* Working memory

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.

working memoryReading 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

 Now what was I doing? 

7 thoughts on “* Working memory

  1. I agree that the key is to help students develop their memory rather than help them avoid reliance upon it. So often, I feel we educators tend to underestimate what students are capable of, thereby repeating directions over and over, etc. I do it, too. Really, if we expect them to develop memory, or at least take notes when they have poor memory, we are putting the onus back on the student, which is the only way to help them become responsible, successful students. Because of this philosophy, I like numbers 2 & 3 and then 5 through 10 best. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the ultimate goal must be to develop self-awareness and use of effective strategies by students. Once teachers have modeled and rehearsed those strategies, kids are better able to advocate for themselves. (Which may mean getting teacher notes or syllabus for a course. ) If we don’t take working memory differences into account, we won’t have successful students, will we? They’ll be muddling along, missing key connections. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s