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Acrostic Devices: How to Make & Use a Mnemonic Device for Studying

In this article, you will learn how to create and use an acrostic device to aid memory by watching a tutorial video, reading step-by-step instructions, or downloading a free & printable Quick Reference Guide.

Video Tutorial:

In this video, I explain what acrostic devices are, how to create them, and how you can use them while studying to help you remember things. You can find step-by-step instructions and a free, printable quick reference guide below.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

The sections outlined below will walk you through creating and using acrostic devices to help you remember things while studying.

Using Acrostic Devices for Studying

1. What is an Acrostic?

A mnemonic device is a collection of words, such as a formula or poem, used as an aid for remembering something.

An Acrostic is a specific kind of mnemonic device. An Acrostic is a phrase, poem, or sentence in which certain letters in each line form a word or words. For example, the first letter of each word in the acrostic can be used to spell a different word or remember a different set of words.

2. Examples of Acrostic Devices

Acrostic devices are commonly used to aid younger students in remembering basic lists such as the directions on a compass or the order of the planets in the solar system. You may already be familiar with some acrostic devices that you were taught when you were younger.

Here are a couple examples of commonly used acrostics:

Directions on a Compass: North, East, South, West

Acrostic: Never Eat Soggy Waffles

Order of the Planets in the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

Acrostic: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles

Order of Operations in Algebra: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

Acrostic: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

As you can see in the examples above, each of the first letters of the words in the acrostic phrases correspond to the first letters of the words in the series of words you are trying to remember. This is one of the ways an acrostic device can help you remember things. Another way acrostics can be beneficial for studying and learning is by helping you remember how to spell difficult words. Here is an example.

Let's say you are learning about the layers of skin on the human body. The layers in the correct order are epidermis, dermis, hypodermis. You can use an acrostic to help you remember the order of the layers but you can also use an acrostic to help you remember how to spell "hypodermis" which is commonly mispelled as "hyperdermis". In order to remember the correct beginning of the word hypodermis, simply separate the letters and create an acrostic such as "Have You Played On Dirt." The first letters of the words in the acrostic give you H - Y - P - O - D. Now you have used an acrostic device to help you remember the correct spelling of the word. Let's dive a little deeper into how to create these acrostic devices below.

3. How to Create an Acrostic Device for Studying

As mentioned earlier, acrostic devices are commonly used in early grades in school with younger students. However, these devices can also be great tools for you to use in upper grades even all the way through college. The challenge is to learn to create and use your own acrostics to help you remember things and not just use them when a teacher gives them to you.

The concept or process of creating acrostic devices for studying is really simple. First, identify the list of words you want to remember or the word you want to remember how to spell. Let's create a pneumonic device to remember the months of the year in order: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.

The first thing you need to do is to separate all of the first letters from the list of words:

J - F - M - A - M - J - J - A - S - O - N - D

Then, you use this list of letters as the first letters of words in a poem, phrase, or sentence that will be easy to remember.

Example: Julie Froze Mangos And Made Juice. John Also Seasoned Our Nice Dinner.

This is just one example. You can use acrostic devices to help you remember things in almost every subject and for every grade level. The more you practice creating and using acrostic devices for studying, the better you will become at it and the easier it will become.

4. Tips and Tricks for Using Acrostic Devices for Studying

The hardest part of creating and using acrostic devices is coming up with a phrase or sentence that will be easy to remember when you repeat it over and over again in your mind. As mentioned before, this does get easier the more you practice it, but there are also a couple tricks you can use to make this easier. First, try writing sentences or phrases about topics you are interested in or passionate about. For example, if you are really into music then try to write phrases about music. This will help your brain remember the acrostic phrase by attaching it to information that is already stored in your brain. I really like cooking and eating so the example acrostic for the months of the year above works well for me because it is about food.

A second trick for writing and remembering acrostic phrases is to keep the first word the same in both the list of words as well as the acrostic phrase. This can help get you started writing a good phrase but it can also help you remember what that acrostic phrase is about. This can be very helpful if you are using multiple different acrostic phrases for studying at the same time. The first word being the same will let you know right away what the series of words is that that acrostic phrase belongs to. Here is an example:

In order to remember the Layers of Skin:

Layers of Skin, Epidermis, Dermis, Hypodermis

Letters for Acrostic Phrase: L - E - D - H

Acrostic Phrase using first word the same in both the list and the acrostic (Layers):

Layers Easily Dry Here

This acrostic example above will help you remember the layers of skin in order and you will know what the acrostic refers to as soon as you think of it because the first word "layers" will trigger your memory.

Here is one final tip for using acrostic devices for studying: If you are using acrostic devices to study for a test or an exam, try to go through your acrostics and write the first letters in the margins or on the back of the paper before you begin taking your test. This can be beneficial for many reasons. First, you won't have to spend time trying to think back through your acrostic phrase or phrases because you already wrote down the letters you need in the correct order. Secondly, you will be able to work through the series of words you remembered in different directions. Whereas your acrostic device moves forward in one direction, once you have the letters written down, you can quickly look at and process the information in reverse order if the test requires you to do so.

Again, the concept of creating and using acrostic devices for studying is pretty simple. The challenge is learning when to create them and then practicing the skill over and over so it become a natural part of your study routines and habits. You can download a free printable "How to Make & Use Acrostic Devices for Studying Quick Reference Guide" below. Happy studying!

Downloadable & Printable Quick Reference Guide

Click here for a free printable "How to Make & Use Acrostic Devices for Studying Quick Reference Guide".


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