Let's be honest. One of the most haunting tasks when teaching writing to upper elementary students is editing. Add misspelled and misused words into the equation, and it can be extremely frustrating. The good news is that there are remedies available. One of my favorites is providing students with activities for commonly confused words because not only are they extremely effective, but SO MUCH FUN!
Here are some examples of different activities you can use with your upper elementary students while introducing, teaching, and reviewing frequently confused words.
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Begin with a Related Read Aloud
Reading a picture book to your students is always an easy and engaging way to start off any new lesson. Although it can sometimes be difficult to find a large selection of picture books for 4th and 5th graders, don't let it deter you. You can usually find one or two that will do the trick for almost any grammar skill.
- They're There on Their Vacation by Brian P. Clearly
Students are sure to get a kick out of this book as they follow a family to some wacky and weird destinations. Some of these destinations include the world's largest underwear, a narwhal petting zoo, and the Cheezie Popz factory. The book repeatedly uses the words they're, there, and their giving the students multiple examples of the words in context.
- Eight Ate a Feast of Homonym Riddles by Marvin Terban
I absolutely love this book! It is a collection of original riddles in which the answers are a pair of homophones. One example found in the book is: "What is an animal with a rough-sounding voice that cowboys ride?" Answer: A hoarse horse. A great way to implement this book is to read each riddle and have the students try to the pair of homophones.
Whole Group Lesson
Now that you've captured your students attention through a read aloud, the next step is to do some explicit teaching. The list of commonly confused words is extensive, so starting off with just a few at a time is most effective.
One way you can introduce these homophones is by projecting the words onto your interactive whiteboard or by using posters to showcase words and discuss them. As you explain each word and a trick on how to remember them, have students copy some of them down into their grammar notebooks. I usually like to start with the sets of words that students use most frequently and commonly confuse in their own writing such as there, their, and they're.
(If you'd like a set of commonly confused words posters sent to your inbox to use during your own lesson, you can sign up below.)
Another engaging activity you can provide your students with is a print and fold grammar booklet. They are low prep and offer high engagement. These booklets include fun commonly confused words activities that my students have loved year after year.
Each booklet's cover page includes the notes for students and the inside consists of different activities for them to complete including finding examples in real world text. They also make great reference booklets once they are glued into their notebooks.
Provide Practice Opportunities
- Give each student a pair of index cards. Assign them a pair of words. Have them create a sentence and an illustration with one of the words on one of the index cards. Have them repeat this with the second word on the second card. These cards can later be displayed in the classroom or be used as a pairing up tool when you need students to work with a partner.
- Give each student a pair of index cards. Have them create a visual representation of each of the words in the set of commonly confused words.
- Have students practice selecting the correct word in context using task cards or Boom Cards. I absolutely LOVE assigning these digital task cards because they are no prep and self-checking. Students absolutely love using technology in and out of the classroom, so this is a great way to have them practice in a fun and engaging way.
Provide Further Extension Activities
- Have students create their own riddles such as the ones seen in the book Eight Ate a Feast of Homonym Riddles. Assign them a pair of words and challenge them to come up with their own. For those students who thrive on bigger challenges, you may want to give them a list that includes three words such as there, their, and they're, or you can have them come up with more than one riddle.
- Provide students with a sheet of paper and have them create an illustration using the a pair of words you give them. For example, with meet and meat, they can draw someone or something shaking hands with a piece of steak.
Assessing Students' Understanding
- Dictating sentences to students and having them write them down.
- Providing them with a printable or digital quiz. I usually like to use a standard based quick check assessment that I can use to record and easily document.
- Continuing to keep an eye out in students' writing, particularly those that you know have previously had difficulty using those commonly confused words.