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.
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:
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.
Teachers then may wish to use verbal cues such as “A good way to remember this is…” for an introduction to the technique.
- 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:
- 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
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.
The following links provide examples of mnemonic strategies:
- Enhancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies
- Memory Strategies for Students: The Value of Strategies
- Mnemonic Devices A-B-Cs
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.