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Use Your Best Mnemonics

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ROTE MEMORIZATION OF FACTS can be bypassed by an instructional strategy known as mnemonics. Clark (1999) suggests that facts are particularly difficult for the human brain to store and recall. Straight memorization of facts is inefficient. One strategy to circumvent the need to memorize many facts is to associate the facts with familiar information already stored in the learner's brain.

Mastropieri & Scruggs (1998) define mnemonics as a systematic procedure for enhancing memory. They caution that mnemonics are not a an overall teaching method or approach. Mnemonics are simply a strategy that has been proven to be extremely effective in helping people remember things. Mnemonics are memory strategies, not comprehension strategies.

Some Real Life Uses of Mnemonics

For years, mariners have used mnemonics to remember significant information needed in the safe navigation of ships at sea. One example of this is "Red right returning." Mariners use this simple mnemonic to remind them when they are returning from sea, red buoys should be kept to the right side of the ship.

Other uses of mnemonics are so common that you may not even realize you are using them. Have you ever met Roy G. Biv? Roy G. Biv helps us remember the colors of the rainbow, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. You may also routinely use your knuckles to remember which months of the year have 31 days and which months do not.

The simple mnemonic "Red touches yellow, kill a fellow! Red touches black, friend of Jack!" could have made this decision safer.

Types of Mnemonics

There are many types of mnemonics, from physical mnemonics like the month-knuckles strategy to complicated association of familiar words with unfamiliar words. The following are some commonly used methods. Letter strategies use letter prompts to assist recalling lists of things, like Roy G. Biv. The keyword method uses a familiar word to interact with the unfamiliar word, linking the two for recall later. The pegword method is used when numbered or ordered information needs to be remembered.

Limitations of Mnemonics

Mastropieri & Scruggs (1998) cite their previous research that indicated that students who have been taught strategies for creating their own mnemonics outperform comparison students in free-study conditions. Unfortunately, devising mnemonic strategies is time consuming. They also found that initial benefits of mnemonic instruction are not maintained over time without reinforcement, similar to rote memorization

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