This use of you’re is not a typo.

Mnemonics — little catch phrases that work as memory aids — are a great way to help students memorize things.

An example brought up around this blog lately was the Bill of Rights, and I had in the comments mentioned that my master teacher and I had used mnemonics to help students remember that list.

These mnemonics are the creation of my master teacher. I take no credit for their merits or flaws.

First Amendment — because it’s first, it’s the most important amendment: speech, expression, religion, assembly, petition for a redress of grievances.
Second Amendment — you have two arms, so this is the right to bear arms.
Third Amendment — three o’s in “quartering trooops.”
Fourth Amendment — four syllables in search-and-sei-zure.
Fifth, Sixth, Seventh Amendments — these have to do with trials, and start with the most important trial rights.
Eighth Amendment — the numeral 8 looks like a hangman’s noose, so “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Ninth and Tenth Amendments — just remember: these deal with unenumerated rights and powers, respectively. Ninth is people, and Tenth is states.

This was just the beginning. Though we would attack each amendment in greater detail, this list of mnemonics worked as our introduction, conclusion and touchstone for the entire judicial branch unit.

The trick with mnemonics, though, is that students will sometimes fail to make the connection between the memory aid — quartering trooops — and the actual knowledge needed — “Troops cannot be quartered in a civilian’s house during peacetime.”

Mnemonics can only be intended as the foundation of knowledge, or to fill in gaps. Students should understand that other knowledge will still be needed, i.e. that the Sixth Amendment gives people lawyers, and the Seventh has to do with civil trials by jury in amounts greater than $20, even though the mnemonic groups those two in with the trial amendments.

Mnemonics are an excellent mortar, or even an excellent foundation, but they cannot replace more complex scaffolding or knowledge.

Be sure to check out more of my tips and tricks for teaching the Bill of Rights.


  1. Great work on this blog….I’m a third year teacher, I wish i would have done something similar, or at least keep a diary, as a teacher you tend to forget so much year to year….

    Mnemonics are amazing to use….

    The best one I’ve come across is for the Causes of World War 1

    ANIMALZ

    Alliances
    Nationalism
    Imperialism
    Militarism
    Assassination of Archduke Ferd
    Lusitania
    Zimmerman Note

    Anyway, Keep up the great blog work….

  2. Glad I could help out. With any luck, I’ll be keepping this daily for the next few years, at least.

    I will remember ANIMALZ — great stuff, that. I should start some kind of database, or, better yet, a wiki, for helpful memory aids like that.

  3. Definitely start a list or wiki for this, they are amazingly helpful.

    I made a similar one for causes of ww2 but its not as good M VIPER

    Militarism
    Versaillies treaty
    Imperialism
    Poverty
    Expansionism
    Rise of Totalitarianism

    I’m sure with a little thought it could be re-worked….

  4. You could go with Mr. VIP, though you’d cut out expansionism. The Internet Anagram Server is awesome for this kind of thing.

  5. The Internet Anagram Server just blew my mind….thanks for the tip. I will be using that lot in years to come.

  6. Glad I could help. The Internet Anagram Server is one of the many helpful sites I found while growing up online.

  7. I’d say mnemonics are best viewed as a ladder. The knowledge is what you want firmly in place (the bricks), but good mnemonics help you climb that wall more quickly and easily than one could by searching for fingerholds.

  8. That would make knowledge a wall, wouldn’t it?

  9. Jo

    Fascinating article… you’re right, mnemonics aren’t a replacement for knowledge, they help accrue it (in my view with a great deal of efficiency!)
    To easily create mnemonics (jogs) try this cool site…

    http://www.JogLab.com

    Jog your memory. Remember everything.
    Enjoy, and please pass it on…

  10. Mnemonics tend to be at their most efficient for lists and the like.

  1. 1 From Porn Trial to Smokey and the Bandit « On the Tenure Track

    […] in California, you could squeeze it in during practically every grade from the eighth on. While mnemonics were probably the most effective part of the unit, by far my favorite activity involving the first […]




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