Different learning strategies

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Classrooms today use many different learning strategies and special education classrooms aren't left out of that bunch. Mnemonics is a learning device to help memorize specific, important information. I do think that many people believe mnemonics to be controversial. They might argue that mnemonics is a memorization tool and not a learning tool but I think if done correctly they can prove to be a very beneficial tool. Mnemonics is a widely used strategy in classrooms but some think it is being taken over by increasing technology. Some of the most popular mnemonics are often known as "ROY G BIV," to help memorize the order of the colors in the rainbow. Mnemonics is still a widely accepted learning strategy that will help children learn many different subject areas in ways that are easily remembered.

Other than acronyms, mnemonics can be implemented in many different ways, such as visualizing, linking to real world experiences, ordered associations, rhymes or jingles and catch phrases. The reason these strategies work so well is because they provide a connection in a meaningful way to an informational item that would be hard to remember otherwise. Joel Levin (1983) has a strategy called the "3 R's" of associative mnemonic techniques. The three "R's" stand for recoding, relating and retrieving. The student will first recode a word that is unfamiliar into a familiar keyword. The second step is to relate the keyword to the definition that is needed to be remembered. Once the student has recoded and related the word they will then have to retrieve the definition once they have reencountered the word.

Mnemonics can be useful to all age ranges due to the array of different strategies there are to use in the classroom. And all though mnemonics might be beneficial to younger students, it can also be hard for these students to implement their own mnemonic strategy effectively. Elementary school students aren't expected to recall as much memorization as older students. But like most elementary teachers they have their students memorize the alphabet song, which student are to recall the word that goes along with the letter, such as "A is for Apple, B is for Balloon, etc." The three most common methods for teaching mnemonics is the keyword strategy, pegword strategy and the letter strategy.

The keyword strategy links new words and information to keywords that are already known to memory. The best way to go about teaching this is to first identify the keyword that sounds similar to the new vocabulary. It is also helpful to represent this information to a picture or drawing that will trigger what was just learned. This picture must connect and interact with the word to be learned to the definition and cannot simply just be in the picture. According to Mastropieri & Scruggs (1990) the keyword strategy works best when the information being taught is new to the students.

The pegword strategy is where the students are to learn a rhyme, which goes as follows, "one is a bun, two is a shoe, three is a tree, etc." There is a certain word for every number and in order for this strategy to work the students must memorize this consistent set of rhyming numbers and objects. They will also have to be able to imagine the object or word that goes along with the number. According to Mastropieri & Scruggs (1991) the pegword strategy has been proven to be useful in teaching ordered and numbered information.

The next strategy for mnemonics is the letter strategy. And this is probably the most commonly know strategy and maybe even the most commonly used. The letter strategy can be helpful in students remembering lists of information. This is the strategy that uses acronyms and acrostics. "Acronyms are words whose individual letters can represent elements in lists of information, such as "HOMES" to represent the Great Lakes. 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," (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1991). Sometimes acrostics are needed to be used because if you tried to use just the first letter of all the planets in order, the letters would not spell anything but be a jumble of random letters, so instead a sentence or a catch phrase was used instead. When using the letter strategy it is also helpful to use fun and catchy songs to help retain information.

Mnemonic devices can be used in all subject areas, although some strategies might be better used in specific subject areas. For instance when teaching mathematics the best mnemonic strategy to use is the pegword strategy, this is useful because the rhyme itself has numbers in it and would be easy to relate to simple math problems. The pegword strategy could also be used in social studies, with trying to memorize dates or the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights. The letter strategy can be used for an abundance of things and is the most familiar to students. This can be used in any subject that requires a list or order of information that needs to be remembered. The letter strategy is really only a prompt to help you remember the word so students need to be sufficiently familiar with the words or list of information because they will have to recall it from just the first letter of the word.

The keyword method is a more versatile method of mnemonics than people assume. This strategy is most commonly known to memorize states and capitals but it can be useful in memorizing any vocabulary word for any subject area. All subjects have words that must be learned in order to understand the concept of the lesson. So you could use this strategy to memorize the name of rare animal or even for foreign languages as well as with map locations. "Students with learning disabilities were much more successful in locating Revolutionary War battle locations on a map when they were mnemonically encoded (e.g., a picture of a tiger, keyword for Fort Ticonderoga) than when representational pictures were used. When asked for the location of Fort Ticonderoga, students proved much more able to identify where on the map the tiger had been than they were to identify the location of a more traditional illustration," (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998).

Mnemonics can be used in general curriculum or adapted curriculum classrooms. This is due to the high rate of students who have trouble retaining information in specific subject areas. Many children might also favor visual or verbal prompts to retain important information learned so these strategies attach a verbal or visual cue such as a picture or a phrase to information already known. "Mnemonic instruction follows the premise that as children learn, they are building a web ofknowledge. Learning something new is like adding a thread to the web. For students with memory challenges or processing disorders, mnemonic devices become the tools tobuild threads from new to old ideas. Because of their ability to create and retain connections made by their typically developing peers, these students are then able to participate in the same curriculum" (Graves & Levin, 1989).

Today mnemonics is mostly widely used in elementary and middle school but that isn't to say that high school students haven't remembered mnemonic strategies from there elementary days. But mnemonics first began as a tool for older students trying to learn a foreign language and then finally made its way to the younger students. And then it also made its way into adapted curriculum classrooms. "The use of mnemonic strategies has helped students with disabilities significantly improve their academic achievement" (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998). Children with learning disabilities have often had difficulties remembering academic content so that is why mnemonics works so well in the adapted curriculum classes. We know these mnemonic strategies are effective according to Mastropieri and Scruggs (1998) research, "A student classified as mentally retarded effectively remembered information she had been taught 1 year previously. Even more impressive was the fact that she had not reviewed or rehearsed this information with any teacher since the last time we had seen her." That is incredible to think that mnemonic devices helped her to recall the information she had learned a year ago. "This strategy is a "low-tech" approach that has shown most promise for learners with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities or for those who have "high incidence" disabilities. Because this strategy requires some previous knowledge and the ability to make connections between knowledge, it may not work as effectively for children with more severe cognitive delays" ( ).

Mnemonics is a great strategy to implement in the classroom but should not be the only strategy used. Mnemonics is simply a tool to recall information that has previously been learned. There are ways to improve students memory other than mnemonics such as keeping the students attention because if the student is not paying attention during the learning process. Some other ways to improve student's memory is to promote external memory, create meaningfulness to prior knowledge, using pictures, promoting active manipulation and reasoning and practice, practice, practice (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998). These ideas can also be used as ways to maintain the use of mnemonic strategies.

Overall mnemonics is a great strategy to be used in the classroom. It is meant to recode, relate and retrieve important information. It is used as a memory device in order for students to recall information that has been related to previous knowledge. It is not a way to teach information but in turn to memorize information. Many classrooms today use this strategy including general and adapted curriculum, it is beneficial to both. It can also be used in all grades, although most beneficial in elementary and middle schools. There are three strategies that work the best when using mnemonic devices, which are pegword, letter and keyword. The pegword strategy is uses rhyming words to represent numbers and orders. The letter strategy uses acronyms and acrostics in order to recall information. And the keyword strategy links new information to keywords that are already encoded in the memory. Using mnemonics is a simple and inexpensive way to promote learning in the classroom and will help students dramatically improve their academic achievements. Although a great strategy it should not be the only strategy used in the classroom but it will help students retain information in many different subject areas.


  • Graves, A., & Levin, J. (1989). Comparison of monitoring and mnemonic text-processing strategies in learning disabled students. Learning Disability Quarterly, 12 , 232-236.
  • LEVIN, JOEL R. 1983. "Pictorial Strategies for School Learning: Practical Illustrations." In Cognitive Strategy Research: Educational Applications, ed. Michael Pressley and Joel R. Levin. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., Fulk, B.J.M. (1990). Teaching abstract vocabulary with the keyword method: Effects on recall and comprehension. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23, 92-96.
  • Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (1991). Teaching students ways to remember: Strategies for learning mnemonically. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
  • Mastropieri, M.A., & Scruggs, T.E. (1998). Enchancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies. LD Online. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/5912