up an image of the ‘waiver’ description/page 3 in ‘Warmup Images.docx’) asks if anyone can think of a word that means ‘ignore’ or ‘disregard’.
  8. Teacher points to the red-circled word ‘w-a-i-v-e’ on the image and writes its spelling on the board.


Time: 5 minutes

Download: Introduction Images.docx

1. Teacher introduces the topic of ‘confusing words’ and explains that some words can sound alike and be spelled alike, but have different meanings.

‘Homonyms’ definition is verbally given and reference is made back to the images and spellings of ‘wave’.

2. Teacher states that some words can sound alike but be spelled differently, and have different meanings.

‘Homophones’ definition is verbally given and reference is made back the image and spelling of ‘waive’.

3. Teacher verbally provides definition of ‘homograph’: words that are spelled the same but sound different. For example, bow (holds up picture of a ribbon bow/page 1 in ‘Introduction Images.docx’), bow (holds up picture of person bending at the waist/page 2 in ‘Introduction Images.docx’), and bow (holds up picture of the front of a boat/page 3 in ‘Introduction Images.docx’).

4. Teacher explains why knowing the difference between confusing words can prevent embarrassing errors and help clarify text or speech:

Download: Embarrassing Homonyms.docx

  • Teacher holds up ‘Advertisement’ in (Embarrassing Homonyms.docx) that describes a garbage company’s marketing statement using the word ‘waist’ instead of ‘waste’.
  • Teacher holds up ‘Store Sign’ in (‘Embarrassing Homonyms.docx’) and asks the students to recall the definition of ‘waive’ and how the shop’s owner must have felt when his new sign arrived.

Presentation / Modeling / Demonstration

Time: 3 minutes

Teacher verbally describes method for analyzing and selecting which confusing word should be used in text or speech and then performs the step on whiteboard/chalkboard/paper:

  1. Read the definition of the word
  2. Visualize the word’s definition: Sketch or describe the meaning of the word
  3. Write a synonym for the word, or a phrase that helps solidify its definition 

Guided Practice

Time: 10 minutes

Teacher hands out 'guided practice table.docx' worksheet. Students will use the provided information in the table to complete the missing information, including completion of sentences using correct homophones, homonyms and homographs.

Download: guided practice table.docx

  1. Teacher divides class into groups of five.
  1. Teacher provides the pre-printed table worksheet to one person in each group. Teacher explains that person is responsible for recording each answer as a group.
  1. Teacher completes first couple of examples with students, as a class.
  1. When finished with teacher-led examples, teacher instructs groups to complete the remainder of the worksheet.
  1. As students work to complete the table, teacher walks around the room to monitor students’ progress and provides immediate feedback so they can correct any errors.
  1. Teacher collects and grades each group’s worksheet by checking to ensure the sentences the group wrote, make proper use of the provided homonyms, homophones, or homographs.
  1. Teacher provides any necessary additional instruction to the group and instructs the group the make the necessary corrections on the worksheet.


Time: 7 minutes

After confirming each group has correctly completed 'guided practice table.docx', teacher hands out 'evaluation table.docx' (the same worksheet but with all completed information) to each student. Each student has to select the correct homophone, homonym, or homograph in the provided sentence, using the table as a guide.

Download: evaluation table.docx


Time: 2 minutes

Teacher directs students to research the meanings and describe the difference between 'your/you're', 'there/their/they're', and 'its/it's' for after-class homework. 

For more advanced learning, teacher uses the same guided practice table but incorporates the identification of grammar structure when trying to differentiate homophones/homonyms/homographs.

Part 3: Supplementary Resources & References

Supplementary Resources





YouTube Video:

YouTube Video:

YouTube Video and link to instructions for Google Translate captions:



TV411 Video:

Gutenberg e-book:


Jacobson, J., Lapp, D., & Flood, J. (2007). A Seven‐Step Instructional Plan for Teaching English‐Language Learners to Comprehend and Use Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy, 51(2), 98-111. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.51.2.2. Retrieved from:

Various. (2009). The Project Gutenberg EBook of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary [EBook #29765]. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg.  Retrieved 20 June 2016, from

Attribution Statements

“Waves” created by Ronit at

“Happy smiley waving” created by barnheartowl at

This work, “Surf shop sign with incorrect homonym waive”, is a derivative of ‘Surfboard’ by Viscious-Speed, at “Surf shop sign with incorrect homonym waive” is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license by Teisha Kosiba.

“Golden Ribbon” created by GDJ at

“Bow” created by evilestmark at

This work, “Viking ship with bow highlighted”, is a dertivative of ‘Viking ship’ by johnny_automatic, at “Viking ship with bow highlighted” is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license by Teisha Kosiba.

CC Attribution

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