Using Mnemonics for Biology

Using mnemonics for Biology can make learning Biology fun and easy. Did you ever take piano lessons? Remember "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge"? If you answered "yes," you have used mnemonics. The first letters of the words in the sentence denote the lines of the treble clef staff, EGBDE.

Definition of mnemonic
A mnemonic is any mental method that helps the learner remember something. There is a huge variety of mnemonics, from acrostics (as in the example above) to images, rhymes, and music. Combinations of methods can be used. The only rule in using mnemonics is "do what works."

How mnemonics work
The way mnemonics work is by connecting new information that is being learned to something familiar that the learner can easily remember. It is believed that this makes learning more efficient because the neurons in the brain have to make fewer new connections.

The human brain more easily remembers information that is humorous, personal, or "off-color." Anyone who has gone through medical school knows some mnemonics that cannot be repeated in polite company! (These will not be repeated in this article.)

Benefits of mnemonics
Obviously, mnemonics are only a part of an overall learning strategy. They are memory strategies, not comprehension strategies. But they help comprehension, because the student can remember more information that can then be used in comprehension. In mastering some subjects (such as Biology), one must be able to retrieve the correct labels for parts of a structure or process along with comprehending how the labeled parts work.

Additionally, research shows that when teachers make up tests, they tend to use a lot of questions that measure recall of specific facts. So remembering facts is an essential skill for success in school.

Examples of mnemonics: acronyms and acrostics
Some of the most familiar mnemonics are acronyms and acrostics. These are especially useful for remembering information that is in the form of lists. In this case using mnemonics for Biology is advantageous. The subject of Biology abounds with structures and processes made up of parts and stages. Learning Biology requires remembering these lists of information, often with the components in a specific order.

An acronym is a pronounceable word created by using the first letter of each word of the information being learned. An example is FARM-B, the acronym for the classes of vertebrates: Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals, Birds, etc.

An acrostic is a sentence in which the first letter of each word is the first letter of one of the things you are trying to remember. An example is the mnemonic for the phases of mitosis: I Passed My Algebra Test - for Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, and Telophase. Notice that using mnemonics for biology helps in remembering the names of the phases as well as the correct order in which they occur.

Using what's out there versus making up your own
One way to enhance the power of mnemonics is to make them up yourself. However, a balance must be reached between the benefit of doing this and the time required. You may want to take advantage of the plethora of mnemonics already out there in publications and on the Internet.

The absolute "king" of Biology mnemonics is the one for taxonomic classification, with probably more variations published than for any other Biology topic, many involving one King Phillip. Below are the taxonomic groups with just a few of the possible mnemonics listed underneath.

Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

King Phillip, Come Out For Goodness' Sake!

King Phillip Came Over From German Soil.

Kings Play Chess On Funny Green Squares.

Kevin's Poor Cow Only Feels Good Sometimes.

Keep Pond Clean Or Fish Get Sick.

Keep Pots Clean Or Family Gets Sick.

Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach.

Kids Pour Catsup Over Fat Green Spiders.

If including "Domain," you may be able to add "do" or "does" as the first word of the sentence: Do Koalas Prefer Chocolate Or Fruit, Generally Speaking?

Remember: Make it fun!
Mnemonics can make lists of terms easy to remember. So don't fret over Biology! Using mnemonics for Biology can help your brain remember facts and make Biology fun.


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