Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 40          August 17, 2003
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The Problem
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 Individuals who have reading problems often find certain words confusing.  In the Mnemonic Clue of the Week 13, I discussed how to help readers to distinguish the words:  how, now, who, whom, and whose. 

The words:  why, when, what, where, and which also present problems for weak readers.  These words are difficult because they are similar in that they all begin with wh and they are used to ask questions.  Even the context may not provide the reader with sufficient information to distinguish between these words as the following example demonstrates.  He knew when they went but did not know when they would return.  The first when should be where, but for many readers who confuse these words, they can make sense out of the sentence reading when in both places in this sentence.  If the person had to answer the questions, “Did he know where they went?” the person who misread the word when for where would get the answer incorrect.  
The Mnemonic Clue

The Mnemonic Clues for the words why, when, what, where, and which can be learned all at once or one at a time depending on the individuals ability: 

            Why     The three-letter wh word that ends in a y
              When   The word when contains the small word hen.  “The hen lives in a hen house or a barnyard and lives with a rooster.  Early in the morning the rooster crows, then it is time to get up.  When is it time to get out of bed?  When the rooster crows.

  What    The word what contains the small words hat and at.  The same words are in the word that.  That, hat and at rhyme but what does not.  To remember what the person visualizes an enormous hat like a sombrero on someone’s head and thinks “What a hat.” 

  Where    The word where contains the word here which signifies a place.  The person learns to tap his or her finger or foot and say here, there, or where.  If the person has difficulty remembering the difference between there and where, he learns to place his tongue on his teeth when he sees the th letter combination.  This also applies to the others words on this page that begin with the letters th.  

                 Which    This word is the most difficult word to remember for those individuals who have difficulty using the sounds in letters.  If the person does not have such difficulty, hearing the ch sound is the easiest way to remember this word.  For those who do not pay attention to the sounds, or who have difficulty remembering which sound is which, there is another way.  The person learns the set of words: which, witch, and watch.  The word that has the letter a in it reminds the person of a clock or timepiece -- a watch.  The other two words are pronounced the same.  One is a question word and the other represents a woman usually portrayed at Halloween with a black hat and a broom to fly on.  The t in witch can be used to either remind the person of a hat or a broom.  The word that does not have a clue is the question word which
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Richard Cooper