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Memory Techniques. Julia Weaver EDP 504 Fall 2012. Introduction.

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Memory techniques

Memory Techniques

Julia Weaver

EDP 504

Fall 2012


You have a seriously full plate. You have four classes to juggle, a social life to maintain, perhaps a boyfriend/girlfriend, maybe even sports or a job after school. Throw in all of your tests and quizzes to study for, and your brain is fried. There is just too much information to remember!

This tutorial is designed to help high school students like YOU become better at remembering important information. Use the graphic organizer given to you to complete this tutorial.

Table of contents
Table of Contents

  • Basic memory information – how your brain remembers things!

  • Self-assessment of memory/study habits

  • List of mnemonic devices

  • Imagery

  • Mnemonics

  • The Peg Method

  • Method of Loci

  • Link Method

  • Story Method

  • First Letter method

  • Keyword method

  • Review

  • Research

  • Wrap-up

  • References

Click on the links to get to each section listed. If you ever see this icon,

you can click on it to take you back to this screen!

Before we begin
Before We Begin…

  • Before you can start to train your brain, it’s important to know a few things about it!

  • Your brain has a short-term, or working memory, and a long-term memory. Your working memory can help send information to long-term memory, so you can remember it later (like for a final exam!)

7 is the magic number
7 is the Magic Number!

The human brain can remember only about 7 items (plus or minus 2) at any given moment. This uses the brain’s working memory and the information is usually lost quickly after using it, such as when you try to remember a phone number by reciting it over and over…usually you don’t remember the number after a few minutes have gone by.

Your memory
Your Memory

Rehearsal of Information

Diagram of Rehearsal/Memory

  • There are two types of reciting we use to try to remember information: maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal.

  • Maintenance rehearsal: repeating something over and over to keep it active in short-term memory (like saying a phone number again and again to remember it until you have dialed it)

  • Elaborative rehearsal: rehearsal where to-be-remembered information is related to other information (like linking digits of a phone number to old numbers you are already familiar with or assigning pictures to each number to help you remember)

Then how do people do this
Then How Do People Do This?

If a human brain can only hold information in small chunks at a time, then how do people go on to win world memory championships and other memorization contests?

They TRAIN! You can train your brain to become better at memorization using many different techniques.

Are you ready to learn HOW?!

Assess yourself
Assess yourself!

What kind of tricks do you already do to remember information?

  • Write down how you study for tests.

  • What about vocabulary quizzes and tests? Write that down, too!

  • Explain why you think these are or are not effective in helping you remember important information.

Remembering a list of words
Remembering a List of Words

Look at the words in the following list for 10 seconds (no cheating!). When you’re done, try to write as many of them down on your paper as you can without looking.

Dog Shoe Pencil Ice Cream

Bow Coffee Lid Spoon

Jacket Book Brother Picture

How did you do
How Did You Do?

  • Write down as many words as you can remember!

  • Did you get all 12 of the words? Did you get at least half? Write down the number out of 12 that you guessed correctly.

  • Here is another list. This time, you’re memorizing numbers instead of words. 10 seconds!

    5 2 4 7 10 9

    8 3 9 4 3 1

Check yourself
Check Yourself!

  • Write down as many digits as you can remember!

  • Write down the number of digits out of 12 that you guessed correctly.

  • Compare your scores. Did you remember more numbers or words correctly?

Which was easier
Which was easier?

  • Did you have more trouble remembering words or numbers? Were each equally difficult or easy? Think about why you feel this way and jot down your ideas.

  • Think about how you tried to memorize the information. Did you rehearse it? Did you attach any meaning to it?

  • Write down your strategies for memorizing information on your paper. The more you think about how you learn, the better you will become at learning!


There are several memory techniques for helping you learn and remember lots of information at a time. This tutorial will teach you about the importance of imagery, as well as using it along with many of the following techniques:

  • Peg Method

  • Method of Loci

  • Link Method

  • Stories

  • First-Letter Method

  • Keyword Method


  • Imagery involves using images to represent information.

  • Using familiar images is important because the more meaning you associate with something, the more likely you are to remember it. (If you don’t care about it, why would you want to remember it?)

  • For example, if someone wanted to remember the word fresh, they might think of their mother’s fresh fruit salad. Someone else might think of the fresh scent of their shampoo.

Imagery continued
Imagery, Continued

  • See how the 2008 USA National Memory Champion Chester Santos uses images to remember huge chunks of numbers and playing cards!

  • Here’s another tip about using visualization, or images, to help you remember certain things.

  • The trick for memory is to use imagery in combination with other memory techniques called Mnemonics (pronounced nih-MAH-niks)


Mnemonics are rhymes, sayings, and other techniques created in order to remember new information. Usually mnemonics use both new information and old information to make sure they remain in long-term memory.

Click here to see if you know

any popular Mnemonics; take

the trivia quiz!

The peg method
The Peg Method

  • This is where learners memorize a set of ‘pegs’ that new information can be ‘hung’ on one thing at a time. Simple rhymes are the most common.

  • For example, one is bun, two is shoe, three is tree, four is door, etc.

  • Once these sets have been memorized, learners can use their pegs to memorize many lists of items like names, vocabulary, or grocery lists.

  • This article explains the history of

    Mnemonics and the peg method!

Peg method example
Peg Method Example

  • For a grocery list, say you need bread, milk, and eggs.

  • If you know that one is bun, two is shoe, and three is tree, you can associate your list with your rhymes. Visualize a bun of bread for a sandwich, spilling milk on your shoes which makes them stink, and a tree full of eggs so you never have to go to the store to buy eggs again!

  • Once you get used to it, it’s easy!

The method of loci
The Method of Loci

  • The Method of Loci is a mnemonic that involves a type of journey. It comes from the Greeks.

  • This technique is useful if the learner has a place in mind that he or she knows very well. He or she imagines ‘dropping’ the new information in different memorized places of that location.

  • This website has information on the method of loci and gives examples!

  • Here is an example using your house as the journey for a random list of words.

Where would you choose
Where Would You Choose?

If you were using the method of loci, which area would you use? Your bedroom? House? Backyard? Favorite place for vacation?

Pick a place. Go over it in your mind and visualize all of the places you know well that you could ‘drop’ information.

Try it
Try it!

Look in your notebooks and pick some notes you have recently taken in any class. Write down the important words, dates, names, or set to be remembered on your paper.

Using the method of loci, go through your imagined place and write down or draw where you would place items from your list. Explain where you put 3 of the items and why.

The link method
The Link Method

  • The Link Method is for memorizing lists in order by linking each word or item to the next with images or an explanation of how the items are interacting.

  • Here is a good tutorial of how to use the Link Method to memorize a set of random words!

  • Now you try it! Use the following set of words and link them together – write down your train of thought on your graphic organizer.

    Balloon Scissors Water Pants

    Paint Cereal Rock Necklace

    Cat Magazine Brush Life Vest


  • This is a simple technique where the learner creates a story from a list of words to be remembered. Using ideas and images that are already familiar, the learner constructs a story line with the new information to be memorized.

  • The more creative and colorful you make your story, the more likely you are to remember it!

  • The Story and Link method are similar, but Linking is used for keeping things in order.

Story example
Story Example

  • Here is the list of words from when we started the tutorial.

    Dog Shoe Pencil Ice Cream

    Bow Coffee Lid Spoon

    Jacket Book Brother Picture

  • You could create a story about a picture you have of your dog when she was a puppy, with a bow around her neck because she was a present. In the picture, she’s eating your brother’sshoe and your mom is in the background trying to stir her coffee with a spoon. That was your 12th birthday and you wanted ice cream instead of cake, and it was in the winter so you had to wear your jacket to eat your ice cream. When you took off the lid to the ice cream, some dribbled onto your favorite book and sparkly pencil, and you didn’t want to eat it anymore.

The first letter method
The First-Letter Method

  • The first letter method uses the first letter of each important word to create acrostics, acronyms, or sayings/phrases. There is a difference between acrostics and acronyms. Click to read more!

  • PEMDAS is for order of operations in math (as you probably know!). It is also known as Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally as a way to remember it!

Examples first letter method
Examples: First-Letter Method

  • MVEMJSUN or My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos – a first letter method for remembering the order of the planets.

  • FACE or EGBDF (Every Good Boy Does Fine) – first letter method for remembering the notes on a scale

  • FOIL or First, Outer, Inner, Last – first letter method for expanding algebraic equations.

More first letter examples
More First Letter Examples

  • SOH CAH TOA or Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid – first letter method used for remembering how to solve trigonometry equations.

  • ROY-G-BIV or Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet – first letter method for remembering the colors of the rainbow

  • Do you know any others? Write them


Now let s practice
Now, Let’s Practice!

Find or make a list of important facts you need to know for one of your classes. It could be science, math, English, history, an elective, anything! It might be vocabulary, names, places, events, etc. Look in your book bag if you have to!

Use the first letter method to create an acronym or acrostic poem with your information! This website will help you generate some words since you are trying it for the first time!


Let’s say for your information, you picked ‘influences on why we eat’ for your Foods I class. Here’s an example.

Say you need to remember that Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cultural factors make us eat the way we eat. Click to the next slide to see what you could have done on the joglab website.

You could have
You Could Have…

You could have chosen the words ‘patience,’ ‘efficiently,’ ‘satisfy,’ and ‘crush.’ Then you could have reminded yourself that it means if you wait long enough, your crush might notice that you’re amazing! (Aww!)

Make sure you pick words, phrases, and other mnemonics that actually mean something to you!

The keyword method
The Keyword Method

  • This is the most powerful and flexible mnemonic device for remembering information.

  • The Keyword Method involves using part of a word to be remembered and associating it with an image and explanation to help remember the meaning of the word or phrase.

Example of keyword method
Example of Keyword Method

  • For example, to remember the word hallelujah, a student might recognize the word hall, and think of an angel floating down the halls of a church singing hymns to remember that hallelujah is used to represent praise or joy.

  • This website shows how the keyword method can be useful for learning foreign languages! (And you know you need those credits to graduate!)

Foreign language practice
Foreign Language Practice

Are you in a foreign language class now? Have you ever taken one? It’s time to think out of the box!

Pick 5 words from the foreign language you are studying/have studied. Write them down and practice finding the word within a word and thinking of a picture/story to go along with it. List the foreign word, the English word you’re associating it with, and the story or picture you are going to link to it!

Practice makes perfect
Practice Makes Perfect!

  • People do not become master memory champions overnight. It takes thousands of hours of practice to become an expert at something.

  • The more you practice some of these techniques and become familiar with them, you’ll find you can remember anything by using your trusty images and word associations. This video has a 2nd place winner explain that anyone can do it! Read this biography to learn about a famous basketball player who went on to become “Dr. Memory!” It doesn’t matter who you are – everyone can learn to remember!

  • This blog has tons of references for memory (he’s a memory champion in training!) Write down four different things you found on this blog that you thought were cool!

Can you guess the mnemonic
Can You Guess the Mnemonic?

  • Check out this video of memory champions Ronnie White and Nelson Dellis battling it out in a memory competition. Jot down whatever techniques you see them using as they explain how they memorize and internalize information.

You should have guessed
You should have guessed…

  • Method of Loci

  • Link Method

  • Imagery

  • Peg Method

  • Keyword Method

Check your understanding
Check Your Understanding!

  • For the following true/false questions, write down your answers on your graphic organizer. Answers will be given at the end of the review. No cheating!

Review questions
Review Questions

  • True or false: The Method of Loci memory technique involves associating a story with each important key word.

  • True or false: The First Letter Method is used as a way to remember important facts by creating a word or phrase with the first letters of each key term.

  • True or false: The Peg Method is used when learners create a set of word associations like simple rhymes about sets of information to be remembered.

  • True or False: The Link method is used to create a journey from place to place in the learner’s mind.

Review questions continued
Review Questions, Continued

  • True or False: The Keyword Method is a kind of word-within-a-word method where the learner associates a picture of a keyword inside of the important word to be remembered.

  • True or False: The Stories method is the best technique to use for memorizing orders of operations, sequences of items, etc. using acronyms or acrostics.

Review answers
Review Answers

  • False – the Method of Loci involves placing key words as pictures or people in a familiar location to the learner.

  • True

  • True

  • False – the Link Method involves learning lists in order by linking each next item to the previous item through pictures and explanations.

  • True

  • False – the First Letter Method is best for memorizing sequences and orders of operations with acrostics and acronyms.

What research says
What Research Says

There are tons of studies where use of mnemonic devices beats out basic repetition again and again. One such study was done to beat ‘mnenonophobia,’ or fear of mnemonics due to thinking they don’t help with long-term memory.

The study used 3 different experiments using repetition vs. mnemonics, and in each experiment the mnemonics group outperformed the repetition group on tests! (Carney & Levin 2008).

Did you know
Did You Know…

Research has been done to show that mnemonics can help all students, even those students who have disabilities! A study by Scruggs, et al. (2010) goes through several different applications of mnemonics in different settings. The study includes students with learning disabilities, mild mental retardation, and emotional/behavioral disorders.

So throughout this tutorial, it is mentioned several times that mnemonics help everyone; are you starting to believe it now?!

Another cool fact
Another Cool Fact

If you didn’t believe it yet, here’s another one for you! Mnemonics have even been proven useful for teaching Braille to people with visual impairments and blindness! Conroy & Collins (2012) explain that mnemonics “provide an interactive, motivating, stimulating, and satisfying approach to learning.” (p. 47). Who wouldn’t want that?!

Names and faces
Names and Faces

Another great way to use mnemonics is for names and faces! Have you ever played any ice breakers in a group to learn everyone’s name? Which ones?

There is even a such thing as a “face-name” mnemonic, which uses recoding, relating, and retrieving information to and from your brain to remember someone’s name to go along with their face! For instance, someone named Brighton who has blonde hair and kind eyes might lend you to the keyword ‘bright,’ and when you see the face, you’re likely to remember the name! (Carney & Levin 2012). This is what the memory champions do when they have contests for remembering names of random peoples’ pictures!


So you might be thinking, “Awesome! Now I never have to really study anything because I can remember it all with mnemonics…but you would be wrong! There are pros and cons to mnemonics.

Mnemonics don’t help you understand material – they only help you remember it. Understanding is different than being able to rattle off facts; however, mnemonics are helpful study tools for simple sets of information! Click here to see what mnemonics are and are not. The article explains that mnemonics are not comprehension strategies – they don’t lead to deep understanding, and they are not a guarantee for doing well on tests that require comprehension knowledge. However, they are a great aid for memory!

Keep it up
Keep it up!

Now you have knowledge about several memory techniques. The next time you have a quiz or test to study for, try using one or two of these methods!

  • Remember, the more you use it,

    the more easy memorizing information

    becomes for you!

  • You can always come back to this

    tutorial for tips and refreshers on how

    to use Mnemonics to help you remember

    new information.


For the last part of this tutorial, think of all the memory techniques you just learned.

  • Time for a 3-2-1 activity!

  • Write the top 3 memory techniques that you would like to start using, or that you already use!

  • Pick 2 and give examples of classes you will use them for.

  • Write 1 reason why it is important to evaluate yourself as a learner!


Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., & Norby, M. M. (2011). Cognitive psychology and instruction (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Carney, R. N., & Levin, J. R. (2008). Conquering mnemonophobia: with help from three practical measures of memory application. Teaching of psychology, 35, 176-183.

Carney, R. N., & Levin, J. R. (2012). Facing facts: can the face-name mnemonic strategy accommodate additional factual information? The journal of experimental education, 80(4), 386-404.

Conroy, P. & Collins, P. (2012). Mnemonic devices for Braille instruction. Insight: research & practice in visual impairment & blindness, 5(1), 47-52.

Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., Berkeley, S. L, & Marshak, L. (2010). Mnemonic strategies: evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence. Intervention in School and Clinic 46(2), 79-86.

Websites used
Websites used











Images used
Images used













Videos used
Videos Used

  • Boy reciting pi -

  • Chester Santos -

  • Tricks for visualizing numbers -

  • Link method tutorial -

  • Practice makes perfect -

  • Memory championship with Ronnie White and Nelson Dellis -