What is Memory? It is the ability of the mind to store and recall past sensations, thoughts, knowledge(American Heritage).
What is Mnemonics? It is the process or technique of improving or developing the memory (American Heritage).
A mnemonic is an instructional strategy designed to help students improve their memory of important information. This technique connects new learning to prior knowledge through the use of visual and/or acoustic cues. The basic types of mnemonic strategies rely on the use of key words, rhyming words, or acronyms. Teachers may develop mnemonic strategies or have students come up with their own (AdolescentLiteracy).
Mnemonics are strategies that can be modified to fit a variety of learning content. This method enhances memory of complex words or ideas and promotes better retention of material to be learned. It is especially beneficial to learning disabled (LD) students and others who may have difficulty with information recall(AdolescentLiteracy).
What is a mnemonic device?
The word mnemonic is derived from the Greek word mnemonikos, which means “of memory”. A mnemonic device is a memory aid that can greatly facilitate the learning of a second language. Mnemonics can take many forms, including acronyms, poems, etc( Bilash, 2009).
Mnemonics are memory devices that help learners recall larger pieces of information, especially in the form of lists like characteristics, steps, stages, parts, phases, etc. We knew back in 1967 from a study by Gerald R. Miller that mnemonics increased recall. He found that students who regularly used mnemonic devices increased test scores up to 77%! (Congos)
Many types of mnemonics exist and which type works best is limited only by the imagination of each individual learner. The 9 basic types of mnemonics presented in this handout include Music, Name, Expression/Word, Model, Ode/Rhyme, Note Organization, Image, Connection, and Spelling Mnemonics(Congos).
Here are some examples:
Music– “ABC” song
Model-some type of representation is constructed to help with understanding and recalling important information.
Ode/Rhyme-The number of days in each month is:
30 days hath September, April, June, and November.
All the rest have 31
Except February my dear son.
It has 28 and that is fine
But in Leap Year it has 29.
Geography: George Edwards’s Old Grandma Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.
Arithmetic: A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream.
The keyword method, a mnemonic strategy, has been shown to be effective with students who have learning difficulties and those who are at risk for educational failure. According to the National Reading Panel, the keyword method may lead to significant improvement in students’ recall of new vocabulary words(Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. 2006).
If this is true then why are we not using this method with more students? It does take more time to get the materials ready and for it to be explained to the child why you are teaching it this way, but in the long run it would be very beneficial to all learners.
AdolescentLiteracy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.adlit.org/strategies/22732/
Bilash, O. (2009, May). Best of bilash. Retrieved from http://www.educ.ualberta.ca/staff/olenka.bilash/best of bilash/mnemonic.html
Congos, D. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.learningassistance.com/2006/january/mnemonics.html
mnemonics. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from Dictionary.com website:
Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2006). Teaching Vocabulary. LD Online. Retrieved April 21, 2010 from http://www.ldonline.org/article/Teaching_Vocabulary