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Use Your Best Mnemonics
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Teaching letter strategies involves the use of acronyms and acrostics. Acronyms are words whose individual letters can represent elements in lists of information, such as HOMES to represent the Great Lakes (e.g., Huron, Ontario, Michigan). Acrostics are sentences whose first letters represent to-be-remembered information, such as "My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas," to remember the nine planets in order (e.g., Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars). (Scruggs & Mastropieri, n.d.). Teachers can use these letter strategies to help students remember lists of information.
The mnemonic "IT FITS" (King-Sears, Mercer, & Sindelar, 1992) is an acronym providing the following steps to create mnemonics for vocabulary words:
I dentify the term (vocabulary word, e.g., "impecunious").
T ell the definition of the term (e.g., "having no money").
Fi nd a keyword (e.g., "penniless imp").
T hink about the definition as it relates to the keyword, and imagine the definition doing something with the keyword. For example, "an imp tried to buy something but found that his pockets contained no money."
S tudy what you imagined until you know the definition (Foil & Alber, 2002).
Another mnemonic device for creating keywords for new vocabulary is LINCS (Ellis, 1992). During a unit on medieval history, students must learn a new vocabulary word, "catapult." The teacher gives the following instructions:
L ist the parts. Write the word on a study card, and list the most important parts of the definition on the back. On the frontside of the card write the word "catapult" as the term to be defined, and on the backside of the card write "to throw or launch as if by an ancient device for hurling missiles."
I magine the picture. Create a mental picture and describe it. For example, something being launched over or through a barrier.
N ote a reminding word. Think of a familiar word that sounds like the vocabulary word. For example, a "cat" and a "pole" sounds similar to "pult"?write this on the bottom half of the card).
C onstruct a LINCing story. Make up a short story about the meaning of the word that includes the word to be remembered, for example, a cat pole-vaulting over a castle wall.
S elf-Test. Test your memory forward to back; for example, look at the word "catapult" and "cat pole" on the front of the card, and say aloud the definition on the back of the card, as well as the image of a cat pole-vaulting over a castle wall. Reverse this process by looking at the back of the card to self-test the vocabulary word and keyword (Foil & Alber, 2002).
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