Rote Memory and Mnemonics

Rote Memory and Mnemonics to Memorize

There are certain kinds of information that are best learned by Memorization. There are two main ways to learn them.

Rote Memory is what most students use

This is learning by repetition and often involves flash cards.

If you need to memorize a poem, a speech, or the lines to a play, you probably won’t use flash cards. Start by reading the material several times to understand it. You might even outline it or simple list the parts in order. If the reading is long, you should divide it into shorter sections and learn only one section at a time. A three-five verse poem can be learned in a day. Lines for a play may take a week or more.

Read the first short section aloud – two or three sentences or one verse of a poem. Read it again if you need to. Then try to repeat it on your own. Check to see how you did. You might read again, repeat again several times. When you can repeat it three to fives times without looking, you can move to the next section. When you get that section into your memory, combine the sections and repeat.

This is NOT the end of learning your lines. You should repeat the entire section that you learned several times again that day and the next several days. When you aren’t sure, check the lines and repeat again from the beginning. Eventually, you can review only once a day, then three times a week, once a week, monthly, etc.

Use Flash Cards for Vocabulary, Names, Dates, and Capitol Cities. You will learn more if you create your own flash cards. First use your flash cards to test yourself during a study period. Then, carry them and use them during brief unused times. Use them while the teacher checks attendance. Use them while waiting in line for lunch. Use them on the school bus.

With flash cards, it helps to do them forwards and backwards. Look at the definition and name the word, spelling if it you need to.  The next time you can look at the words and say the definition as well as you can.

Mnemonics help you remember lists in order

Mnemonics ( pronounced “Knee – mon – icks)  are learning strategies that help us remember. The word comes from a Greek word for memory. Some people define them as memory tricks or memory manipulations. They are most commonly used to remember lists.

Some Mnemonics use rhyme and music

You probably learned the alphabet song even before starting school. It uses rhyme and music to help preschoolers learn the alphabet. I was surprised to hear the same tune (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) used for an alphabet songs in several other languages.

We were a little older when we learned the number of days in each month:

“Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have thirty-one  except February alone. And that has twenty-eight days clear  With twenty-nine in each leap year.”

To learn spelling we learned:

” before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor or weigh.”

For history, we learned:

“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two , Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

The same sort of simple rhyme can used for other important dates, rhyming the number with another word. ”The Spanish Armada met its fate in fifteen hundred and eighty-eight.”

You could create your own rhymes to help you remember dates. You could even set some information to a simple tune.

Two kinds of Verbal Mnemonics

1. Acronyms are words created from the first letters of a list of words. Familiar acronyms include NATO, AIDS, DNA, CEO. Notice that some are pronounced as words and others use the initials. Other acronyms began that way but are now considered words: Scuba, Radar, Sonar, Laser. For example, Scuba means “Self contained underwater breathing apparatus.  And now we have a whole new collection of acronyms used most often in texting such as LOL, OMG, and BFF.

I only know a few acronyms used to help memory. Most common is HOMES, the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Another familiar one seems to fit even though it’s more than a single word.  Roy G. Biv provides the colors of the rainbow: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

2. The other verbal form of mnemonics is called by various names but “First Letter Mnemonics” seems most logical. Instead of forming a single word, these letters become the first initials of words that are organized in phrases or sentences. These are the easiest to create.

To remember the planets in order from the sun, outwards, we often heard “My very excellent Illustration of the 8 planetsmother just served us nine pizzas.” You need to remember which planet to start with since M is listed twice: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto.

This mnemonic doesn’t work any more because Pluto was demoted. I changed it to My very excellent mother just served us noodles.

In Poland Men Are Tall stands for the stages of Mitosis (cell division): Interphase, Prophase,  Metaphase, Anaphase, and Telophase.

King Henry Doesn’t Mind Drinking Cold Milk represents the metric prefixes that students are normally expected to know, from large measures to small measures: Kilo-, Hecto-, Deca, Meter (or Liter or gram, etc), Deci-, Centi-, and Milli- .

If you are interested in Mnemonics, you can find many other in books on Memory or Mnemonics. The college website lists many others.

Number Mnemonics

Harry Lorrayne has some very complex mnemonic systems for learning long numbers. I have no intention of taking the time to learn how to use it. I’d rather remember my social security number the old-fashioned way.

There is a really simple system I do like. This was developed by people who enjoy remembering a long list of numbers like the first 50 digits of pi.  It is very simple. You are a funny elephant  represents the number 33158. The first word has three letters for the number three. The second word also has three letters, another 3. the next word has 1 letter. It is 1. Finally we have five letters for the 5 and 8 letters for the 8..

So if you need to remember your ID number or locker combination try this. It should also big a great help if you need to remember a lot of dates.

Another was to remember dates: Begin with the name or event. Then write a description using the system above. For example:

Columbus: A Good  Discovery Is. 

After the name:  1 letter, 4 letters, 9 letters 2 letters. This gives you the date he discovered America.  You can probably create one that’s even better.

A final note: If you already know the information, you certainly don’t need a mnemonic. If you can learn the information just as easily without a mnemonic, you don’t need a mnemonic.  But if you need to learn a very complex list of items, it really isn’t hard to create a simple mnemonic. Most people remember their own mnemonics better than those they read in a book.

1. Simply list the words you need to learn.  If you need to learn all the countries in South America, for example, you would start by listing them on a sheet of paper.
2. Make a list of possible words that come easily to mind next to each word you need to learn.
In this case, you’d list words starting with the same letters as the countries. Try finding words that have several letters in common with the word you are learning.  For Brazil you might list Big, Basic, Blazing, Buzzing…. etc. (note that I tried to include a Z in some of these.)
3. Use only one of these words for each country to form a sentence that will be easy to remember. Try several possibilities until you find a sentence you like.

Now you have your very own mnemonic. It’s fun, isn’t it?


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