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Last week we blogged about why, despite being difficult, learning to spell is really worth the effort. The Spellzone course will help you get to grips with English spelling rules and their exceptions, but there will always be individual spellings that each of us will find hard to remember. In these situations it can sometimes help to come up with mnemonic.

A mnemonic is a memory device. It comes from the ancient Greek word mnemonikos which means ‘mindful’. The ‘m’ at the beginning of the word is silent.

Mnemonics can take a variety of shapes, such as rhymes, visual cues, and word associations, but they work best if they are personal to the individual using them. You are more likely to remember something if you can associate it with a funny anecdote from your life.

Until you can come up with some of your own, though, here are some tried and tested memory devices that might be helpful…

For some people with dyslexia, one of the greatest difficulties with reading and spelling is that words tend to jumble themselves up. A common example of this is getting the letter b muddled up with the letter d.

To solve this, try writing the word ‘bed’ both possible ways. If the b and the d are the right way around, you will be able to turn the word into a picture of a bed with the ‘stalks’ acting a headboard and footboard.

When first learning how to spell a longer word, it sometimes helps to think of a sentence made up of words that each begin with the first letter of the word you are trying to remember how to spell. Below is a common classroom mnemonic for the word ‘because’:

Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants.

In other cases, a rhyme might be more useful.

Sometimes it is only a specific part of a word that is difficult, and so there is no need for a mnemonic to remember the entire word. Instead, you could come up with a device to remember just the part you are finding difficult. To remember how to spell the word ‘separate’, for example, you could say to yourself:

‘I need to separate the two As with the letter R’.

Other times, when there are words that use the same few letters multiple times, it might be worth coming up with a mnemonic to remember just those particular letters. The word ‘necessary’ is a good example – it’s hard to keep up with how many Cs and how many Ss you need! Next time you need to spell it, try saying the following sentence yourself and see if it helps:

“To make some tea it is necessary to have one Cup and two Sugars.”

Perhaps it will remind you that ‘necessary’ has one C and two Ss.

There is no doubt about it: mnemonics are silly. That said - they can also be really helpful and it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with them.

Now… if only we could think a memory device to remember how to spell the world ‘mnemonic’. Any suggestions?


28 Apr 2013
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"Spellzone fits in beautifully with our Scope and Sequence of Phonological Awareness and Spelling. It also aligns perfectly with the four areas of spelling knowledge and uses the Brain, Ears, Eyes approach to learning spelling."
Thank you!

Teacher, Australia