Working memory is this week’s emphasis in an online class I’m taking. What is working memory? It’s our brain’s sticky note, where the information we have just received has been jotted down temporarily. We “hold” that note in mind to use it in the completion of other tasks. If our sticky note is incomplete, we only carry out part of that task. If the note is lost, we must start all over again with that information. For example, a teacher gives a three-step direction to the class (“Put your paper in the reading folder, get out your math journal, and come to the carpet”). If this is not a predictable or rehearsed procedure, some kids will arrive at the carpet with their paper in hand. Others will look around to figure out what everyone else is doing. Some kids may be reminded to “pay attention.” Working memory is seriously taxed by writing assignments and other tasks which have multiple steps, such as long division.
Reading Rockets has a great article which includes 10 strategies for enhancing working memory. The following tips were written by Glenda Thorne. She provides detailed explanations of each of these strategies in her article.
1. Give directions in multiple formats
2. Teach students to over-learn material
3. Teach students to use visual images and other memory strategies
4. Give teacher-prepared handouts prior to class lectures
5. Teach students to be active readers
6. Write down steps in math problems
7. Provide retrieval practice for students
8. Help students develop cues when storing information
9. Prime the memory prior to teaching/learning
10. Review material before going to sleep