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Top Tips for the CD-ROM
Use SoundSearch to learn about homophones


Top Tips for the CD-ROM
Using SoundSearch to find homophones in English
by Jane Bottomley

The SoundSearch tool of the Macmillan English Dictionary CD-ROM allows you to search for words by the way they sound. This tool is ideal for practising pronunciation and raising students' awareness of the relationship between sound and spelling in English. In this issue of the magazine I will give you tips on how you can use the SoundSearch to find homophones.

1 Using SoundSearch to find homophones

1 Experiment with wildcards in SoundSearch to find examples of homophones. For example:

a ?? generates these words:

ball/bawl mall/maul
board/bored morn/mourn
coarse/course pawn/porn
faun/fawn sort/sought
hoarse/horse taught/taut

b ?? generates these words:


c ?? generates these words:

beat/beet mean/mien seek/sikh
feat/feet peal/peel team/teem
he'd/heed peek/pique we'd/weed
he'll/heal/heel read/reed we've/weave
meat/meet/mete scene/seen we'll/wheel

2 Check any homophone pairs you think of yourself using SoundSearch to see if you have missed an alternative spelling. For example:

can be saw, soar or sore
can be rain, reign or rein
can be I'll, aisle or isle
can be pair, pare or pear
can be cent, scent or sent

2 Homophone dictation

Aim: To raise awareness of homophones in English.
Activity: Students complete a dictation then look for homophones using SoundSearch.
  1. Select about 10 homophones suited to the level of your group.
  2. Dictate the words to students and ask them to write the first word that comes into their head.
  3. Students compare in pairs.
  4. Make sure students are associating the spelling they have with the corresponding sense. Tell them if they are wrong, but leave them to find the right answer using SoundSearch.
  5. Students can now use SoundSearch to look for other meanings.

3 Creating a follow-up worksheet

  1. Choose the homophone you want to test and look up the entry in the Macmillan English Dictionary CD-ROM.
  2. Select the Copy option from the Edit menu.
  3. Click on Edit in your word processing program and select the Paste option to copy the entry into your document.
  4. Edit the entry down to the example.
  5. To create a multiple-choice question, simply add the other spelling and change both words to italic.
  6. To create a gap fill, replace the homophone with a line
    ( ________ ).
  7. When you have enough sentences, highlight, select Bullets and Numbering from the Format menu, and click on Numbered and OK.

Here are a couple of example worksheets based on the above searches.

A Homophones — choose the correct word

Aim: To practise homophones.
Activity: Students choose the word with the correct spelling.
Level: intermediate

See the activity and the answers.

B Homophones — gap fill

Aim: To practise homophones.
Activity: Students fill in the gaps with the correct spelling.
Level: intermediate

See the activity and the answers.