Mnemonics, The forgotten miracle worker at study time

Remember studying for tests when you were in school? Come on now, it couldn’t have been that bad! Was it easy? Did you sit down and calmly file the information in your brain and then effortlessly retrieve it the next day for the test?


You were part of the 1% of the kids that actually learned how to retain and recall information. Please let NASA know as soon as possible because you truly are a unique specimen.

Speaking for the other 99%, I had a hard, frustrating time remembering things for tests and quizzes. The typical flash card format just wasn’t my style. I couldn’t handle ramming the information into my head by flipping index cards over and over again. It would get in but, like helium balloons inside your car, it was waiting to escape and float away.

If I was lucky enough to get to the test with half of the information still around, it all disappeared once the test was over. Then, I had to do it all over again for the next test.

I needed things like mnemonics, or memory aids, to make it possible but to also make it fun. I remember coming up with some wild story for the causes of the American Revolution. It went something like this: the players from the Boston Red Sox (the Boston Tea Party) running around with stamps on their faces (the Stamp Act) while stepping on tacks (Taxation without representation).

Now that’s a story I can remember!

Does your child have an effective way to hold onto information? You’d be surprised at how kids go about studying. It ranges from spending too much time to not spending any time. I know; I’ve been a teacher for 15 years and I ask kids how they study all the time. Do you know what many of them tell me once they finish my class? "I never studied. I just went by what I got in class." Naturally, the C average during the year made total sense at that point.

Kids today are expected to remember more content than ever. How does your child remember important information? Is it a chore or is it manageable?

If it’s a chore, things like mnemonics may be the lifesaver you’re looking for. They’re effective, proven in over 50 published studies, and they’re fun.

Here’s another example: If you need to learn the verb almorzar in Spanish, (to eat lunch), come up with a wacky sentence like, "Al More eats lunch with Al Less." Bizarre? Sure. But who cares. The goal is to retain information, not win Nobel Prize for Literature or star on Comedy Central.

Jim Sarris is the author of two books on memory: Memory Skills Made Easy and Comic Mnemonics for Spanish Verbs

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About the Author: Jim Sarris