What is working memory?
It’s part of a group of skills called executive function that includes skills that enables students to plan, focus attention, control impulses, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals.
Working memory refers to how students hold on to and work with information that short-term memory stores, in other words short-term memory.
Students use working memory to learn and follow directions. There are many ways to improve working memory of students in the classroom.
How can you work memory?
1. Draw pictures of stories.
Read or tell folktales and encourage kids to create a picture in their mind of what they’ve heard. Then have them draw a picture.
2. Play matching games.
Think of the classic game Concentration or sometimes called Memory. You can turn many academic skills into a memory game. I use rhyming memory, dot cards/numbers, sight words etc. Make 2 copies and turn just about any skill into a game.
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|Click to check out Rhyming Memory Game|
3. Search printed materials.
Give kids a magazine page and ask them to cut out a letter you are studying or words (the). They have to hold the letter/word in their minds as they search (have them cut out the words/letters and paste to a paper…fine motor work…WIN WIN!
4. Have children teach other children.
Being able to explain how to do something involves making sense of information and mentally filing it. Have students partner up and teach each other. Teaching each other makes them work together right away instead of waiting to be called upon in class.
5. Play cards at recess or at centers.
Simple card games like Crazy Eights, Uno, Go Fish, and War can improve working memory. Like all games:
- They have to keep the rules of the game in mind.
- They also have to remember what cards they have and which ones other people have played.
- They need to remember when to take a turn.
6. Encourage active reading.
Talking out loud and asking questions about the reading material can also help with working memory. Interactive read aloud makes it happen easily. So stop as you read and discuss the ideas that pip into the kiddos’ heads or make an effort to review and discuss as you read….don’t wait to just the end!
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7. Chunk information into smaller bites.
Ever wonder why phone numbers and social security numbers have hyphens in them? Because it’s easier to remember 3-4 numbers than it is to remember one long string of numbers.
Keep this in mind when giving multi-step directions.
- Give 1 direction at a time.
- Make them repeat it out loud and then in their heads.
- Have them practice saying the directions over and over as they move.
Card games, visualization and other fun activities can help build working memory so be sure to incorporate it as much as possible.