Sunday, March 8, 2009


I love mnemonic devices in teaching. I think it's cool that I still remember Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species because of Ms. Leavitt's "Kings Play Chess on Funny Glass Stairs" acronym in the 9th grade. Ditto "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" and others. Creating my own mnemonic devices was a major way I was a successful student, not only in high school, but also in my pre-Medicine years as a Chemistry major, with lots of memorization.

Being an English teacher, I still incorporate lots of mnemonic devices. We remember the five methods of Indirect Characterization with the acronym, "P.A.A.S.O" (Private Thoughts, Appearance, Action, Speech, Other Characters' thoughts), as in "Que Paaso?," which I gleefully shout out early in the year when we come across some distinctive characterization. We remember types of imagery with V.G.O.A.T (Visual-Gustatory-Olfactory-Auditory-Tactile), and, when students are writing a personal essay short on details that appeal to the senses, I'll ask them where their V-Goat is.

For Poetry Analysis, I've never really found an aconym I like. Pre-AP and AP showcase this one called DIDLS, which is mostly an acronym to find tone (Diction-Imagery-Details-Language-Structure/Style). I don't like it because the important part of just understanding the poem on a literal level is lost. I've used TPCASTT before, too, but it's a bit simplistic to me. The "C" just doesn't cover enough. For several years in a row, I've tried to create an acronym that sort of combines these two acronyms into one.

It is ridiculous and unwieldly, but I like it. PIDDSAT. (Paraphrase-Imagery-Diction-Devices-Sounds-Attitude-Theme). The students suggested I call it "SIP DDAT," which I might do someday, but it puts it out of the order I like. I've only used it for about four days, but it's working well. Still unwieldly, but it's just the jumping off point. We'll see how it goes. If it doesn't work, it's just back to the drawing board again.


CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Thanks for reminding me (how could I have forgotten?) that mnemonic devices work. I'm going to start using them in my classes again!

Jackie said...

I LOVE "Paaso"! I'm going to start using that with my ninth graders as we plow through Jane Eyre.

Anonymous said...

Heh. When I was in high school I lived in a town called Kings Park. For use the mnemonic was "Kings Park Can Often Find Good Students".

Sometimes you have to use the acronym that the kids can relate to, even if it doesn't match the sequence exactly. At least it conveys the content.

Anonymous4 said...

Have just discovered your blog. Thus, this late reply.

A poetry mnemonic I've used with fifth graders sounds like "Meow-meow" but looks like this: MEIMNW or Maximum Emotional Impact, Minimun Number of Words.

Not sure where the cat-sound first came from but I have to tell you: a little mewing at students can sometimes work miracles where a red pen might not accomplish all that much!

KimO said...

Your post has helped me -- a YEAR later!! I'm using PIDDSAT tomorrow, and hope that it goes swimmingly. What have you found thus far?