What I have my 8th grade students do, as far as memorizing is concerned, is make flash cards with the first 20 elements, from hydrogen to calcium. On these flash cards they have the element name on one side of the card (correctly spelled), while on the other side of the card, at the top we have the atomic number. In the middle of the card, we put the atomic symbol, using the correct rules of capitalization. At the bottom, we put the rounded atomic mass number. I have them drill with the flash cards for about a week, then we have a "fill-in-the-blank" type test to assess their knowledge.
As far as navigating the periodic table, I stress to my students the different groupings across the top of the chart, starting with group 1, the alkaline metals. Then, group 2, the alkaline-earth metals, skipping over to group 7A (or group 17, depending on your textbook), the halogens, finishing with group 8A (18), the noble gases. We come back and visit the transition metals, which serve as the bridge, later.
I dissect the chart by color, showing students that most of the elements are metals, on the left of the chart. To the far right, we have nonmetals. The stair-step line, which serves as the border between those two groups, are flanked with metalloid elements. The periodic table is like everything else, of studious substance: the more you work with it, the more familiar it gets.