IVAN CAPP: Interjection, Verb, Adjective, Noun, Conjunction, Adverb, Pronoun, Preposition (Language arts)
HONC if you’re alive! Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon (Science)
HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior (Social Studies)
Mnemonic devices are acronyms and acrostics and can be found in every content area, as evidenced in the examples above. Acronyms are words where the first letter in the word stands for the content to be remembered. For example, IVAN CAPP helps students remember the eight parts of speech; HOMES, the Great Lakes; and HONC, the four atoms most important to life. Acrostics, on the other hand, are sentences where the first letter in each word in the sentence begins with the same letter as the concept to be remembered. For example, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally actually helps students remember the order of operations in math (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract).
Mnemonic devices serve as effective tools for remembering large amounts of information. In fact, the word itself derives from the Greek word mnema, which means memory. Numerous mnemonic devices are used in the real world to help the public remember; one of the most widely used mnemonic devices today is lol, for laughing out loud.
What The Research Says
Adolescents find mnemonic devices more meaningful when they can personally create them (Feinstein, 2009).
Learning is increased two- to three-fold when people rely on mnemonic devices rather than their regular learning habits (Markowitz & Jensen, 2007).
Since students’ brains have difficulty holding information that is not meaningful or does not have a hook, acrostics and acronyms help to provide that hook (Sprenger, 2008).
Make It Happen
- Have students create their own acrostics to assist them in remembering content. One teacher had students create original acrostics to remember the order of operations in math. Students will remember best what they choose to create themselves, especially if the mnemonic devices are humorous or novel. For example, instead of the customary Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally one student created the following original acrostic: Please End My Day At School.
- To help eliminate the threat that occurs in the brain when some students lack confidence in their ability to be successful in your math class, teach them the acronym that Connie Moore of Los Angeles, California uses: MATH, which actually stands for Math Ain’t That Hard! I know the word “ain’t” is not grammatically correct, but this acronym is too good to overlook. If you use the 20 strategies as you teach, you can watch this acronym come true.
For more examples of instructional activities using mnemonic devices, consult the 3rd edition of my best-selling book, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.