Through this activity students create acronyms to assist in remembering a process, list, or set of facts. This process develops students’ metacognition, and helps them to become more mindful and effective in their studying.
- Identify items that you would like students to work on remembering. You can also allow students to choose their own topics to work on from a unit of study. This strategy is particularly useful in remembering items in a particular order, such as items in a sequence or series, or arranged in a hierarchy. It can also be used to memorize a set of randomly ordered items.
- The teacher leads students in a brief discussion about what mnemonics are, and why people might use them. Students share mnemonics that they are familiar with.
Students should know that mnemonics are tricks or tools that people use to remember something more easily or more completely. You may want to make sure that students recognize the common etymology of the words “remember,” “memory,” and “mnemonics.”
- Teacher introduces the idea of acronym-based mnemonics, and presents some examples to students.
Acronym-based mnemonics use the first letters of the target words to create an easily remembered phrase or sentence. For example, many students remember the order of operations with “please excuse my dear aunt Sally,” and remember biological classification with “kindly pour coffee on Franny’s ginger snaps.” After students remember the phrase or sentence, they can use the natural association among words, sharing initial letters to recall the target words.
- Teacher presents students with the information that students will be working on. Students prepare to work individually or in pairs.
As mentioned above, you can give students a very specific set of information to remember (e.g., the order of presidents, the lobes of the brain, the steps of solving word problems), or you can direct students towards a unit of study and ask them to identify information that they need help remembering.
- Students work to create acronyms based on the target words.
Circulate as students are working to help them to identify the most critical information, and think of acronyms that might help. Encourage them to be creative, since the most surprising and strange mnemonics are often the most memorable. Consider allowing them access to a dictionary to aid them.
- Students get into small groups and each student shares his/her acronym. Students revise them as desired.
Encourage students to give each other advice on how to make each mnemonic even more useful and memorable. If each student created a mnemonic for a different concept, you may consider putting them together into a shared class resource to help all students to study.
- Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.
Students respond to questions including: · How will this acronym help you to remember this idea? · How will this acronym help you to study for a test? · Why do acronyms make information easier to remember? · What other tricks might you use to remember something more easily or more completely? · When else might you use this acronym mnemonic strategy?