May 28 2011

Thirty Days Has September: Cool ways to remember stuff


I’ve read somewhere that if the army have a reason for you to learn a foreign language, they have techniques that can have you fluent within three months.

I don’t know if they learnt these methods from my primary school teachers, but if Mrs Collins (Grade 3) or Ms Tennant (Grade 4) wanted us to learn something, it stayed learned! Rote learning and mnemonics, reward and punishments.  More than 3 out of 10 wrong in spelling each day – off to Father Schneider to get the strap. We sure learnt our tables and our spelling (most of us – some poor souls would get the strap every day).

I can remember that the mnemonic for costal rivers of NSW is “Tweed, Richmond, Clarance Macleay is a hasty man who hunted hawks on the Shoalhaven River”. That has come in very handy for boring my kids on the long drive from the Richmond River to Sydney.

Today was Millie’s tenth birthday party, and Hallie was kind enough to give her the book “Thirty Days has September – Cool Ways to Remember Stuff” by Chris Stevens. It is a wonderful catalogue of aids to assist in spelling, history, maths and general knowledge.

“You’d better clear a space inside your brain it’s about to fill up with fascinating facts!”

Stevens includes a range of mnemonics including acrostics (mum needs effective methods or nothing is certain), rhymes (in fourteen hundred and ninety two…..), acronoyms (SPA reminds us that the order of Greek philosophers was Socrates, Plato and Arisotle), pithy sayings (always remember you must accommodate two ‘c’s, two ‘m’s, and an ‘o’ after each), and maths tips (if you forget your eight times table, double the number, double again, and double again).

It also includes drawings by Sarah Horne as an aide memoire. Did you know that the countries of central America make a shape like an elephants trunk, and the mnemonic to remember them is My Great Big Elephant Has No Critical Problems. (what a lucky elephant)

I won’t forget the distinction between stalactites and stalagmites. “Imagine what would happen if tiny insects crawled up your aunty’s legs. – The ‘mites go up and the ‘tites come down.”

You beauty. Thanks Hallie.

What are your favourite ways to remember cool stuff?

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