Heteronyms & Context Clues

Heteronyms & Context Clues

It turns out that the folks who said that students need to use context to read a word correctly (also known as the three cueing system or MSV) were only 99.9% wrong. Probably even more than that, but let’s move on.

There are some rare cases when you do need context to read an individual word correctly. Heteronyms are when two (or more) words are spelled the same way, but have different pronunciations and meanings.

For example:
moped
Deb rode her moped through the city.
Tony moped about sadly.

As you can see, both pronunciations of each word can be explained using phonics, but the reader will need context to know which version is correct. With some heteronyms the only difference is which syllable is emphasized. With others the difference is greater.

Here are some more examples:
house
Tony has a charming little house.
Who would suspect that such a place could house so many secrets?
record
Tony set the record for the most ancient tomes deciphered.
He will record his findings in his secret journal.
attribute
Healing powers are an attribute of unicorn horns.
Most scholars attribute this knowledge to an ancient Roman alchemist.
read
Yesterday, Deb read the burnt remains of the letter Tony tried to destroy.
Tomorrow, she will sneak into the laboratory to read his other notes.
appropriate
Deb will appropriate the unicorn horns for her own use.
Most people don’t think this is appropriate.
use
Deb will use trickery to learn the location of the unicorn realm from Tony.
Deb will make use of the information to enter into the realm.
lead
Deb convinced Tony to unlock the heavy lead box.
The map inside will lead them to the unicorn realm.
desert
Tony is guiding Deb through the desert to the unicorn realm.
Deb plans to desert Tony when he’s no longer useful to her.
close
Deb leans in close to whisper goodbye to Tony.
Then she will close the dungeon door on him.
buffet
Deb dreams of serving unicorn steaks at the buffet.
The guests will buffet each other to be first in line.
does
Does Deb know how to hunt unicorns?
Deb prepared by hunting does and stags.
present
Deb has brought a present for the unicorn king.
She will present it during the ceremony at dusk.
bow
Deb will bow before the Unicorn King.
Then she will pull out her bow and shoot him with an arrow.
wind
Tony feels the icy wind blow through a grate in the floor.
Tony climbs into the twisting tunnel and will wind his way out of the dungeon.
tear
Tony can tear a piece of his shirt to bandage the unicorn king’s injury.
A single tear runs down the unicorn’s face.
wound
Tony wound the cloth around the injury.
Now, the wound can heal.
subject
Every subject of the unicorn realm is shocked.
They will subject Deb to a unicorn trial.
convict
The unicorns convict Deb for her crime.
She will be a convict for the rest of her life.

See wikipedia for additional examples of heteronyms.