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Learning about Mnemonics: What Is an Acronym?

An acronym is a type of mnemonic. Defined in broad terms, a mnemonic is a device, procedure, or operation that is used to improve memory. Defined in narrow terms — and what is usually meant by the word — a mnemonic is a specific reconstruction of target content intended to tie new information more closely to the learner’s existing knowledge base and, therefore, facilitate retrieval.

There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including keywords, pegwords, acronyms, acrostics, loci methods, spelling mnemonics, phonetic mnemonics, number-sound mnemonics, and Japanese “Yodai” methods.

An acronym is a word that is made up by taking the first letter from each word that you want to remember and making a new word from all those letters. For example, if you want to remember the names of the Great Lakes, you could learn the acronym HOMES — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Below are several more examples.

It should be noted that there are at least two problems in teaching mnemonics to children with learning disabilities. The first problem is that it overlooks the sequential fashion of learning. Mnemonics instruction is, to a large extent, instruction in memory techniques, which should be taught only after the skill of memory has been learned. It can be compared to a child being taught soccer tactics, such as the “wall pass,” while he has not yet adequately mastered the skill of passing the ball. As stated in Knowabout Soccer, “No matter how good your passing technique, if the quality of your passing is poor, your technique will not be effective.” The second problem is that by teaching the child to use memory crutches, the result is that, “on more complex applications, generalization attempts [are] less successful.” If the skill of memory is taught, however, the child can apply it in any situation.

Edublox programs teach — among other skills — the skill of memory, which makes it possible for a child to apply his memory in any situation.

Examples of acronyms:

BEDMASBrackets, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction
Sequence in which you should tackle any math problem with multiple calculations.
BRASSBreath, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze
How to shoot a rifle.
FACEThe letters of the treble clef notes in the spaces from bottom to top spells “FACE”.
FAN BOYSUse a comma between two independent clauses separated by one of the “FAN BOYS” (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So).
FOILF stands for first terms; O stands for outer terms; I stands for inner terms and L stands for last terms.
The steps involved in factoring algebra problems.
HOMESHuron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior
Names of the Great Lakes.
IPMATInterphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase
The stages of cell division.
MET DR THIPMimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, Iapetus and Phoebe
Saturn’s moons.
NEWSNorth, East, West, South
The points of the compass.
PENProton, Electron, Neutron
The parts of an atom.
ROY G. BIVRed, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet
Colors of the spectrum.
STABSoprano, Tenor, Alto, and Bass
Four voices in a quartet.