University of Pittsburgh 
School Of Education

© University of Pittsburgh 2013. Home | Terms and Conditions

Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Mnemonics - Topic 31

What is it?

Mnemonics are techniques that aid memory by transferring abstract information into forms that are more relatable, personal, or concrete. The Keyword Method identifies a word that sounds similar to information to be remembered and pairs them together. For example, to remember that a ranidae is a word for common frogs, students might use the keyword, rain. The teacher can then show students a picture of a frog in the rain or carrying an umbrella. The teacher rehearses with the students making sure that the connection between the keyword and vocabulary word is established. Another mnemonic technique, the Pegword Method, substitutes a word for a number and is especially useful for remembering ordered information. To remember that a spider has eight legs, a student would associate the number 8 with the word gate. Then, an image is shown to the student of a spider sitting on a gate. Letter Strategies such as acronyms [HOMES= Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior] and acrostics [My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas= the order of the planets] have been successfully used to remember lists of information.  

Why is it important?

Increasingly, students with high-incidence disabilities (HID) are being educated in mainstream classrooms in secondary schools. However, students with HID may need additional supports and learning strategies in order to be successful in these academically challenging environments. Students with high incidence disabilities (HID) often have memory deficits in several areas, including short term, long term, procedural and declarative. Mnemonic strategies support learning for students with HID, and enhance outcomes for typical peers in regular education classrooms as well, making them a valuable resource to scaffold learning without unnecessarily drawing potentially negative attention to students who are struggling. Research has shown that mnemonics are effective, evidence-based instructional devices in foreign language, English, social studies and science.


Mastropieri, M. A., Emerick, K., and Scruggs, T. E. (1988). Mnemonic instruction of science

concepts. Behavioral Disorders, 14, 48-56.

Mastropieri, M. A., and Scruggs, T. E., (1989). Mnemonic social studies instruction: classroom

applications. Remedial and Special Education, 10(3), 40-46.

Scruggs, T. E.,  Mastropieri, M. A., Berkeley, S., and Marshak, L. (2010) Mnemonic Strategies:

Evidence-Based Practice and Practice-Based Evidence. Intervention in School and Clinic. 46


Web Links

LD Online Website

Table of Contents

Next Topic

Previous Topic