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Memory Strategy: Hooking's a Fun and Memorable Way to Learn

As an educational therapist and learning specialist, hooking is one of the most valuable memory strategies that I teach my students.  In fact, tedious study sessions can be transformed into a memorable and often hilarious task.  

What is Hooking?
Hooking is a memory strategy in which you use the term itself that you are trying to remember to guide you to the answer.  In other words, you search for clues in the word. You can "hook" auditorily, to the sound or sounds in the term or visually, to the way the word looks.  Occasionally, you might find a hook in the word that does not guide you directly to the answer, but you can often create a story or visualization that will make it work.

Image 1
Visual Hooking Example:

  • Take the spanish word ojo.  Ojo means eye, and it is easy to make the word look as though it has eyes. See image 1.

Auditory Hooking Example:
  • Image 2
    Mesa means table in Spanish.  Mesa sounds like messy and I tell my students to think of a “mesa table.”

Auditory/Visual Examples:
  • If a student wants to learn how many pints there are in a quart, I say that pints sounds like pines and a quart sounds like a tennis court.  I then ask them to imagine two pine trees, playing tennis in a quart.  See image 2.
  • Take the distributive property in mathematics.  In the middle of the word you can see the word rib.  I tell my students that they have to draw in the “ribs” to solve the problem.  See image 3.

  • Image 3 
    Learning about the different types of angles lends itself to some fun strategies.  I tell my students that acute angles are “a cute” type of angle, obtuse are “obese” or fat angles, and right angles are “right on” and I show them that they can find the right angle in the “thumbs up” gesture. See image 4. 
  • When my students are learning about the cell organelles one of my favorite hooks is for the golgi body, which manages intracellular transportation.  I encourage my students to think of it as the “Go go Golgi” and ask them to visualize a shipping company like FedEx but the name is “Go Go Golgi.” See image 5.

Teaching Students to Create Their Own Hooks:
Image 4
Creating hooks for your students can be helpful, but if students create their own hooks, memory works even better.  Self-generating strategies gets students to make their own personal connections and connecting new knowledge to prior knowledge is a well research technique to enhance learning. What’s more, when two people look at a term, they don’t necessarily see or hear the same strategy. So, for example, take the word, benevolent.  There are many hooks that could be created to help one remember the meaning of the word, but the question is what does the student hear or see in the word? Benevolent means, kind-hearted, and you could use any of the following hooks:
  • benevolent: If someone lent you something, that was a benevolent gesture.”
  • Image5
    benevolent: Perhaps you know of someone named Ben or Len and they are benevolent.
  • benevolent: The Latin root means “good” and you could make that connection that good people are benevolent.
  • be-ne-volent: When you break up the word, it sounds like “be not violent.” One could that that the opposite of violence is benevolence.
  • benevolent: Right in the middle of the word, you can find the word love written backwards. One might think, when two people fall in love they are benevolent towards one another.

Teaching the hooking strategy to your students can help them to enhance their memories and find joy and laughter while learning. I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to write a comment and share your own hooking strategies.
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to &  
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