The keyword mnemonic technique
The keyword method is extremely versatile and has a variety of helpful applications.
One possibility is in teaching new vocabulary words.
The keyword technique help to remember that barrister is another word for lawyer, first
create a keyword for the unfamiliar word, barrister. Remember, a keyword is a word that
sounds like the new word and is easily pictured. A good keyword for barrister then, is
bear. Then, you create a picture of the keyword and the definition doing something
together. It is important that these two things actually interact and are not simply
presented in the same picture. Therefore, a picture of a bear and a lawyer in one picture
is not a good mnemonic, because the elements are not interacting. A better picture would
be a bear who is acting as a lawyer in a courtroom, for example, pleading his client's
innocence. We have created pictures and shown them on overhead projectors, but you could
show them in other ways as well. When you practice this strategy, be certain understand all parts of it.
Mnemonics can also be used in acquiring foreign language vocabulary. A list of some
Italian vocabulary words (from Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1991, p. 24) and corresponding
mnemonic strategies are given in Table 1. Before you read, cover up the keywords and
strategies and see if you can come up with your own.
Keywords have also been used to improve recall of map locations. It is much more learning disabilities were much more successful in locating Revolutionary War battle
locations on a map when they were mnemonically encoded (e.g., a picture of a tiger,
keyword for Fort Ticonderoga) than when representational pictures were used. When asked
for the location of Fort Ticonderoga, students proved much more able to identify where on
the map the tiger had been than they were to identify the location of a more traditional
illustration. Further, if the tiger was shown tending a cannon, students were more likely
to remember that at Fort Ticonderoga, cannons were captured that were helpful in the
American war effort (Brigham, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 1995).
The most important step toward a better memory is deciding that you want to
improve your skills. You can improve your memory if you follow simply evereday
rules and then practice, practice, practice.