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Making Rote Learning Fun Using Mnemonics

written by: Gillian Hendrie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Get those facts and figures into your brain quickly and easily. Learning to use mnemonics brings fun to studying.

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    Memorising facts and figures or patterns, although often necessary, can be the most boring part of learning. Inject some fun into the exercise and ensure you remember, by using mnemonics.

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    What are mnemonics?

    Mnemonic (silent first m) devices are ways of remembering something using "artificial means". We could create a saying, a story or a poem to enable us to remember the original idea or list of words which we have trouble with remembering "naturally".

    Often we use the initial letters of the words in the list as the initial letters of the words in the story. For example,

    "Richard of York gave battle in vain" gives us the order of the seven colours of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

    Another type of mnemonic is an acrostic: making a phrase or sentence from the letters of a single word. This can be helpful if spelling is all important. For example:

    "Orange cream cookies are sticky," I observed naturally. [OCCASION]

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    Famous Examples

    1. The order of reactivity of the metals:

    • Please send Lord Charles MacLean a zebra if the lean horse can't munch sweet grass properly.
    • [potassium, sodium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, aluminium, zinc, iron, tin, lead, hydrogen, copper, manganese, silver, gold, platinum]

    (Note that you still have to learn a couple by yourself since there are two c's, two m's and two p's. )

    2. The staff lines and spaces in music (treble clef):

    • Every good boy deserves fun [EGBDF]
    • FACE

    3. The order of the sharps and flats in musical key signatures:

    • Father Charles goes down and ends battle. [FCGDAEB]
    • Battle ends and down goes Charles' father. [BEADGCF]

    4. The order of the planets from the Sun:

    • My very easy method: just set up nine planets. (This older version includes Pluto.)
    • [Mars, Venus, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto]

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    It's Easy: Try It!

    Now it's your turn. Start off with short lists. Can you create a sentence for the eight planets of our solar system (excluding Pluto)?

    You can see that it's much easier to remember a sentence than a list of somehow "similar" words, especially if you can make your sentence funny.

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