CVC Multiple Meaning Activities

You give it a quick vocabulary scan, and see that it’s full of consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words you’ve seen your student successfully sound out minutes before. Surely, they’re ready for this text. It’s a hole-in-one.

You open the book, and they begin reading aloud. They’re sounding out the words correctly. Hooray!


They turn the pages and keep chugging along, but by the middle of the book, they push it away in frustration: “It doesn’t make sense!”


What’s up? They were cruising through the text! They know these words—”hit, bug, bat”—they knew them just moments ago in another context, and showed solid comprehension. Then it hits you: these words have multiple meanings. While the student was reading them correctly, they’re frustrated as can be  because the story just isn’t making sense. Of course it was confusing that the “bat hit the ball”—bats are animals who can’t play sports!

We know that pre-teaching vocabulary is hugely important in phonics instruction. In this scenario, you scanned the text ahead of time to make sure the words would be familiar to your student (awesome job, btw)—but you may have missed a sneaky hidden step: scanning for multiple meaning words to avoid confusion. That’s where pre-teaching comes in. Luckily, we’ve got an activity for that, adapted from our fabulous friends and phonics experts Nancy Eberhardt and Margie Gillis, authors of Vocabulary: Knowledge to Practice.


Level: K-3


Prep: Choose 3-5 multiple meaning CVC words from the decodable text you’re about to read with your student. Examples: bat, lap, hit, bug, cap, log, mat, box, jam. Print or draw clear pictures of both meanings of the word on separate index cards for each meaning.


Materials: index cards, marker



  • Write the first word clearly on an index card, and ask your student to read it for you.
  • Then, ask them what it means. While they’re describing it, pull out the image card of what they’re describing and place it next to the word card.
  • Then, with excitement, ask: “Did you know there’s a whole other meaning of the word ‘bat’?” If they know it, ask them to describe it, then place the image down next to the word card and other image card. If they do not know it, explain the second meaning in simple terms and give an example: “A ‘bat’ can also mean the thing you use to hit a baseball!”
  • Confirm their understanding by asking “so, looking at these pictures, what do we know ‘bat’ can mean?”

Repeat the process with additional words.

After reviewing 3-5 words, scramble the cards in front of you, all face up. Invite your student to help you sort them again by matching the word with its two image cards. As you sort, challenge your student to check their logic by using each meaning in a sentence.

Looking for a decodable text for practice with multiple meaning CVC words? Check out A Pig and His Wig which includes these words: fit, hit

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