A Tale of Then vs. Than and There vs. They’re vs. Their

Solid understanding of grammar is key for student reading and writing success. However, many concepts of grammar are difficult to grasp and rely more on memorization than deduction. It’s important that grammar topics are addressed early and often in student writing, and that they are consistently repeated over the entirety of a child’s school years.

Understanding the difference between homophones (like "write" and "right") meets Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Additionally, they are necessary to grow students’ writing skills, and improve important markers of ELA progress, such as state test scores and written responses.

"Then/than" and "there/they’re/their" are great examples of how grammar concepts can be made engaging by incorporating them into storyboards. Providing visual homophone examples is a perfect way for students to associate the words alongside context rather than just from definitions.


Then is used when sequencing events in terms of time.

I came home from school, then I got a snack.

Than is used when making comparisons.

Jason is taller than Derek.


There is used to reference a specific place.

I left the donuts there this morning.

They’re is used to describe what multiple people are doing. It is easier to distinguish because it is a contraction smashing together the two words "they" and "are".

They’re at the store getting Oreos.

Their is a plural possessive. This indicates a thing or things belongs to multiple people.

Their dog is crazy

Incorporating Storyboards Into Grammar Exercises

Usually these concepts are demonstrated through examples and then students memorize them with repetitive grammar drills. While consistent practice of grammar skills is important, it’s equally important to keep students engaged in the work. This will allow learning objectives to sink in and stick with your students.

Storyboarding is a perfect way for students to demonstrate their knowledge of the differences between "then/than" and "there/they’re/their", while exercising their creative talents. The clear, concise structure of storyboards allows teachers to immediately determine whether students have mastered the objectives. To increase practice and further ingrain learning, teachers can assign students to create multiple storyboards, and use more examples, allowing students to fully internalize the objectives, while still giving them the opportunity to have fun and be creative.

Some engaging ways teachers can teach homophones like "then/than", and "there/they’re/their" using storyboards are:

  • Have students create their own storyboards for both "then/than" and "there/they’re/their". In each cell of the board, students are required to come up with a clear example sentence utilizing the correct form of each word, and a picture that describes it.
  • Students can create storyboard pictures for sentences containing "then/than" or "there/they’re/their" from reading or class. They then can come up with the justification for the chosen iteration of the word in the cell.
  • For an assessment, teachers can create a storyboard with pictures and sentences, where key words are blanked out. Students must then use sentence and storyboard context clues to fill in the blanks.

Common Homophones List

  • you | ewe | yew
  • raise | rays | raze
  • sun | son
  • blue | blew
  • hear | here
  • ware | wear | where
  • sell | cell
  • buy | bye | by
  • one | won
  • so | sew | sow
  • ball | bawl
  • we | wee
  • plain | plane
  • mind | mined
  • sea | see
  • pair | pear | pare
  • eight | ate
  • piece | peace
  • to | too | two
  • our | hour
  • witch | which
  • dear | deer
  • flower | flour
  • write | right
  • break | brake
  • die | dye
  • pray | prey
  • way | weigh
  • weather | whether
  • allowed | aloud
  • cent | sent | scent
  • steel | steal
  • rose | rows
  • not | knot
  • tail | tale
  • maze | maize

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