What is a mnemonic??
“Mnemonics” comes from the Greek word meaning “from memory.” There are numerous forms of mnemonics, generally involving some form of linkage or loci system, but they all have one thing in common. They drastically improve memory. They are very powerful and can sometimes be remembered for a lifetime. Word lists that would normally be very difficult to retain in memory because they have no inherent organization can become mnemonic and instantly set for recall. Visualization is the key to success with mnemonics and this helps explain their popularity among dyslexics, who tend on average to be visual thinkers.
Since dyslexia is a condition in which “short-term memory” is impaired, any method that encourages it will be preferred. The spelling process requires that the image of a word be retained in the linguistic center of the left hemisphere of the brain. A retained image allows you to remember the correct sequence of letters so that the word can be written later. When word images cannot be retained in memory, as with dyslexia, spelling becomes impossible.
Initial word mnemonics
Mnemonics are immensely useful here. For decades, children have been given the sentence-style mnemonic to remember irregular words like “because.”
“Big elephants can always understand small elephants.” is a typical example. By taking the first letter of each word in the song in exactly that order, the correct spelling of “because” is produced. Although this method is successful for spelling occasional words, as a system for remembering many words it has some weaknesses. Since this singing style has no reference to the word it contains, this immediately reduces its effectiveness. Compare this to the initial word mnemonics. If you BEGIN chanting with the word to be learned, it becomes a completely different system.
“because elephants can easily add sums”
Immediately, this song is related to the word “because” and that has numerous advantages. Hearing the word will act as a trigger to later recall the song more easily. Since there is no guesswork when matching the song to the word, hundreds can be learned and retained in memory. Ultimately, any word can become a mnemonic chant, as long as it is not too long. However, it is a system that is particularly effective in teaching the spelling of high-frequency words that generally contain 2- to 7-letter words.
Initial word mnemonics and homophones
The mnemonic chants of the initial word are also very effective for homophones. They capture both spelling and meaning at the same time. To give an example:
“buns eaten for dinner” spells the bread we eat, but “breed really exotic dogs” is the past tense of the verb breed. Both spelling and meaning are learned at the same time. This is particularly effective in overcoming the confusion associated with homophones.
Multisensory aspects of mnemonics
Aside from the advantages described above, initial word mnemonics are fully multisensory. Each song is a story that has a meaning for the brain and that stimulates the imagination. It is then illustrated and this consequently activates the visual cortex. When chanted out loud several times, a connection is made with the auditory cortex. All of these factors work together to produce a really fast, effective, and fun method that takes the stress out of spelling. The mnemonics of the opening words have restored the confidence of the dyslexics who fight against them and have helped them reach levels and qualifications that they never thought possible.