Mnemonics, also known as mnemonic devices, are a technique that can be used to help us remember specific topics and ideas. There are many different types of mnemonics, and they can exist as songs, acronyms, rhymes, and many other forms. They can also help kids learn essential facts and information.
What is a mnemonic device?
A mnemonic device, also known as a helpful, is a learning technique that helps learners of all ages to retain or retrieve information. In other words, they’re a handy and effective way to boost your memory and help you store essential details that would otherwise be hard to remember.
Where does the term mnemonic come from?
The word mnemonic originally comes from ‘mnēmonikos,’ an Ancient Greek word that refers to memory. The Ancient Greeks also worshipped Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory in Greek mythology. Even today, the term ‘mnemonic’ is frequently used when talking about memory and studying memory!
Why do mnemonics help with memory?
We’ve defined mnemonic devices, but why are they so effective?
Well, much of it has to do with how our brains store information. While the human brain can be an incredible storage device, it’s less suited to keeping loads of meaningless details. Instead, we’re much better at building connections between new information and previous knowledge and remembering images and phrases.
Mnemonic devices are effective because they tap into how our brains store information. Using mnemonics, we can encode data into a rhyme, sequence, or even an easy-to-remember piece of imagery. Plus, this makes it much easier for us to retrieve it in the future.
What are the different types of mnemonic devices?
One of the best things about mnemonics is that they can exist in various forms. These include:
To name but a few! The mnemonic type your learners choose might depend on their learning style. For instance, children who learn visually might use a metaphor or a mental image to remember essential information. On the other hand, a kinaesthetic learner might remember something using a particular gesture.
In this next bit, we’ll go into more detail about some of the different kinds of mnemonic devices:
Acronyms and acrostics
An acronym is a word or phrase formed using the first letter(s) of the items you want to remember. They can make great mnemonic devices because they allow us to condense multiple things into one easy-to-remember phrase!
For example, to recall the rainbow’s colors, you could use the acronym ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Plus, by using the same example of the colors of the rainbow, we can create an acrostic:
Richard of York gave battle in vain.
This acronym is perfect because we can use it to remember history and colors. That’s because it’s also talking about the unfortunate English king Richard III, who took part in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Notice how it condenses the essential facts about what happened at the battle into one easy-to-remember acronym.
Rhymes are excellent as mnemonic devices. They use rhythm and ‘acoustic encoding’ to make remembering concepts easier. It means that phrases that roll off the tongue are easier to remember because they appeal to our brains.
Here is a rhyming mnemonic you might know:
I before e, except after c,
And when sounding like a
As in neighbor and weight.
This mnemonic is particularly helpful when trying to remember the position and pronunciation of the letter ‘e’ in a word. By referring back to this mnemonic, we’ll figure out that ‘ei’ is often used after the letter ‘c’ in words like ‘deceive’ and ‘ceiling.’
As the name suggests, chunking is a tool that lets us store information by breaking it down into small, easy-to-recall ‘chunks.’ Since our brains can only process so much information at one time, these devices are excellent for helping us to simplify complex information.
A good example, and one that we use every day without realizing it, is phone numbers. Even though they form one long number, you’ll often see them written down in two or three more manageable chunks.
When might we use mnemonics?
While mnemonics are helpful for everyone, they can be convenient for pupils at school. In this next section, you’ll find some common and popular examples that children will likely use in school to remember essential information. But, of course, there’s a good chance that you will have used some of them yourself!
One of the most common uses of mnemonics in teaching is to teach children how to spell words. The first letter of each word in the sentence spells out the word children are learning to spell. For instance, kids might learn to spell the words ‘because’ and ‘rhyme’ using this mnemonic:
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move
They can also be fantastic for memorizing spelling rules. For example, the mnemonic device reminds children of the commonly-confused homophones ‘hear’ and ‘here.’
We hear with our ears.
For the order of a list
Instead of simply memorizing a list, you can devise an inventive way of remembering it. If the mnemonic device is humorous, then there’s a better chance you’ll be able to recall it. For example, take a look at this helpful for remembering the distance of the planets in our solar system from the sun:
My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos
Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune
For remembering rules
How many days are there in September again? Luckily, there’s a mnemonic for that!
To remember whether a day has 30, 31, or even 28 days, we can use this rhyme:
Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Save February, with twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine each leap year