MNEMONICS: A METHOD FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING THE SCIENCE
Department of education
Kuvempu University, shankaraghatta
Department of Sociology, Jain University,
Learning is a process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential of improved performance and future learning. The difficulties of learning science are related to the learners tendency towards remembering science vocabulary,names and years which are prominent parts of science education and to the methods by which science is customarily taught without regard to what is known about children’s learning.
An information processing model is proposed to guide thinking and research in this area. A mnemonic is a tool to help remember facts or a large amount of information. It can be a song, rhyme, acronym, image, or a phrase to help remember a list of facts in a certain order that aids in learning and remembering could be employed as the remedial method in science education.
The purpose of this paper is first to discuss mnemonic instruction in general, noting various mnemonic strategies that may be used and the versatility and effectiveness of mnemonic instruction with students with learning problems.
The word mnemonic derives from the Greek goddess of memory – Mnemosyne, and means “memory enhancing”. Mnemonic (“nee-moh-nick”) techniques, also called mnemonic strategies, mnemonic devices or mnemonics, are systematic procedures designed to improve our memory.Hence, mnemonics strategies ought to be understood as systematic procedures for intensification a memory. The main idea of mnemonic strategies is application in developing better ways to encode (take in) information, so that it will be much easier to retrieve (remember) Therefore, mnemonic devices can be attended as learning strategies which can often enhance the learning and later recall of information.The main task in developing mnemonic strategies is to find a way to connect new information to information students have already locked in long-term memory. If pupils or students make an enough strong connection, the memory will last a very long time, because the mnemonic strategy had carefully linked it to things that will be very familiar according to these procedures can be extraordinarily effective. Moreover, the mnemonic strategies can be incorporated for the elements that require recall, what is both advantage and disadvantage of this method. These methods are also useful way of improving memory in students, who exhibit difficulty with remembering things. Hence, the mnemonic devices do not represent an educational panacea, but can be an important component in improving memory and learning or teaching process
Mnemonic instruction has been proven to be a research-based method for teaching students with different kinds of disabilities (e.g., Brigham, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 2011; Conderman, & Pedersen, 2005; Lloyd, Forness, & Kavale, 1998; Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Marshak, 2010; Veit, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 1986). It has been used in special and general education for decades as a way to convert difficult-to-remember concepts into more memorable ones. Mnemonic instruction uses memory devices that may help students learn a significant amount of information as well as increase long-term retention (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1991). Mnemonics may assist with both storage and retrieval of information (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1998). Its use has been promoted as a way to assist especially those students who do not meet the minimum requirements with regard to their academic progress. Such learners often fail to develop the knowledge, skills, will, and self-regulation necessary to succeed in key subject areas. They could exhibit difficulties in specific areas (e.g., reading, mathematics) and would thus may be referred to as having a learning disability (LD). Or they may be identified as having a mild intellectual disability (MID) (Gr?nke & Morrison Cavendish, 2016). In any case, mnemonic instruction can be very effective to use for students who have problems in remembering information given that there are many subject area concepts to be learned, students are often unfamiliar with the content, and the information is often complex (Levin, 1993).
Mnemonic instruction has been empirically validated as a technique that can enhance students learning since 1973 (Berkeley & Scruggs, 2010; Levin, 1993). By 1983, Mastropieri had shown that mnemonic instruction can be used with students with LD. As Scruggs and Mastropieri (2000) noted, mnemonic strategies are effective in teaching students with LD as they help them make use of their cognitive strengths. Mnemonic instruction has been documented to be versatile as it can be effectively used not only across abilities but across subject areas, including foreign language, English, science, history, math and social studies (e.g., Brigham et al., 2011; Letendre, 1993; Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Graetz, 2009; Zisimopoulos, 2010).
There are many types of mnemonic strategies that teachers may employ. According to Thompson (1987 as cited by Amirousefi & Ketabi, 2011), there are five classes of mnemonics: Linguistic mnemonics, such as the pegword and keyword methods, involve associating the new concept with familiar words and/or phrases to help remember the item. Spatial mnemonics, which include the loci, spatial grouping and finger methods, involve connecting the new concept to a familiar place, pattern or finger to help in memorization of the material. Visual mnemonics make use of pictures or visualizations to create an association to the target concept (e.g., symbolics, pictographics). The verbal method uses meaning and stories to help students remember, with methods such as grouping or semantic organization and story-telling or narrative chains. Physical response methods make use of the body parts to aid in remembrance, either through movement or physical sensation. These five types of mnemonics are illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1: components of mnemonics
Specific examples of mnemonics are highlighted. In educational research and in practice, the most commonly used mnemonic devices include acronyms, acrostics, keywords, pegwords (for learning items in numerical or chronological sequence), symbolics, and pictographics . Students tend to be most familiar with acronyms and acrostics as well as find them to be the most helpful and useful techniques (Bloom & Lamkin, 2006; McCabe, Osha, & Roche, 2013), while keywords are frequently cited in educational research. Mnemonic instruction may be used by both general education and special education teachers. Given the degree of inclusion of students with learning problems, clearly much of the instruction for the students will occur in general education classrooms.
The use of mnemonic instruction in special education has been researched in particular with students with LD and for more than three decades a substantial literature base has been established on the effectiveness of mnemonic instruction with these students (e.g., Bulgren, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1994; Lloyd et al., 1998, Mastropieri, 1983; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1989, 2000; Scruggs et al., 2009; Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Levin, 1985; Veit et al., 1986). The extant research collectively points to the value of mnemonic instruction in teaching and learning concepts that need to be retrieved quickly and automatically.
Further, mnemonic strategies may be used broadly across subject areas in lessons where new vocabulary, technical terms, the names of people places or things, number patterns and formulae need to be learned. In general, mnemonic instruction has utility for any academic task that requires factual recall of information and has been found to be effective in enhancing performance across subject areas (Therrein, Taylor, Hosp, Kaldenberg, & Gorsh, 2011).
Learning new vocabulary words and facts can be easier when students connect the new information with something thats already familiar to them. The keyword method links a new word or concept to an easily recognized known word that sounds similar. The student creates a visual image depicting this connection, which makes the new information easier to store and retrieve as needed.
Examples of keyword mnemonics:
Say your students need to learn the words for two different parts of the brain: cerebrum and cerebellum. Since the cerebrum is larger than the cerebellum, the keyword for cerebrum could be drum (a large instrument) and the keyword for cerebellum could be bell (a small instrument). Help your students remember that the cerebrum is the largest part of the brain by connecting it with the image of a drum, which makes a big sound and takes up a large amount of space. You can even draw a picture of a large drum in the brain where the cerebrum is located.
To help students remember that Olympia is the capital of Washington, assign keywords or keyword phrases to both words. Say the keyword phrase for Washington is wash-a-ton, and the keyword for Olympia is the Your students can think about people at an Olympic event washing a ton of their laundryan unusual image that will help the new fact stick.
This strategy works especially well when youre teaching challenging new vocabulary words. If youre teaching the word assail, for example, use sailboat as the keyword to associate the new word with. Students can think of a sailboat crashing into someone to remember that assail means to attack someone with words or actions.
Pegword Rhyming Mnemonics
Pegwordswords on which new information can hangare another effective way to link new information with familiar information. Using this strategy, the student learns rhymes that can be easily connected with new words, facts, or numbers.
Examples of pegword rhyming mnemonics:
To help students remember Newtons three laws of motion, make up pegword rhymes that correspond with each of the three steps. One is bun: the bun does not move until someone or something touches it (inertia). Two is flew: the airplane flew at the same speed until the wind became stronger (an object maintains velocity unless something acts on it to increase the speed). Three is glee: the child was full of glee one moment and then began to cry (for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction).
Students who struggle with multiplication facts can be taught pegwords for the numbers being multiplied. To teach the math fact 6 ? 6, teach the student to associate the pegword sticks with six. The mnemonic sticks times sticks would prompt the student to think of six sticks bundled together six times. Additional pegwords (30 is dirty) can help students remember answers to multiplication facts; for example, 6 ? 6 (sticks ? sticks) = 36 (dirty sticks).
Using pegword rhymes in the social studies classroom can help students remember important dates and facts. Sometimes using a rhyming pattern of words can make memorization easier and more fun. For example, to help students remember when the final two states were admitted into the Union, teach them the rhyme: 59 was the date/When Alaska and Hawaii became new states.
one is bun six is sticks
two is shoe seven is heaven
three is tree eight is gate
four is door nine is vine
five is hive ten is hen
Acronyms are one of the most popular and widely used mnemonic strategies. Using this method, students memorize a single word in which each letter is associated with an important piece of information. This letter-association strategy is especially useful for remembering short lists of items or steps.
Examples of acronym mnemonics:
To help students remember the names of the five Great Lakes, share the acronym mnemonic HOMES with them: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. You can help students create a link between the mnemonic and the new information with a script like this: If you get rid of all the letters of the lakes except the first letter in each name, you get HOMES. Think of all the homes that people live in right next to the Great Lakes. Because its very cold in the north, you need to live in a home to stay warm and cozy. When you think of all the HOMES near the Great Lakes, youll remember their names.
If youre teaching the different steps of the scientific method, students can use the acronym mnemonic HOMER to help them remember the steps in order: hypothesize, operationalize, measure, evaluate, and replicate.
Acrostic Letter Sentence Mnemonics
Acrostic letter mnemonics are similar to acronyms, except students memorize a simple silly sentence instead of a word to trigger their memory. The first letter of each word in the sentence correlates with an important fact theyre trying to remember. This is another great way to help students remember several pieces of interconnected information.
Examples of acrostic letter sentence mnemonics:
Use the sentence Saras Hippo Must Eat Oranges to help students remember the names of the Great Lakes in order of size: Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario. (To help students connect the sentence to the lakes, tell them to imagine that Sara lives near one of the lakes and think about how silly it is that an orange-eating hippo lives there, too.)
The sentence Never Eat Sour Watermelon can help students remember the directions on a compass: North, East, South, West. Teach students to start at the top of the compass and say the silly sentence as they label the directional points in a clockwise fashion.
To help students visualize and remember the order of the first five American presidents, teach them the sentence Washingtons Army Jogged Many Miles. This will help them remember the first five presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.
Mnemonic methods can also be combineduse keywords and acronyms together, for example, to form an extra-effective mnemonic super-strategy.
Say your students are trying to memorize key facts about the Civil War. You can create a map-like display and enhance it with mnemonics to help them recall the information. Use keywords for battle names, acrostic letter sentences to help them remember events in order, and pegword rhymes to associate with important Civil War figures.
General techniques for improving memory
These are described as more general methods for improving memory. These include the following:
Promote External Memory.
Promote Active Manipulation.
Students remember content better when they experience it for themselves (Scruggs, Mastropieri, Bakken, & Brigham, 1993). For example, rather than lecturing the class on the effect of weak acid (such as vinegar) on calcite, allow students to place calcite in a glass of vinegar and see for themselves.
Promote Active Reasoning.
Students remember better if they actively think through new information, rather than simply repeating it. For example, rather than simply telling students that penguins carry their eggs on the tops of their feet, ask students why it makes sense that penguins would carry their eggs on the tops of their feet.
Increase the Amount of Practice.
All these strategies can be used to improve memory, and all should be considered. Unfortunately, none of these strategies specifically targets recall of information contained in new or unfamiliar words, and this is the aspect of memory where students most often fail.
Mnemonic methods in biology teaching and learning
The science education, especially – biology, is becoming more challenging due to richer and more rigorous content demands. Biology is a kind of subject that requires lot information to memorize. Due to these facts, the mnemonics methods are very useful and attractive tool for biology learning and teaching.The teachers of biology, using mnemonics, utilize highly structured procedures for learning efficiency. The use of structure including frequency, replication, rehearsal, and monitoring have value in the learning routines of students with learning disabilities directly translating to increased language growth.
Interesting example of application the mnemonic methods in biology learning and teaching can be acronym FARMA-B. This example of course is based on abstract word encoding the method. The acronym FARMA-B represents the five classes of vertebrate animals: fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal, and bird31. However, the B letter for bird does not really fit, but it can be smartly added to end of acronym. The Figure 2. Represents an idea of this example.
FARMA-B – five classes of vertebrate animals: fish, amphibian, reptile,
mammal, and birds. This example is a scan of cartoon drawn by pupil preparing for the international secondary-school certificate in biology from one Upper Secondary School in Mazowieckie.
Advantages of Using Mnemonics
They provide a memory bridge to help you recall information that otherwise is difficult to remember.
They involve rearranging or reorganizing information, which also helps you personalize the information and be a more active learner.
They add interest to studying by providing you with new ways to work with information.
When used properly, they allow you to spend less time retrieving information from your long-term memory.
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