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Mnemonics, according to Merriam Webster Online Dictionary:

  1. assisting or intended to assist memory

  2. of or relating to memory

Quick quiz: Where did the word 'mnemonic' originate from? You'll find the answer at the end of the article. 

Many of us have probably heard of mnemonics, and if not, have most likely been trained and/or educated using mnemonics in some form or another. Here are some examples of the many ways mnemonics can be implemented. You may even feel some nostalgia from your early learning school days!

-To distinguish the difference between 'principal' and 'principle', the principal is your 'pal'.

-The word 'stalagmite' has an 'm' for mountain, which points up as opposed to stalactites which points down.

-'Stationery' versus 'stationary'. The one with the 'er' can be related to 'paper' to help distinguish from the 'not moving' stationary.

-Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain... can you guess what subject this mnemonic can help you out in? Science! The initial letters match those of the colors of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

-Using gestures (Learning Through Action - LTA) is a form of mnemonic. You probably do this without realizing it in your ESL classes, especially for the younger learners.

-Rhyme can be a mnemonic device. Some songs and poems are themselves mnemonics. Ever wonder why songs and nursery rhymes are used so often in early learning?

-Words and numbers can be remembered with similarly shaped images (1=wand, 2=swan, 3=flying bird, 4=yacht, 5=hook, etc). There are many alternative images. 

-Another one relating to numbers. To remember longer numbers, create a story linking respective images. Excellent for memorizing cell phone numbers!

-Of course, it's not for English learning only. Those who took Japanese classes, do you remember your teacher using pictures to help you remember hiragana and katakana? A quick search for 'hiragana katakana mnemonic chart', will yield some amusing results - some got quite creative!

With these examples in mind, try and create your own mnemonics to suit any given piece of information, facts or figures, formulas, key concepts, the target language for your lessons... Make it fun and interesting for both yourself and the learners. I have worked with a Japanese high school teacher who implemented grammar points into oyajigyaggu (dad jokes). He had one for almost all grammar points. Here is one example I learnt from him.

Grammar point, modal verb 'have to'. Apparently, when one eats yakiimo (roasted sweet potato), it 'has to' be fresh from the vendor, and the sound of eating it when it's still hot is 'haffutu haffutu'... I didn't quite get it, but the kids groaned and actually retained the grammar point via the corny joke.

If you haven't tried before, consider implementing mnemonics to some of your lessons. You might find your students retaining your lessons better.

(Answer: The word 'mnemonic' originated from Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory)

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