Mnemonic Weekly Tip   #11         November 24, 2002
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The Problem
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Two words that are often confused by new readers and readers who have a problem distinguishing between items that are similar are went and want.  This is the same problem these students have with was and saw.  Many people thought that individuals who confuse was and saw perceived one of these words backwards.  Individuals, who confuse words, do not see words backwards, rather they have a problem with naming or labeling the word.  Knowing the difference between was and saw is the same as knowing the difference between went and want.  Words that are similar can be confused by individuals who have a right/left discrimination problem. 

The Mnemonic

This week’s clue uses weighted learning: knowing one part of a pair so well that if it is not that one, it is the other.  The word went can be weighted if the person can rhyme.  Then the person learns a phrase like went to pay the rent.  

 If the person has difficulty rhyming, as do many people with poor reading skills, then the word want can be weighted by using the word ant.  By developing a story about why a person may want an ant will provide him or her with a way to remember the word want.  For example, I tell the person that I would like him to have an ant farm.  We discuss the concept of an ant farm, ground in a glass frame so that one can see the ant’s activities.  I explain that it is fragile because it is made of glass and therefore should be kept off of the bed so that ants do not end up in one’s bed. 

The student learns to associate the word ant with the word want, because I want him to have an ant farm.  This association is often enough to provide the person with a mnemonic clue for the word want and if it is not want then it is went.

The words was and saw can be distinguished by weighting was, the word that appears more frequently.  If the word is not was than try saw.    For example:  I was (saw) there yesterday.  He was (saw) going to watch the game.  I saw (was) him leave. 
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Richard Cooper