Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 25          March 16, 2003
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Just a short clue from the road: coming to you from the NAASLN (National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs) Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
The Problem
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Last week I was working with a learner who kept reading the word horse for house.  Although the passage clearly included a house, there was no mention of a horse.  Each time this learner came upon the word house, he said horse.  Part of this studentís difficulty is the right/left discrimination problem that makes it difficult for him to distinguish between words that are similar.  The other part of his problem is that he has the wrong word stored in his short-term memory, and he could not forget it.  We stopped and took a few moments to talk about why he was reading horse instead of house.  I explained that if we could find a way to remember one of the words, then he would always be able to distinguish between house and horse.  He agreed, so we began exploring ways to remember one of the words (weighted learning technique). 

The Mnemonic: 

 The first step we took was to isolate the confusing words and analyze them.  I wrote the words:

            h  o  u  s  e

        h  o  r  s  e

By comparing the words this way, the learner was able to clearly see the similarities and differences.  The only difference between these words is the middle letters the u and the r.  We talked about a variety of ways to relate the letter u to the word house.  When the student said you live in a house, he had a clue that he would remember. 

Today in a session I was presenting at the NAASLN conference, Mabel Collen, an adult educator from Geauge ABLE in Ohio, pointed out that the person could focus on the r and relate it to the idea of riding a horse. 

When two equally useful ideas are available, it is up to the learner to determine which clue is the easiest to remember.  Learning both usually results in more confusion.

     A number of teachers and students have asked to have the Mnemonic Clue of the Week sent to them each week. If you would like to receive this service, send your e-mail address to  
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Richard Cooper