All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Classroom Strategies

Mnemonics

Background

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.

Benefits

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 LD students and others who may have difficulty with information recall.

Create and use the strategy

Mnemonics may be introduced to students when a set of new information is presented. Discuss the topic to be learned and pre-select a mnemonic strategy such as those listed below (or have students create their own:

  • Keyword — A keyword is a familiar word that sounds similar to the word or idea being taught. The teacher creates an illustration that links the prior and new information in the student's memory. Example: The scientific term for common frogs is ranidae. A helpful keyword for ranidae might be rain and a teacher could show a picture of frogs hopping in the rain.
  • Pegword — Pegwords refer to a set of rhyming words that are used to stand for numbers. For example, the pegword for "one" is "bun." Pegwords include the following:
  • one is bun

    six is sticks

    two is shoe

    seven is heaven

    three is tree

    eight is gate

    four is door

    nine is vine

    five is hive

    ten is hen

    Pegwords are used to help students remember information in a particular order. These words are substituted for the number to be remembered and associated with the other information. For instance, to remember that insects have six legs and spiders have eight legs, create a picture of insects on sticks and another picture of a spider on a gate.

  • Letter — Letter strategies include acronyms and acrostics (or sentence mnemonics). For example, the acronym HOMES can be used to help students recall the names of the Great Lakes
    • H: Huron
    • O: Ontario
    • M: Michigan
    • E: Erie
    • S: Superior

    Teachers then may wish to use verbal cues such as "A good way to remember this is…" for an introduction to the technique.

Note: The specific mnemonic strategy will need to be modeled and students should go through the steps of the mnemonic until they can use it independently. Allow students opportunities to practice orally and provide corrective feedback.

Further reading

The following links provide examples of mnemonic strategies:

References

Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (1998). Constructing more meaningful relationships in the classroom: Mnemonic research into practice. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 13, 138-145.

Nagel, D. R., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1986). The FIRST-letter mnemonic strategy. Lawrence, KS: EXCELLenterprises.

Schumaker, J. B., Bulgren, J. A., Deshler, D. D., & Lenz, B. K. (1998). The recall enhancement routine. Lawrence, KS: The University of Kansas.

Scruggs, T. E., and Mastropieri, M. A. (1992). Classroom applications of mnemonic instruction: Acquisition, maintenance and generalization. Exceptional Children, 58, 219-229.