I know for a fact that mnemonics make a difference in children with learning disabilities. But when researchers like Scruggs and Mastropieri say it is a proven fact, we’d better sit up and take notice.
Thomas E. Scruggs, PhD and Margo Mastropieri, PhD, (Professors of Special Education in the Department of Educational Studies, Purdue University) evaluated the results of mnemonic instruction in learning disabilities intervention, and concluded;
“Mnemonic instruction delivers the greatest learning increases seen in the history of learning disabilities intervention research.”
Scruggs and Mastropieri’s research states that mnemonic strategies involve ways to help students perform better as they encode information into the brain. Through the use of mnemonics, students are able to do better at retrieving information on demand.
Through the use of mnemonic strategies, a student can find ways to relate the information they are learning to information they already possess in their long-term memory; information they already remember. The process creates a strong connection between new and old information, giving a student the ability to remember new information for a long time. The three mnemonic strategies Scruggs and Mastropieri recommend are:
1. Letter Strategies: It’s used to remember a list of things. An acronym is created that is made up of the first letters of the things a student needs to remember. For example; the acronym, ‘HOMES,’ might be used to help a student remember the names of the Great Lakes – (H)uron, (O)ntario, (M)ichigan, (E)rie, and (S)uperior. By adding a picture of a home with 5 great lakes around it, makes the information easy to recall because most students remember in pictures. It’s also important to write the names of each lake, since students need to become familiar with the names.
Using letter strategies, in a sentence works well too. To remember the procedural order of operations in Algebra,
“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”
P = Parentheses
E = Exponents
M = Multiply
D = Divide
A = Add
S = Subtract
2. The Keyword Method:
The Keyword Method is used in many subjects. Using this method with learning new vocabulary is very effective. For example; if a student is learning that a, ‘barrister,’ is another word used to describe a lawyer, they might picture a bear in a courtroom, going up and down some stairs. (Bear stairs = barrister). By drawing the picture and labeling it, they can easily remember the meaning.
States and Capitals
What is the capital of Louisiana?
Answer: Baton Rouge.
Seeing the picture of Louise and Anna sitting on a bat, putting on rouge, makes it hard to forget!
All of the Memory Joggers products use mnemonics to make learning, fun and easy.
The Pegword Method: The Pegword Method is one that is used to remember ordered or numbered information. ‘Pegwords,’ are words that rhyme with numbers. A student pictures a pegword in association with the information they are learning.
1 = Bun
2 = Shoe
3 = Tree
4 = Door
5 = Hive
6 = Sticks
7 = Heaven
8 = Gate
9 = Vine
10 = Hen
The Memory Joggers Multiplication and Division system is based on the “Pegword” method. For example: 3 x 4 = 12. 3 is tree and 4 is door and 12 rhymes with elves. In a forest there is a tree (3) with a tiny door (4). If you climb up the ladder inside the door, you’d find 12 elves in the branches. By seeing a picture, the fact is locked into the memory. It also makes division just as easy. What is 12 divided by 3? 12 (elves) 3 (tree), it must be 4 (door).
Understanding the concept behind these memory techniques is crucial and should not be overlooked. But adding mnemonics and pictures, help children with learning disabilities feel better about themselves and gives them a tool for success.
If experts like Scruggs and Mastropieri have proven mnemonics works more effectively than any other type of learning tool, then that makes me excited to see what other ideas we can develop to help all children succeed.