Monday, November 10, 2014

       Today as I walked my dog Tiki, I decided to try something different. Instead of memorizing the license plates numbers in order as I sometimes do,  I reviewed the NATO alphabet.  
I had never put a lot of effort into memorizing this alphabet and I had not thought of it for some time. But it was time for a review; I looked at the letters on a license plate and converted them to Nato words. 
For those not familiar with the NATO alphabet it is an international phonetic  alphabet. When someone in the armed forces or a police officer wants to spell out say a license plate he does it with:
Alpha, Brava, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Limo, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu
So a  license plate with the letters MAS (my initials) would read: Mike Alpha Sierra.
As I walked and reviewed, I was doing several things correctly as a learner. Time spent walking a dog or doing any mindless task like dish washing or driving a familiar route or folding laundry can also be spent testing ourselves on our knowledge.  I was using my time smartly. 
Using time for two compatible projects is called layering. It is different from multitasking which does not work because with multitasking, focus is difficult to impossible.  I can’t, for instance, give  a caller directions to my home, look up a pasta recipe  and balance my checkbook all at the same time. Each activity needs focus and they are being short changed.
What else was I doing right as a learner as Tiki and I walked? I was Pegging. One of the reasons the NATO alphabet was easy for me to memorize because it it an alphabet.  I already had the order down.  I just had to learn a list of associations.
Associating new learning with something already learned like the alphabet is called Pegging.   It has many forms, but let’s take one of its more basic forms which is a simple list like the alphabet. 
If the alphabet sounds too simplistic for those of us beyond kindergarten, then make it fun.  Create fun alphabets  or use one already created like the NATO alphabet. 
Okay, so the NATO alphabet isn’t fun.  What is a fun alphabet anyway?
I grew up in the 1950’s and early 60’s and like a lot of adolescents and teens, I loved certain recording artists. I bought their records and put the long playing records  in alphabetical order according to the singer’s name. To this day I remember that order.
Paul Anka, Pat Boone, Chubby Checker, Bobby Darin, Everly Brothers, Fabian, Leslie Gore, Johnny Horton, Burl Ives, Stonewall Jackson, Kingston Trio, Brenda Lee, Johnny Maestro, Rick Nelson, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Que Sara Sara,  Bobby Rydell, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Tillotson, Leslie Uggams, Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams, X-Ray , Kathy Young and Zippidy Doo Dah.
Note that where I did not have a singers name I made a substitute, songs for Q and Z and then the reliable X-Ray for X.  I also selected only one singer for each letter of the alphabet.  Having too many names could confuse me.
This list was easy to learn by just imagining my record collection. Later when I had a nice collection of DVD’s I could do the same thing with titles.
I have an actors list too.  Alan Alda, Dan Blocker, Jack Cassidy, Johnny Depp, etc. We could also create lists of sports stars, fictional character, words associated with a hobby or historic period.  We can create dozens of alphabets. I suggest working with just one fun alphabet until you get more practice.
You might get stuck on some letters like I did with my singers.  For those words that start with difficult letters have something that can be unrelated nonsense ready to plug in.
X = Xena, the Warrior Princess; Xanth, a fantasy land created by author Piers Anthony;  X Men, X Box or Xmas.  Z could stand for Zorro, Zipper, Zip codes, Zoey  or Zippidy Do Dah
If you get stuck too often  often enlarge your topic. Instead of names of boats, have transportation as your main category. Then you can include cars and even airplanes. When you get to “Q” you have the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth both legendary ships, or you can also choose an aircraft type for which there are designation codes for most letters of the alphabet. 
What a great excuse for memorizing aircraft designations. It is now a fun alphabet.
The alphabet can be a great learning tool. Too bad it is often dismissed as too simplistic.  It has an easy order and it has already been learned; it is easy to tack new information onto it.
Create your own special alphabet, use the NATO  alphabet, or my list of singers circa 1960.  Now we all have at least one pegging list. In my next blog, I will show you how to use a pegging list.  Over the next several weeks, we will create other pegging lists. 
Pegging lists are as simple as ABC. The alphabet is not the only type of pegging lists. There is even a simpler method of pegging.  We will learn that too.

Then we will learn another technique.

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