You are on page 1of 3

MNEMONICS

LEARNING DISABLED CHILDREN


• Anyone who at some time has been Kate E. Gfeller task at hand, the instructor should
held mental hostage by a catchy, inane evaluate how well the task lends itself
advertising jingle can appreciate the to musical rehearsal. For example, one
concept of using music as a mnemonic problems are present in a large num- appropriate use of musical mnemonics
device. In addition to the common ber (Lerner, 1981; Reid & Hresko, might be in memorizing factual infor-
adult experience of being "stuck" with 1981). While there are many factors mation such as times tables or social
a commercial jingle or other everyday contributing to memory problems, a studies facts (e.g., state capitals or
phenomena, for example, preschool number of researchers have suggested historical dates), which can be set to
children rattling off entire commer- that learning disabled students may catchy tunes. Another use of musical
cials or singing their ABC's to music, fail to spontaneously employ the rehearsal is to aid recall of procedural
further demonstrate the effectiveness memory strategies or mnemonic de- steps or rules. A common example is
of music as a memory aid. vices that aid successful students in the rhythmic jingle, "I before E, except
There is also experimental sup- recalling information (Reid & Hresko, after c." The technique might also be
port for music as an aid to recall for 1981; Tarver, Hallahan, Cohen, & appropriate with a self-monitoring
mentally retarded or slow learners Kauffman, 1977; Torgesen, 1980). statement used during cognitive be-
(Isem, 1959; Lathom, 1970; Nicholson, Equipped with such strategies, havior modification. For example,
1972). It has been theorized that learning disabled students might some learning disabled students have
heightened attention and the optimal better keep pace with their normal difficulty with correct letter formation
balance of redundancy and novelty in peers. in their written language skills. The
musical stimuli contribute to im- Because memory continually in- student might "talk" out the correct
proved recall of information. teracts with various academic tasks, letter formation to a rhythmic "jive"
These research findings suggest deficits in memory strategies can be a beat as they form the letter (e.g., with
that special educators could also use major drawback in overall academic the letter, "t," they would chant, "tall
music as a memory aid for learning success. For example, rapid recall of line down, cross near the top"). Simi-
disabled (LO) students. However, be- multiplication facts is not intrinsically lar examples would fit for lining up
fore this assumption is made, current worthwhile, but it does facilitate ac- columns correctly in computation
theories on memory problems among curate and timely completion of mul- problems.
learning disabled students should be tiplication or division problems. Thus, To ensure recall, a mnemonic aid
reviewed. when an academic task requires ready should be selected which is interesting
recall, an effective memory strategy and holds the student's attention
may be of value to the learning dis- (Norman, 1976). According to Reid
Memory Problems and abled student Gacobs, 1984). and Hresko (1981), children are re-
Learning Disabled sponsive to the use of rhythm and
Students Selecting a Musical
rhymes as memory aids. Television
commercials are a perfect example.
Although no single type of learning

~
problem can be consid-
ered universal to all LD
students, memory
Mnemonic
To determine whether or not a
musical mnemonic is appro-
priate for the memory
t'f, For example, several years ago, a
telephone company was adver-
tising its general information
number, 555-1212. To
aid recall of this
•. 0
'--/ ~ J 0 ;be"
28 TEACH I NG EXCEPTIONAL CH I LOREN F ALL 1986
the advertisement repeated the num- Figure 1 I
ber several times to the tune, "I'm a
Yankee Doodle Dandy." MUSICAL MNEMONIC SAMPLE

~~
Finally, the chosen strategy
should capitalize on and integrate
features that are known to enhance
recall. An example would be the use of
a strategy which "chunks" or organ- 7 x 7 is 49 8 x 6 is 48
izes information to be remembered.
This approach is an outgrowth of
Miller's (1956) research, in which he
found that short-term memory capac- Figure 2 I
ity was 7 ± 2 bits of information.
MUSICAL MNEMONIC SAMPLE

'4'_
While this small amount of informa-
tion seems extremely limiting, human
memory capacity increases through
the process of grouping isolated bits of
information in organized subgroups The num-hers 2 4 6 8 10 are e-ven nun-hers. yes ,e-
or "chunks." The preschooler's "Al-
phabet Song" provides an example of
the application of this theory. The
proper sequence of letters in the al-
phabet includes 26 separate and un-
related bits of information. As the
$;;tJ- yen. The num-hers 1357 9 we call these
song is sung, the letters are broken
into groups of 7 ± 2 ("A,B,C,D,E,
F,G," "H,I, J, K, L, M, N, 0, P," etc.)
which also rhyme on the final syllable.
This "chunking" process aids the
num - hers odd this time.
recall of the sequence of letters.

Appropriate Use of ing disabled and nonhandicapped chil- commented that the facts most
Musical Mnemonics dren. In this study, students partici- easily recalled were those rehearsed to
pated in repeated rehearsals of multi- melodies reminiscent of songs they
A memory strategy may be effective plication facts either verbally or using previously knew or liked. This is not
only if the appropriate application of musical mnemonics (See Figure 1). particularly surprising; researchers in
the strategy is demonstrated, prac- Initially, the nonhandicapped children memory tell us that new information
ticed, and finally reinforced Uacobs, showed significantly greater recall of to be remembered is more easily as-
1984; Rathmell, 1978; Reid & Hresko, the mathematics facts than did the similated if it is associated with al-
1981). learning disabled students following ready known information (Jacobs,
If students do not receive ade- one rehearsal (p < .05). By the end of 1984; Norman, 1976; Siwolop, 1983).
quate guidance in application of a the fifth rehearsal, both the nonhandi- Thus, use of familiar tunes takes
memory strategy, they may fail to capped and learning disabled students advantage of yet another feature of
make the connection between the using musical rehearsal showed sig- human memory processing.
strategy and its appropriate use. Take, nificantly greater recall of multiplica-
for example, the mnemonic, "1 before tion facts (p < .001) than did the
E, except after c." It will be an students using verbal rehearsal. How- Developing an Effective
effective aid only if the student under- ever, this increase occurred only when Musical Mnemonic
stands how to apply it and then only if the students were cued or prompted
he or she remembers to use it during a What do these research findings sug-

JJ
to vocalize to themselves the musical
spelling exercise. mnemonic during the recall process. gest to special educators? Mere repe-
The need to guide students in the Further, following testing, a number tition is not the most effective use
use of musical mnemonics is sup-

cI of the successful stu- of musical memory de-


ported by Gfeller's (1983) dents vices. Classroom teach-
'ludy with leom-

b ~ d
J- ~ "'--.I
F ALL 1986 TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN 29
cess of manipulating new information 31, 4819-4820A. (University Microfilms
ers may provide some variety and pos-
can itself be helpful in the memory Number 71-64-83)
sibly increase student attention by devel-
process (Norman, 1976). Lerner, J. W. (1981). Learning disabilities (3rd
oping musical mnemonics consisting ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
of rhythmic speech or short, simple Following are some important con-
Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number
melodies. These mnemonics can be devel- siderations in maximizing the benefits seven, plus or minus two: Some limits
oped in several ways. First, teachers of a musical mnemonic: on our capacity for processing informa-
can make up their own tunes. Figure 2 1. Provide rehearsal of the musical tion. Psychological Review, 63, 81-97.
shows an example of a song written strategy itself, including instructions Nicholson, D. L. (1972). Music as an aid to
by the author for use with students learning. Dissertation Abstracts International,
on how and when it can be used.
experiencing difficulty in recalling even 33, 1-352A. (University Microfilms No.
Encourage its timely use by prompt- 72-20-653)
and odd numbers. ing students to vocalize to them- Norman, D. A. (1976). Memory and attention
The students are taught the song selves the tunes during the recall (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
by rote and encouraged to learn it well process, eventually fading cues until Rathmell, E. C. (1978). Using thinking
enough to think it through silently. the mnemonic's use becomes auto- strategies to teach the basic facts. In M.
The song is coupled with visual aids matic. N. Suydam (Ed.), Developing computa-
and manipulative materials encourage 2. Rather than choosing a prepackaged tional skills: 1978 Yearbook, (pp. 13-38).
awareness of the patterns inherent in musical tape or unfamiliar music,
Reston, VA: National Council of Teach-
even and odd number sequences. Later, ers of Mathematics.
encourage and guide the students Reid, D. K, & Hresko, W. P. (1981). A
if the students have difficulty recall- in selecting their favorite songs, or
ing whether a specific number was cognitive approach to learning disabilities.
perhaps writing their own melodies New York: McGraw-Hill.
even or odd, they should be cued to to accompany the information to be Siwolop, S. (1983). Memory. Discover, 4(11),
think through the song silently before remembered. This will help them 18-28.
responding. to associate the new material with Tarver, S. G., Hallahan, D. P., Cohen, S.
Teachers who are less than adept previously known information, and B., & Kauffman, J. M. (1977). The devel-
at writing even simple melodies can try hopefully increase their motivation opment of visual selective attention and
using rhythmic speech or writing new and attention. In addition, it helps verbal rehearsal in learning disabled boys.
lyrics to popular tunes or commercial Journal of Learning Disabilities, 10,
the students to become active par-
jingles. For example, the song "Yankee 491-500.
ticipants in their own learning pro- Torgesen, J. K (1980). Conceptual and educa-
Doodle" might be transformed into an cess (Jacobs, 1984).
aid to memorizing 13 colonies: tional implications of the use of efficient
Memory drills for their own sake are task strategies by learning disabled chil-
There were 13 colonies, the first time-consuming, and they fail to con- dren. Journal of 1.£arning Disabilities, 7,
states of our country, tribute to a clear understanding of con- 364-371.

Delaware, Pennsylvania, New ceptual information. It is crucial that


Jersey were the first three. educators use memory aids as tools to
aid recall of selected types of informa- Kate E. Gfeller is Assistant Professor of Music
Georgia and Connecticut, there Therapy at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
tion needed in more complex academic
were no states finer, tasks. In short, the mnemonic aid is a Copyright 1986 CEe.
Massachussets, Maryland, and tool toward a larger goal; not an end
next South Carolina. in and of itself.

New Hampshire was next to join,


Virginia's low and highlands, References
New York and North Carolina Gfeller, K E. (1983). Musical mnemonics as
and finally Rhode Island. an aid to retention with normal and
learning disabled students. The Journal
That's the thirteen colonies, loyal, of Music Therapy, 20, 179-189.
brave and true Isern, B. (1959). The influence of music
Thirteen stars found on the flag upon the memory of mentally retarded
children. In E. H. Schneider (Ed.), Music
of red and white and blue.
therapy. Lawrence, KS.: Allen Press.
Students can also be challenged to Jacobs, L. (1984). Cognition and learning
match some new information to be disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Chil-
remembered with one of dren, 16, 213-218.

eI their own musical favor-


ites. This pro-
Lathom, W. (1970). Retarded children's reten-
tion of songs, stories, and poems.
Dissertation Abstracts
International, ,;;;;I
D
o
., ••
30 TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN F ALL 1986