Dyslexia and Memory


Dyslexia and Memory

Dyslexia – Can it be helped by learning memory strategies?

Teachers often tell me that their dyslexic students have memory
problems. In my research I have found that teaching children a variety of
memory strategies is useful because they will be able to try them out
individually or in combination and note for themselves the effect.

I train teachers in Special Education and as part of the training include in the Methods Course – The History of Memory Strategies.

What I have found is that people don’t know about the origins of the strategies, are not aware that many exist, and don’t know how to teach them effectively.

There are seven basic memory strategies that I have found useful for students with special needs including dyslexia. The strategies are as follows:

1. The Metacognitive Strategy – When learning a list of words for example, asking yourself and then noting down how you remembered the words.

2. The First Letter Strategy – Using the first letter of each word to try to
make a real or nonsense word.

Example of making a real word –  The names of the Great Lakes in the United States are:  Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior
The first letter of each of the lakes makes the word  HOMES

Example of making a nonsense word – The names of each of the colors of the rainbow follow:

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

The first letter of each of the colors makes the nonsense word  ROYGBIV

3. The Story Strategy – Write a real or nonsense story that incorporates all the words you want to remember.

Example of a nonsense story – The following is a nonsense story to remember this list of words (emu, dog, eel, tiger, cat, toad, owl, rat, snake).

Australian Farmer

The Australian farmer had seen an emu, owl, rat, toad and snake outside.  He had a dog, cat and eel in his house.   However, he had to visit a zoo to see a tiger.

Example of a real story  – The following is a short poem that includes all the months in a year:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one
Excepting February alone

4. The Grouping Strategy – Grouping words together that belong to the same category.

Example of using the grouping strategy –

Make a list of all things that belong to the same family e.g. animals

dog, tiger, cat, horse, lion, zebra, wolf

Make a list from a larger list of all things in one group e.g.


palm railway snake
eye underground elephant
arm motorway tiger

5. The Imagery Strategy – Making a list of all things in a list by picturing them together or separately.

Example of using the imagery strategy –

Make a list of all things in one group, which are the same color by
picturing several animals all brown in the same picture e.g.

a brown horse, a brown wolf, a brown cat, a brown lion, a brown snake, a
brown dog, a brown cat

Or make a nonsense picture to help you remember e.g. a brown dog with a brown snake twisted around its neck looking like a scarf.

6. The Location Strategy – This is the ability to remember locations and assign faces to each.

Example of using the location strategy

Think of your school and conduct a mental walk from the principal’s office
to your classroom. Pay particular attention to the rooms you are passing
noting the details, noticing any imperfections, like desks not lined up:
anything that makes your mental images more vivid.   Make sure you can move easily from one room to another.

Along your route create a list of the most outstanding feature of each room.
These will be the images you remember as you go from one room to another until you reach your final destination, the principal’s office.

7. The Pegword Strategy – First learn a rhymed pegword list and then learn to associate each of these words with the members of the list to be learned.

Example of using the pegword strategy

This is a strategy to remember sequences of ten unrelated items in the
appropriate order.   You first have to remember ten key words, which follow:

one = bun  two = shoe  three = tree  four = door  five = hive  six = sticks
seven = heaven  eight = gate  nine =  wine  ten = hen

After learning these you have to memorize ten unrelated items:

battleship, pig, chair, sheep, castle, rug, grass, beach, milkmaid,

Take the first pegword  (bun rhyming with one) and form an image of a bun interacting in some way with a battleship; you might imagine a battleship sailing into an enormous floating bun.

Children all have to take tests and remember facts throughout their school years. Learning how to apply effective memory strategies can ease this burden.

These strategies will become the tools and techniques used to
understand and learn new material or skills.   It should also be emphasized to pupils and their teachers that these strategies have to be practiced and applied to the subject area being taught, in some cases repeatedly in order to achieve success.