Monday, July 9, 2012

Finding Mnemonic

Last Friday my boyfriend and I went to see Wicked at the Civic Center in San Diego. It was my second time in the last 6 months (my first time being at Pantages Theater in Los Angeles around Christmas time with my family). If you asked for my honest opinion I would say I enjoyed the overall performance at Pantages just a little bit more. I thought the singing was phenomenal the first time I saw it, but watching the musical a second time definitely had its perks too. For instance, it was interesting to see how the different cast members put their own unique spin on the characters because there were some glaring differences between the LA cast and SD cast. Another bonus to watching it again was that my boyfriend pointed out a plot connection, don't worry I won't spoil the fun for those that haven't seen it yet, that I hadn't made the first time around. It was such an "Aha!" moment and I can't believe I missed it the first time.

If you think about it though, not everyone understands everything the first time around. Sometimes, repetition can be of great value. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the drill 'n kill method by any means, but I certainly think there are benefits to repeated exposure. I know that in my own personal experience growing up, I learned my multiplication facts through repeated exposure. Actually, I think that's how most students learn their multiplication facts. Flashcards, multiplication tables, those timed half sheets, you know what I'm talking about. Are there other strategies that are more effective for teaching content that seems like it just needs to be memorized like multiplication facts?

I think mnemonics are great. A mnemonic is anything intended to help you retain and remember information, a memory aid if you will. It is derived from a Greek word meaning "of memory". I love wordplay and using playful visuals in my teaching. I think a lot of people associate mnemonics with rhymes and acronyms, but mnemonics actually come in many different forms so it's also a great tool for teachers who like to think outside the box and push the boundaries of their creativity. Below are some of favorite mnemonics that I have come across:

Kindergarten. Remembering the colors of the rainbow. Do you know ROY G. BIV? (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet)

3rd grade. Using your hands to remember the multiplication facts for the 9's. I think this video does a good job of explaining this neat trick. I like to move the actual finger down though. For example, for 9 x 2 I would drop my second finger down so that I could clearly see the distinction between the tens and ones place.

5th grade. Check out these fun cartoons for helping students memorize some of their states and capitals. A great activity could be to have students write and illustrate their own state/capital comic book.

What are some of your favorite mnemonics?


  1. Mnemonics are great -- I wouldn't have passed school without them! I like "please excuse my dear aunt Sally" for the order of operations, and "kangaroos hopping down mountains drinking cold milk" for metric prefixes. And personal memory tricks like "the capital of Maryland is Annapolis because I know twins named Mary and Anna."

    1. PEMDAS is a good one! I'll never forget when I was tutoring a middle school boy a couple of years ago and he had this perplexed look on his face when I tried teaching "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" to him. 30 seconds later I learned kids these days simply refer to it as PEMDAS. Man, I felt old and out of the loop haha. I've never heard of the "kangaroos hopping down mountains drinking cold milk" though! Thanks for sharing! :)