4 Mnemonic Devices for Elementary Students

Using mnemonic devices is an excellent way to help elementary students learn and retain important information. If you’re not already familiar, these are memory devices that rely on language or numbers as a strategy to trick your brain into remembering facts. The mnemonic device that begins with “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November...” for example, can help students remember which months have 30 days and which have 31. Types of mnemonic devices for elementary students include rhymes, acronyms, mini-stories, and associations.

Looking to use mnemonic devices to enhance your student’s learning? Here are four mnemonic devices for elementary students:

Mnemonic device #1: rhymes

For some students, it can be far easier to remember lyrics than facts from a textbook. Rhymes are great mnemonics in part because they’re closely connected to songs and often include catchy wording that’s easy to recall. Teaching your student common rhyming mnemonics can help them remember key facts that will be useful throughout their education. Examples of rhyming mnemonic devices include:

  • A rhyme to help with a common spelling confusion: “I before E, except after C, or when sounding like A, like in neighbor and weigh.”

  • A rhyme for remembering Alaska and Hawaii’s statehood: “‘59 was the date when Alaska and Hawaii became new states.”

[RELATED: How to Enhance Your Student’s Experience with Literature]

Mnemonic device #2: acronyms

An acronym uses the letters in a specific word to form a new keyword—such as NASA or ATM. Remembering the keyword can help your student to recall each aspect or step in a group or concept. During a test, for example, knowing that the terms they’re trying to remember begin with certain letters can help jog their memory and relieve test-day stress. Examples of acronyms that students may encounter include:

  • The helpful way to remember colors in a spectrum in order is “ROYGBIV,” which stands for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

  • “HOMES” can help you remember the names of the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

[RELATED: Keep Calm and Study On—How to Avoid Homework Meltdowns This School Year]

Mnemonic device #3: mini-stories

This strategy uses a silly sentence to help students remember a concept. Each first letter in the phrase corresponds to an aspect of the concept they need to remember. Similar to acronyms, the difference between the two lies in the phrase itself. Acronyms are almost exclusively a single word or a very short word grouping. Mini-stories, in contrast, include wording that appears as a short sentence. Examples of these mini-stories include:

  • “Never Eat Sour Watermelon,” which can help children remember north, east, south, and west.

  • Roman numerals are often difficult to recall, but the phrase “I Value Xylophones Like Cows Dig Milk” can help students remember this key: I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, and M=1,000.

  • A common math mnemonic is “King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk,” which corresponds to kilo, hecto, deca, deci, centi, and milli in the metric system.

Mnemonic device #4: associations

Associations rely on the connections we make between sounds, letters, and word meanings. It makes a match between words that start with the same letter—for example, students can remember that Memorial Day happens during the month of May because the two begin with the letter m. To remember the homonyms principal and principle, for instance, students can remember that a principal is your pal, but a principle is a rule.

[RELATED: How Parents Can Help Students Set—and Achieve—Academic Goals]

While there are common mnemonic devices students can use, students can also develop their own phrases and connections based off of items that pertain to their everyday life. Encourage your student to identify aspects of their studies that they find challenging and to create associations that may help them better recall the facts. You and your student can use a keyword that needs to be remembered and make an acrostic poem out of it, or you can think of visual or verbal personal connections related to a word.

For more help with mnemonics, ask your child’s teacher for ones that they use in class, or any others they might be familiar with—especially in the areas that your student struggles with or that require more memorization skills.


Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.