Mnemonics in TEFL

Mnemonics (pronounced /nəˈmɒniks/ with a silent ‘m’ at the beginning) are short devices (sayings, poems, etc…) used to remember longer, more complex ideas or lists (also known as aides memoires or memory aides).

Think of them as poetic versions of string tied around your finger to help remember something!

A good example of a first letter mnemonic is:

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

which is used to remember the colors of a rainbow in the order they appear:

  • Red (Richard)
  • Orange (of)
  • Yellow (York)
  • Green (gave)
  • Blue (battle)
  • Indigo (in)
  • Violet (vain)

Spelling Mnemonics

These are mnemonics to help learn the spelling of sometimes difficult words‏‎.

  • i before e except after c – although the rule is not very precise, it’s a good general rule for spelling.1
  • WE Do Not Eat Soup Day – Wednesday
  • Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move Now – rhythm
  • Not Every Cat Eats Sardines (Some Are Really Yummy) – necessary
  • To remember the start of beautiful: Big Elephants Are Ugly.
  • Mrs. M, Mrs. I, Mrs. S S I, Mrs. S S I, Mrs. P P I – Mississippi

Grammar Mnemonics

The following are mnemonics for grammar‏‎ rules.

  • A cat has claws at the end of its paws. A comma’s a pause at the end of a clause‎.
  • OSASCOMP. Lists the order in which adjectives‏‎ should appear: Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose; this is also On Saturday And Sunday Cold Ovens Make Pastry.
  • FANBOY are the coordinating conjunctions‏‎: for, and, nor, but, or, yet. Alternatively BOY SAT with BEN can produce: But, Or, Yet, So, And, Then, Both…and, Either…or, Neither…nor ).

* See the article, Adjective Order‏‎ for more on this.

Parts of Speech‏‎ in general are here:

Every name is called a NOUN,
As field and fountain, street and town;
In place of noun the PRONOUN‏‎ stands,
As he and she can clap their hands;
The ADJECTIVE‏‎ describes a thing,
As magic wand and bridal ring;
The VERB‏‎ means action, something done –
To read and write, to jump and run;
How things are done, the ADVERBS‏‎ tell,
As quickly, slowly, badly, well;
The PREPOSITION shows relation,
As in the street, or at the station;
CONJUNCTIONS‎ join, in many ways,
Sentences, words, or phrase and phrase;
The INTERJECTION‏‎ cries out, ‘Hark!
I need an exclamation mark!’
Through Poetry, we learn how each
of these make up the PARTS OF SPEECH.

For remembering that the quotation marks come after any other closing punctuation‏‎ marks: P then Q in the alphabet.

When to start a new paragraph can be remembered using the following mnemonic:

Four “T”s, a little writing rhyme
Of Topic, Territory, Talker, Time
When there’s a change in one of these
Start a new paragraph if you please.

Useful Links

1 This article on concordancing‏‎ examines the “i before e except after c” rule in more detail.

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Posted in How To Teach English, Vocabulary & Spelling.

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