Six fun little mnemonics

What's the mnemonic to help us spell "field" correctly?

A mnemonic is a sentence or short poem to help you remember something. I’ve always been on the lookout for good mnemonics to help in my teaching, and awhile ago I came across a really neat little book called i before e – old school ways to remember stuff. I thought I’d share six fun little mnemonics that you can use in your teaching (well, maybe not the last one…).

1 Spelling rule: i before e, except after c. This is the most famous one, used to remind us how to spell words like friend, or field. Actually, to make up for the exceptions like weight (which goes against the rule) there is a longer version I found which goes

i before e, except after c

or when sounded like a, as in neighbour and weigh.

2 Spelling Wednesday – remember how to spell this with the following. The book I mentioned above has a whole chapter of these!

WE Do Not Eat Soup Day

3 The months of the year. Most readers will probably be familiar with this one, Thirty days has (originally hath) September, April June and November; All the rest have thirty-one… But how does it end? I always ended with the lame “except February, which has twenty-eight”. I’ve found two other versions though, which I put below.

Excepting February alone, And that has twenty-eight days clear, with twenty-nine in each leap year.

Excepting February alone, which has but twenty-eight, in fine, till leap year gives it twenty-nine.

4 Parts of speech. The American readers of this blog might have been familiar with a song: Conjunction junction what’s your functio (if you are one of those poor deprived souls who did not grow up with Schoolhouse Rock, you can see a video here) Anyway, here are a couple of others:

The preposition shows relation, as in the street, or at the station.

Conjunctions join in many ways, sentences, words or phrase and phrase.

5 Commas. I think this one is cute:

A cat has claws at the end of its paws

A comma’s a pause at the end of a clause.

6 Finally… I wanted to include one very useful mnemonic for English teachers for the upcoming end-of-year party (and also to get this in before the TEFL Tradesman said it 🙂

Beer before liquor, never sicker… Liquor before beer, never fear.

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Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 5:47 pm  Comments (18)  
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  1. When I was at primary school it was: i before e, except after c, when the sound is “ee” …

  2. Schoolkids in Germany are taught to count along the knuckles of a closed fist in order to remember which months have 31 days, i.e. index finger knuckle = January, the dip between the first & second knuckle = February … and so on. Then go back to the beginning after the little finger knuckle. This means the only one you really need to remember is February. Nice eh? 🙂

    As for tip 6 …. in Ireland we have one about beer and wine…

    • Thanks Mike, I’ve also seen that one about the knuckles… great stuff.

  3. I have FSBP – it’s for helping students to remember than when we move forwards in a narrative, we use the past simple. But when we jump backwards, we use the past perfect tense. (Well, usually)

    So,..

    F Forwards
    S Simple
    B Backwards
    P Perfect

    In other words – forwards it’s simple … but backwards, it’s perfect!!

    • Nice one Sandy! I’m going to remember that one – I have to admit I kept trying to read more into it than I should (e.g. backwards, it’s perfect). Shame on me :-)!

  4. I have FSBP – it’s for helping students to remember than when we move forwards in a narrative, we use the past simple. But when we jump backwards, we use the past perfect tense. (Well, usually)

    So,..

    F Forwards
    S Simple
    B Backwards
    P Perfect

    In other words – forwards, it’s simple … but backwards, it’s perfect!!

  5. Useful list, Lindsay. A couple of these are new to me. Thanks!

    Here’s one I made up for my own students, to help beginners who have trouble remembering which letters are vowels:

    Angela’s elephant is often unhappy.

    I use a cartoon of a sad looking elephant and a little girl (‘Angela’), offering him a hankerchief to help them remember it, and it generally seems to stick…:-)

    • Hi Sue, sorry it took me awhile to get back to this one. I found myself remembering the mnemonic the other day actually… great stuff!

  6. This is the first time I comment here! Right now I can think of two mnemonics:

    1) SLoWeR: Speaking, Listening, Writing and Reading (the four skills, surprisingly in a logical order: productive and oral, receptive and oral/aural, productive and written, receptive and written)

    2) For students who can’t remember how to say problematic letters in English, I remind them that they say ‘I am [name]’ for the letter I, ‘e-mail’ for the letter E, ‘DJ’ for the letter J, or ‘YMCA’ for the letter Y — with a little dance just to elicit the right pronunciation of Y.

    • Hi Paola,

      Another one for “i” is iPod. My students find this one easier to remember than a full sentence … and I always have one with me as visual but silent prompt.

    • Hi there

      Thanks for your comment! You’re welcome here of course. I like your suggestions, especially SLoWer. Very nice!

  7. Hi!
    As an EFL student in Peru I was taught “OSASCOMP”, which means: Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose…you know, the order of adjectives? It was pretty popular here, lots of teachers used it… I thought it was useless, what do u think?

    • Yes… the infamous order of adjectives. Nice mnemonic but I always found teaching ALL of those and making students remember them a bit of a waste of time. How often will they encounter a huge string of adjectives like that and need to order them? Gosh, I’d prefer it if my students remembered enough adjectives in English (i.e. instead of always saying “nice” or “bad”) without having to remember the order. However, if the mnemonic helps then so be it!

  8. FANBOY

    A learner in a writing class taught me this one to help remember co-ordinating conjustions!

    for, and, nor, but, or, yet.

  9. Great site! When I was in grade school we had a poem that helped to remember the parts of speech. I can only remember the first line or two and was hoping someone would have the whole thing.
    What I remember is: A noun is a person, a place or a thing, an example of which is a piece of string An adjective tells us what kind or how many and goes with a noun like one little penny.
    That is all I remember – hopefully, someone has the rest. Thank you.

    • Hi Beverly and welcome to this blog! The beginning of that mnemonic does sound familiar, but I’m at a loss to tell you the rest. Maybe someone else here will know? Anyone?

  10. Regarding the Months of the Year (and days of same), the version I learned back in the Jurassic age ended:

    …save February, to which we 28 assign, ’till Leap Year gives it 29.

  11. for singular/plural stuff, i like giving this mnemonic: A NOSE = Anyone-body-thing, NOone-body-thing, Someone-body-thing, Everyone-body-thing

    you have only one nose and one means singular

    my students like it 😀


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