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Mnemonics

Defined in broad terms, a mnemonic is a device, procedure, or operation that is used to improve memory. Defined in narrow terms — and what is usually meant by the word — a mnemonic is a specific reconstruction of target content intended to tie new information more closely to the learner's existing knowledge base and, therefore, facilitate retrieval.

Mnemonics have been used for thousands of years. Having limited access to writing materials, the Ancient Greeks developed complex mnemonic systems for remembering stories, poems, plays and lectures. Many of the Ancient Greek techniques were revived in the Middle Ages, where they were sometimes associated with mysticism and the occult. However, with the invention of the printing press these ancient arts became lost as more and more people relied — sometimes exclusively — on note-taking and on the printed page.

There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including keywords, pegwords, acronyms, loci methods, spelling mnemonics, phonetic mnemonics, number-sound mnemonics, and Japanese “Yodai” methods. An example of an acronym is to remember the word HOMES to recall the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. The purpose of number-sound mnemonics is to recall strings of numbers, such as telephone numbers, addresses, locker combinations or historical dates. To use them, learners must first learn the number-sound relationships: 0=s; 1=t; 2=n; 3=m; 4=r; 5=l; 6=sh, ch, or soft g, 7=k, hard c, or hard g; 8=f or v; and 9=p. To remember the date 1439, for example, the learner uses the associated consonant sounds, t, r, m and p, and will insert vowels to create a meaningful word or words. In this case, the word “tramp” can be used. Spelling mnemonics is intended to help us remember the spelling of words. In order to remember that the word “cemetery” is spelled with three e's, for example, one can picture a lady screaming 'E-E-E' as she walks past the cemetery.

Edublox Reading and Learning Clinics offer Studiblox, a course that covers study skills, study methods and study techniques for learners from Grade 4 to 9. Studiblox includes the MUD model, mnemonics, mind mapping, writing summaries, answering exam papers, essay and speech writing, speed reading techniques, and more.