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Sorting out Homophones in Roald Dahl's "Matilda"

Lesson Question:

How can students identify the correct homophones to fit the context of quotations taken from Matilda?

Applicable Grades:


Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn how to identify homophones in a reading passage and how to best use the Visual Thesaurus to help them decide on the appropriate homophones to complete quotations from the popular children's book Matilda.

Length of Lesson:

One hour

Instructional Objectives:

Students will:

  • complete a dictation exercise and proofread their writing
  • learn the definition of homophone
  • identify homophones in a reading passage
  • use the Visual Thesaurus to analyze which homophones best complete quotations from a novel


Note: This lesson was designed as a post-reading activity for students who have recently either read Matilda or have listened to the novel being read aloud in class.


Identifying homophones through a dictation exercise:

  • Read aloud the opening paragraph of Roald Dahl's Matilda slowly, asking students to write it in their notebooks as you dictate:
"It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful." 
  • Ask students to proofread their writing and to circle the words that they think most students would have a hard time spelling correctly. What do they consider the "tricky" words in the quotation?
  • Elicit from students those words that they circled in their writing and list them on the board as students spell them. Most students will probably identify the following words as tricky spelling words: it's, disgusting their, imagine, etc.
  • Focus the discussion on it's and their—asking students why they identified these particular words as tricky. Establish that because there are multiple words that sound like it's and their, they have to consider their use in the sentences in order to determine their correct spelling.
  • Review that it's means "it is" and their is used for possession, as in "their homework" [(as opposed to the possessive its or the contraction they're (they are) or there (to show existence or location).]


Defining homophone:

  • Display the Visual Thesaurus word map for homophone and explain to students that words like it's and their are called homophones—words that are "pronounced the same but differ in meaning or spelling or both."

  • Ask students to return to the Matilda paragraph in order to see if they can find another word in the quotation that could be part of a homophone pair. Warn students that it is a homophone that they may not recognize!

  • Display the Visual Thesaurus word map for ewe and click on the pronunciation icon to the right of the word so students can recognize the familiar "ewe/you " sound, and point out that ewe could mean a female sheep.

Analyzing homophones in Roald Dahl's Matilda:

  • Emphasize that students encounter homophones every day, in the speech that they hear and in their reading—although they may not always recognize common homophones as they encounter them.

  • Distribute the "Sorting Out Homophones in Roald Dahl's Matilda" worksheets (one per student), and explain to students that they are going to read some other quotations from Matilda and try to decide how to best complete the quotations with the correct homophones.

  • Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups (depending on computer access). As they look up each homophone pair in the Visual Thesaurus, they should jot down those words' definitions on the worksheet (either word-for-word or paraphrasing). Then, ask them to fill in the shorter blanks with the correct word to complete the quotations, based on what they learned from the Visual Thesaurus word maps.


Checking students' homophone work:

  • Instead of having students check their answers to the worksheet by oral sharing, allow students to check their own work by referring to the pages of Matilda where the quotations were found.
  • Have a brief discussion about which of the homophone pairs were the trickiest, which were the easiest, and which words had the most meanings displayed on the Visual Thesaurus.

Extending the Lesson:

  • One way to extend this lesson as a homework assignment would be to assign students the task of identifying additional homophone pairs they find in Matilda or in another book that they are reading. Then, they could write a homophone guide for their classmates—including explanations of homophone pair definitions along with textual examples. (Some other homophones that students may encounter in Matilda: meat/meet; peace/piece; right/right; sea/see; son/sun; tail/tale; waist/waste)


  • Check whether or not students correctly completed the Matilda quotations with the correct homophones.
  • Students could be assessed for their mastery of the homophones covered in this lesson by giving them a dictation quiz where you read aloud original sentences containing the homophones.

Educational Standards:

Language Arts

Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level II (Grades 3-5)

4. Uses phonetic and structural analysis techniques, syntactic structure, and semantic context to decode unknown words (e.g., vowel patterns, complex word families, syllabication, root words, affixes)
5. Use a variety of context clues to decode unknown words (e.g., draws on earlier reading, reads ahead)
6. Uses word reference materials (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus) to determine the meaning, pronunciation, and derivations of unknown words
7. Understands level-appropriate reading vocabulary (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, homophones, multi-meaning words)
8. Monitors own reading strategies and makes modifications as needed (e.g., recognizes when he or she is confused by a section of text, questions whether the text makes sense)

Level III (Grades 6-8)

1. Establishes and adjusts purposes for reading (e.g., to understand, interpret, enjoy, solve problems, predict outcomes, answer a specific question, form an opinion, skim for facts; to discover models for own writing) 
2. Uses word origins and derivations to understand word meaning (e.g., Latin and Greek roots and affixes, meanings of foreign words frequently used in the English language, historical influences on English word meanings)
3. Uses a variety of strategies to extend reading vocabulary (e.g., uses analogies, idioms, similes, metaphors to infer the meaning of literal and figurative phrases; uses definition, restatement, example, comparison and contrast to verify word meanings; identifies shades of meaning; knows denotative and connotative meanings; knows vocabulary related to different content areas and current events; uses rhyming dictionaries, classification books, etymological dictionaries)

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