Just a random example of an ‘accepting the reading’ story: 町 isn’t used much in Mandarin – I didn’t know it existed in Chinese until a few seconds ago – and I learnt it for the first time in Japanese. If you ask me how to remember the reading, uh… 田（ま）丁（ち）? It makes no sense at all, except maybe that I can now remember that there are two syllables, and 丁 looks like a nail that ‘pierces’, which is a word you’d pronounce “cì” in Mandarin, which sounds a bit like ち, and ま is a nice, round, full sound, kinda like how 田 looks really substantial… As for the meaning, surely there’s some link between farmland (田) and cities, right? I don’t know, maybe agriculture supports city life? You get the idea. I just form associations with anything and everything.
(To be honest though, probably because I already knew the components in Chinese and there weren’t a lot of them, I just looked at it and told myself, ‘OK, so this is called まち in Japanese, and it means “city”.’ Maybe there’s a sort of practice effect from speaking Mandarin, because I’ve got used to associating shapes with sounds even when there’s no apparent link? A lot of what I just said in that mnemonic feels more like stuff I came up with on the spot or which I had floating around in my subconscious.)
No, it’s an orbital thing. As you go over the last two lines, the… 4f and 5f orbitals fill up, if I remember correctly. They can also be called the lanthanides and actinides. The 10-by-4 block in the centre of the periodic table is called the d-block or the transition metals because the d-orbitals fills up as you go across. I learnt the words ‘period’ and ‘group’ as well though. However, I believe there are two naming conventions for the columns, and I don’t know what the origin of each is, so it gets confusing… One version involves Groups I-VIII + transition metals, and the other involves Groups 1-18.