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Mnemonics: What Are Acrostics?

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.

There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including keywords, pegwords, acronyms, acrostics, loci methods, spelling mnemonics, phonetic mnemonics, number-sound mnemonics, and Japanese “Yodai” methods.

Acrostics support recall by creating an entire sentence with the first letter of each word being the prompt for the to-be-recalled information. For example, the planets in the order from the sun correspond to the first letter of each word in the sentence “my very educated mother just sent us nine pizzas.” Below are several more examples.

It should be noted that there are at least two problems in teaching mnemonics to children with learning disabilities. The first problem is that it overlooks the sequential fashion of learning. Mnemonics instruction is, to a large extent, instruction in memory techniques, which should be taught only after the skill of memory has been learned. It can be compared to a child being taught soccer tactics, such as the “wall pass,” while he has not yet adequately mastered the skill of passing the ball. As stated in Knowabout Soccer, “No matter how good your passing technique, if the quality of your passing is poor, your technique will not be effective.” The second problem is that by teaching the child to use memory crutches, the result is that, “on more complex applications, generalization attempts [are] less successful.” If the skill of memory is taught, however, the child can apply it in any situation.

Edublox programs teach — among other skills — the skill of memory, which makes it possible for a child to apply his memory in any situation.


Examples of Acrostics:

Blood’s functions:
Old Charlie Foster Hates Women Having Dull Clothes
Oxygen (transport), carbon dioxide (transport), food, heat, waste, hormones, disease, clotting

Bones of the skull:
Old People From Texas Eat Spiders
Occipital, parietal, frontal, temporal, ethmoid, sphenoid

British rank order below Kings and Queens:
Do Men Ever Visit Britain?
Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Baron

Eat An Aspirin After A Nighttime Snack (NOTE: The 2nd letter in the first three "A" words help to remember the "A" continents)
Europe, Antarctica, Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, South America

Cranial nerves:
On Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops
Olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, acoustic, glossopharyngeal, vagus, spinal accessory, hypoglossal

Cranial nerves (function):
(1st letter) S=sensory, M=motor, B=both
Some Say Marry Money But My Brother Says Bad Boys Marry Money

Directions of the compass:
Never Eat Sour Watermelons
North, East, South, West

Geological ages:
Practically Every Old Man Plays Poker Regularly
Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, Recent

Great Lakes in order of size:
Sam's Horse Must Eat Oats
Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario

Guitar strings:
Eat All Dead Gophers Before Easter
E, A, D, G, B, E

Jupiter's moons:
An Icecube Ever Grows Colder
Amalthea, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

I Am A Person
Indian, Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific

Metric system in order:
King Henry Drinks Much Dark Chocolate Milk
Kilometer, hectometer, decameter, meter, decimeter, centimeter, millimeter

Neptune's moons:
Neptune's Tiny Dancing Girls Look Pretty To-Night
Naiad, Thalassa, Despina , Galatea, Larissa , Proteus, Triton, Nereid

New Testament order:
General Electric Power Company
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians

Planets in order from the sun:
My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto

Rainbow colors:
Richard Of York Got Bugged In Venice
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

Taxonomic classification system of living organisms:
King Philip Can Only Find his Green Slippers
Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

Taxonomic classification for humans:
Anthroplogy Can Make People Hate Helping the Sick
Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Primates, Hominidae, Homo Sapiens

Seven deadly sins:
All Private College Leave Serious Educational Gaps
Anger, pride, covetousness, lust, sloth, envy, greed

Seven wonders of the Ancient World:
Seems Like MataHari Picked Her Targets Carefully
Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Colossus of Rhodes

Zodiac constellations:
As The Great Cook Likes Very Little Salt, She Compensates Adding Pepper
Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

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