learn your letters people

My Biggest Education Pet Peeve:

(Okay, maybe not the BIGGEST ever, but still…)

When acronyms/mnemonic devices try WAY too hard to fit the intended message into the given letters, but the letters aren’t attached to the most meaningful words and therefore are really hard to remember…which is not helpful, nor something you want in a mnemonic device. Example (a popular one I know has been floating around Pinterest lately):

Like…I get it, I promise I do. It’s topical and it’s fun, and it’s trying to do a really good thing, and mnemonic devices can be helpful for recall…but the problem for me is that by deciding to use “WHIP” as the acronym, we’ve pigeonholed ourselves into using those 4 specific letters, and we had to make everything else fit around that choice. It’s not an acronym, it’s a backronym (like APGAR). The steps make sense when you’re reading them, but when the poster is out of sight, are we REALLY going to remember what the H stands for? If I close my eyes, I remember that the h word here is “have”…but that doesn’t help me, because I can’t remember what to ‘have’. If I have to just remember the meat of it on my own anyway, what’s the point of the acronym at all? The key word in the aforementioned step would actually be “evidence” instead of “have”…but because we’ve committed to the WHIP, we can’t use an E there, so we reach. 

Tbh, I hardly ever nitpick other teachers’ strategies because I know I do some things that people probably roll their eyes at too…but for some reason this just really gets me. So, as you decorate your classroom for the upcoming year, if you’re going to use an acronym for some step-by-step process, my nit-picky self HIGHLY encourages you to make sure that - if your acronym requires full sentences tied to each letter - the key word is the first one…otherwise, it’s probably not something that’s really going to come that much in handy.