Intelligent Memorizing Strategies in the Realms of Gold


pick-up sticks

imagesGetting Curious

Usually when you become absorbed in something — or fall in love with it; it’s the same thing – remembering happens without conscious effort.  All of a sudden it’s been “memorized.”  For example, scores of poems are stored in my memory, but I didn’t “try” to memorize or learn any of them.  They were fascinating. My nonconscious mind did the rest.  If you’re not interested to begin with, use the Mess-Around Method I’ve described in some of my other posts; that is, browse, be playful, have some fun with the stuff.  More often than not, you’ll find yourself becoming curious.  You’ll begin to notice patterns, and you’re on your way.  Your body takes rubbings, your senses envelope the rose, the lover’s eyes – whatever your body  “looks upon.”

Taking Charge

Here are some of the techniques involved that you may not be conscious of.   If a test or some work requirement is urgent, you can use them on purpose.  You’re already using most of them – perhaps not consciously  –  so this is just a reminder.


Rhythm and Rhyme
Coined Words/ Acronyms
Humor, Exaggeration, Irreverence

                                        The Enabling Mode: Relaxed playfulness


All memory techniques boil down to making connections, to association,.  Making connections is involved in all deliberate, conscious memory work. The more links you create the more ways you will have to find the information later. If you want to store things on purpose, make associations, the more the better.

●  Analogy

Students learning the relationship of current, resistance, and voltage,sometimes use this analogy. “The flow of electricity through wires is like the flow of water through pipes.”

That doesn’t mean they are the same. Current, resistance, and voltage are like the flow of water, the pipe’s diameter, and the pressure pushing it. If you can see the similarity, you can  do things with wiring and so forth until it all becomes “second nature”, sort of like training wheels – another analogy.  We’re just plain naturally “wired” to notice likeness – and difference.


See it.

Kids use visualization to remember how to spell troublesome words.

Make it bigger: Parallel?  paraLLel. (Notice the parallel letters in para ll el.)
       There, their, they’re?: THEre, THEir, THEy’re

To spell piece correctly, notice the piece of pie in piece.  And so on.

If a word won’t stick, do something visual to it. Kids know dozens of memory tricks for spelling.

After you use the word a few times, you won’t need the memory device.  I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words over the years.  They flow off my finger tips without thought. I still have a copyeditor go over my manuscripts, though.

                         When it’s time to edit, pretend you’re a rotten speller.

Test-Taking Tip
Students who first take time to visualize the place where they prepared for the tests score higher than those who don’t.  My guess is that the setting contains lots of nonconscious rubbings (connections) with what you’re working on, all sorts of associations we’re unaware of.  Seeing the setting makes the connections available to the conscious mind.
During a test visualize the place where you studied.

The Role of Music

                        The universe is a musical composition.

The music of the spheres is vibrating in throughout our  nervous systems, and the first thing we must do when we get up in the morning  is take down a musical instrument, as the 13th century poet Rumi wrote.  That is, we have to get tuned up, in tune with, the melody that’s playing around us.  That puts us in harmony with whatever’s on our plate.  If it’s getting ready for a test, we’ve taken a major step already.

The Music of the Spheres

The Music of the Spheres


There are plenty of studies that show that when we are relaxed and awake, we do much better at learning and remembering. Once I realized that, there would be calming music playing when students arrived at my classroom.  It became more and more a part of whatever we were doing.  Foreign language classes that have students singing are more successful than those that don’t.  A young man from Peru I know thought himself English watching Sesame Street and learning English-language songs. We all know that when we’re not attuned, we don’t ride our bikes as well.  And we certainly don’t enjoy the ride. 


Any batch of random information can be grouped one way or another.  When you play around with a pile of facts, they will fall into a pattern on their own, like yarrow sticks – if we don’t interfere.

All we have to do is be quiet and listen.

The mind insists on making connections.  It is very old and very wise.  Trust it.  John Phillip Sousa, the March King, said he took dictation from the inner chambers of his mind.  His compositions “came to him” complete.  It’s the same for everyone.   No doubt the nonconscious mind sees connections from the what the conscious mind passes over to it and puts it all together.

Here are a few of scores of  ways to use music in your long-term memory work. You may remember some of these simple examples from when you were a kid.  The concepts work just as well for adults.  They are perfectly respectable.   Whenever the material seems to call for it, see if a poem or a song would help.

Rhythm, Rhythm, Melody

I before e
except after c
or when sounded as a
as in neighbor and weigh

C is for cookie.
That’s good enough for me
Oh! Cookie, cookie, cookie
Starts with C.

Remember the Alphabet Song?  Kids know what works.  It’s a natural.

Coined Words

Once you’ve gotten the feel of the colors of the visual spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), they can be retrieved in order.  You don’t have to remember nine things, just remember

                                                 ROY G. BIV.

One student examined the key vocabulary of his geology class and with some messing around coined SAM GALOPAGUS.  Maybe.  I’m taking his word for it.

The Great Lakes?


Their location on the map?

S       H       O

    M      E

Know these acronyms?



Planets out from the Sun?

     Mother Very Energetically Made a Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest.


Students in every field from surgery to mathematics have created memory devices such as acronyms, coined words, and sentences for storing essential facts.  With use, the device drops away and the desired material remains.

For longer lists, you can make up stories.

The twelve cranial nerves (olfactory, optic, oculomotor, troclear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, audiitory, glossophryngeal, vagus, accessory, and hypoglossal) could be stored into a sentence. A rhyming sentence would be even better.

On Old Olympus’s Towering Top
A Fat-Assed Giant Vaults and Hops

A story would require more involvement and even better retention:

At the oil factory (olfactory) the optician (optic) looked for the occupant (oculomotor) of the truck (troclear).  And so on.  You can’t help but form a mental picture as the story unfolds.

●  Humor, Exaggeration, Irreverence

        Make it funny, make it big, make it little, make it disreputable.

The mind delights in far-out, irrational connections.  If you have some fun thinking up socially unacceptable or humorous connections, you’ll remember.  Don’t be too serious.

This ought to get you started taking charge of the process.

In my next post, I’ll give you an overview of one of the most effective memory techniques of all: The Method of Places

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