Science can be a challenging subject for many students, especially with so many formulas and concepts to try and learn. Using mnemonic devices can be a helpful method to make remembering difficult topics or recalling sequences much easier. We’ve chosen our top five scientific mnemonics to make studying that little bit easier and we’ve even included a quick guide for students to make their own mnemonics too.
What Is A Mnemonic?
A mnemonic is a technique that students can use to help remember information. For example, you might associate a term or date you need to remember with a common item you’re familiar with. Alternatively, mnemonic devices such as acronyms where the first letter of each word is made into a memorable sentence, can help automatically recall information when needed- ideal for exam revision.
1. Order Of The Planets
One of the most common mnemonics is to help younger children remember the order of the planets- starting from the closest to the sun to the furthest. As Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet, there are now only eight planets to remember: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. The first letter of each word in the mnemonic device represents the eight planets closest to the sun.
Use Mnemonic: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos
2. The Chemical Elements
From symbols and atomic numbers to groups and periods, any student knows there is plenty to remember when it comes to the periodic table. However, trying to recall the names of the elements themselves can get a little tricky. The mnemonic below not only helps students remember the names of the first half dozen elements (hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, and carbon) but also their chemical symbols. (H, He, Li, Be, B, C)
Use Mnemonic: Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage
For the first 20 elements, there’s a slightly extended version.
Use Mnemonic: Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie.
From ‘near’ onwards, this will help students remember: nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), fluorine (F), neon (Ne), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), aluminium (Al), silicon (Si), phosphorus (P), sulphur (S), chlorine (Cl), argon (Ar), potassium (K), and calcium (Ca).
3. The Colours Of The Rainbow
A simple mnemonic for children in primary school to use is for the colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Even though many modern scientists no longer consider Indigo to be a part of the rainbow, it’s still included for now!
Use Mnemonic: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain
4. Learning The Cell Cycle
As students start learning biological concepts, it can be overwhelming how many processes, cycles and stages they have to remember. One of the first being the cycle of a cell. This mnemonic accounts for the interphase and the divisional phases of the cell cycle. INTERPHASE: G1 Growth phase 1. S Synthetic phase. G2 Growth phase2. DIVISIONAL PHASE: M Mitosis/Meiosis. C Cytokinesis.
Use Mnemonic: Go Sally Go! Make Children
5. Remembering Cranial Bones
Remembering the names of different bones in the body is certainly a difficult task. Here’s a fun mnemonic to help students remember the six most important bones in the skull: Occipital, Parietal, Frontal, Temporal, Ethmoid and Sphenoid.
Use Mnemonic: Old People From Texas Eat Spiders
How To Make Your Own Mnemonic
Getting students to make up their own mnemonics is a great idea if they’re finding it difficult to learn a lot of information about a specific subject or memorise a list of words. It can make all the difference in tests and exams, especially for topics like science, maths, history and geography. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on where to start when it comes to making up a mnemonic and how to remember it quickly too!
Step One: Write out the list of words that need to be memorised. Do this in order.
Step Two: Write out some ideas of how you can create a fun mnemonic for the list of words. We recommend using names of people you know and making up a funny scenario as this can make it easier to remember.
Step Three: Finalise the sentence and write it out a few more times. It’s also a good idea to practice saying the mnemonic aloud too- this helps it form in students long term memory.
Step Four: Come back and see if they can remember the mnemonic in full the next day. If they can, that's excellent- if not, it’s a good idea to work with them to tweak it slightly so it’s a little easier to recall.