Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Memorizing the Presidents

Meant to publish this on Presidents' Day, but never got around to finishing it. So, either belatedly for this year, or early for next year (so you have time to memorize them??), here's my little strategy for memorizing all the United States presidents.

First, we "chunk" the names into manageable groups. It's easy to chunk them in groups of three, which then are grouped in chunks of three, which gives us five sets:

Set One (1 - 9): Washington through Harrison. For these, we use some rote memory.
Set Two (10 - 18): Tyler though U.S. Grant.  A couple of mnemonic devices help with the first six, and the last three of this set revolve around Lincoln, one of the four assassinated presidents, which make them easy to recall.
Set Three (19 - 27): Hayes through Taft. These I call the "Funny Name Presidents" for reasons that will become apparent.
Set Four (28 - 36): Wilson through Johnson. As with Set Two, the first six have some mnemonics (they are the "Double Letter" Presidents), and the last three revolve around JKF, another assassinated president.
Set Five (37 - 44, so far): Nixon through Obama. For me, this is what we call "current events". For my kids, a little memory work helps.

So, ready? Here goes:

The first three have a place of honor, and thus should be memorized with their first names -- along with a factoid or two.

1. George Washington (stepped down after two terms, setting a long-lived precedent)
2. John Adams (was Washington's VP)
3. Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration) 
The next three all have first names starting with "J":
4. James Madison ("Father of the Constitution")
5. James Monroe (Monroe Doctrine)
6. John Quincy Adams (son of the first Adams)
7. Jackson
8. Van Buren
9. Harrison (William Henry, to be distinguished from the future president Benjamin Harrison, his grandson)
SET TWO with some mnemonic devices:
10 - 12: TYLER POLKed TAYLOR (visualize Tyler poking (Polk) Taylor!)
13 - 15: FILLMORE PIERCEd BUCHANAN (a fencing match, perhaps? again, a visual there... )
And the next three should just be memorized, with some dates, as they revolve around Lincoln:
16 Abraham Lincoln (elected in 1860, assassinated in 1865)
17 Andrew Johnson (became president after the assassination; same last name as Kennedy's successor; impeached but not convicted)
18 Ulysses S. Grant (memorable for both his initials "U.S." and as a Civil War general)
SET THREE: The "Funny Name" Presidents.
19 RUTHERFORD B. Hayes (Rutherford? Really? He's much loved in Paraguay, by the way)
20 James A GARFIELD (as in Garfield the cartoon cat)
21 Chester A. ARTHUR (as in Arthur the cartoon aardvark)
22 GROVER Cleveland (as in Grover the Sesame Street muppet)
23 Benjamin Harrison (OK, not a funny name, but he's in the middle of a Grover Cleveland sandwich...)
24 GROVER Cleveland, again.
25 McKinley (a man with the NAME of a mountain - Mt. McKinley)
26 Theodore Roosevelt (a man ON a mountain - Mt. Rushmore)
27 Taft (a man as BIG as a mountain, haha; he was about 300 pounds)
SET FOUR: The "Double Letter" Presidents (and some 3-initial nicknamers)
28 WOOdrow Wilson
29 WaRRen "G. I wish I hadn't died in office" Harding
30 Calvin COOlidge
31 Herbert HOOver (or Hoobert Heaver, as he was once famously introduced)
32 Franklin D. ROOsevelt
33 HaRRy S. Truman
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE)
35 John F. KeNNedy (JFK)
36 Lyndon B. Johnson - (LBJ; no double letters, but he is memorable for taking the oath of office on a plane, after JFK died.) 
37 Richard M. Nixon (notable for being the only president to resign)
38 Gerald Ford (notable for being the only president never elected to national office; he was moved up first to VP and then President after the double resignations of first Agnew the VP and then Nixon)
39 Jimmy Carter (notable for ... oh, never mind.)
40 Ronald Reagan (of fond memory)
41 George H. W. Bush (who was Reagan's VP)
42 Bill Clinton (impeached but not convicted)
43 George W. Bush (son of George H. W. Bush)
44 Barack Hussein Obama
And there we are. God willing, we'll add a 45th name to this list in January.


Steph said...

Thank you for the tips! So thankful we still have only 44 presidents.

M.E. said...

Well, Steph, I am not happy about that, personally. I was hoping and praying that we would have a 45th President inaugurated this month, one who actually cares about this country and wants it to succeed.

Guess we'll have to wait till the next time for that to happen.

Chante said...

This is great!