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Working Memory and Classroom Strategies

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1 Working Memory and Classroom Strategies
How these cognitive processes affect students and what you can do in the classroom Carolyn M. Myers, M.Ed.

2 Overview What is working memory? Working memory and learning
Screening children with working memory impairments Supporting children with memory impairments

3 What is working memory Key cognitive function that allows individuals to hold information in mind for brief periods of time Essential for countless daily tasks like following directions, remembering information momentarily, complex reasoning or staying focused on a project. More importantly, this broadened understanding of the importance of working memory can provide great hope to a range of people who suffer from working memory deficits, including children with attention problems or learning disabilities Academically, it is used when you’re reading and find it hard to comprehend what you've just read and have to reread material. Psychologists use the term ‘working memory’ to refer to the ability we have to hold and manipulate information in the mind over short periods of time. Working memory is a kind of mental workspace that is used to store important information in the course of our everyday lives. Mental workspace

4 Development of Working Memory
Working memory capacity increases steadily with age between 4 and 14 years Large degree of individual variation in working memory capacity at each age

5 Age-related increase in working memory scores, with 10th and 90th centile points

6 Limits on Working Memory
Distraction. An unrelated thought springing to mind, or an interruption by someone else, are often sufficient to erase the contents of working memory. Trying to hold in mind too much information. There is a limit to how much information can be held in working memory. For example, trying to multiply the numbers 739 and 891 would be likely to result in failure, simply because the amount of information that has to be stored in the course of the calculation exceeds the capacity of most people’s working memory. Engaging in a demanding task. Activities that require difficult processing (such as mental arithmetic) use up storage space in working memory, and so can result in a loss of other information already held there.

7 Affects on students Can affect student in reading comprehension, mathematical problems solving and fluent decoding Difficulty with test taking and multiple choice Preschool children have learning the alphabet and completing a puzzle Elementary Students have difficulty with reading comprehension and problem solving in math Middle school students- difficulty with complex problem solving, test taking, completing homework, breaking down tasks

8 Student Characteristics
Tendency to lose track of what they are doing while working Trouble sustaining the logical development of ideas when writing or speaking A pattern of forgetting one part of task while working on some other part of task Trouble remembering reading material (leaky reading)

9 Teacher Comments “He is in a world of his own”
“He doesn’t listen to a word I say” “She is always day dreaming” “with him, it’s in one ear and out the other”

10 Alan Baddeley’s multi-compartment model
This model suggests instead that WM consists of a visuo-spatial scratch pad, used to store visual information, a phonological loop, used to store verbal information, and a central executive, that directs attention and coordinates processes. In Baddeley´s words, working memory refers to a system for both temporary storage and manipulation of information, which is necessary for a wide range of cognitive tasks.

11 Brain Research and Working Memory
Cognitive neuroscience has thus shown that the prefrontal and parietal regions are important for working memory and that dopamine is a central neurotransmitter. Impairments in working memory are found in several clinical disorders in which these systems are implicated, such as after stroke, traumatic brain injury and in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

12 Working Memory Guide Pre school Learning the alphabet
Pre school  Learning the alphabet Focusing on short instructions such as “Come brush your teeth” Remaining seated to complete independent activities, such as puzzles Seems unwilling or unable to learn alphabet, numbers Can’t focus long enough to grasp and follow instructions Flits from one thing to another Elementary School  Reading and understanding the content (reading comprehension) Mental arithmetic Interacting and responding appropriately in peer activities such as playing on the school ground Reads (decodes) but does not understand or remember material read Problems memorizing math facts Difficulty participating in group activities (e.g. awaiting turn); makes friends but cannot keep them Middle school Doing homework independently Planning and packing for an activity, such as dance class Solving multi-step math problems, especially word problems Participating in team sports, such as soccer Does not begin or persist with homework without supervision Packs but forgets items essential for activity Reads the problem but can’t break it into understandable parts Problems grasping rules of game, functioning as a “team player”

13 Ways To Screen Children for Difficulties
Slightly more boys than girls Behavior is consistent-no highs and lows Can not meet memory designs of reading, math and writing Working memory can become overloaded May have to guess rather then follow procedures Attention fades as information is lost

14 Warning Signs Incomplete recall Failure to follow instructions
Place keeping errors Losing focus and effort

15 Other Warning Signs Children with WM problems are well-adjusted socially; are reserved in group activities in the classroom, rarely volunteering answers and sometimes not answering direct questions; behave as though they have not paid attention, for example forgetting part or all of instructions or messages; frequently lose their place in complicated tasks which they may eventually abandon; forget the content of messages and instructions, are rated by their teachers at school entry as having relatively low foundation skills in areas such as reading, language, speaking and listening, and mathematics; show poor academic progress, particularly in literacy and mathematics;

16 General Ideas Break down tasks into manageable chunks
Provide ways to associate new information with information that is known Simplify mental processing Restructure complex tasks Repetition and practice Use memory aids such as charts and posters Personalized dictionary, word banks, math manipulatives, memory jog cards, tape recorder, computer software

17 Evaluate Tasks and Change
Activities that impose heavy storage demands typically involve the retention of significant amounts of verbal material with a relatively arbitrary content. Here are some examples of activities with working memory demands that are likely to exceed the capacities of a child with working memory deficits: - remembering sequences of three or more numbers or unrelated words (e.g., 5, 9, 2, 6, or cat, lion, kangaroo); - remembering and successfully following lengthy instructions (e.g., Put your sheets on the green table, arrow cards in the packet, put your pencil away, and come and sit on the carpet); - remembering lengthy sentences containing some arbitrary content to be written down (e.g., To blow up parliament, Guy Fawkes had 36 barrels of gunpowder) - keeping track of the place reached in the course of multi-level tasks (e.g., writing a sentence down either from memory or from the white board)

18 Watch Memory Load reducing the overall amount of material to be stored (e.g., shortening sentences to be written, or number of items to be remembered); increasing the meaningfulness and degree of familiarity of the material to be remembered; simplifying the linguistic structures of verbal material (e.g., using simple active constructions rather than passive forms with embedded clauses in activities involving remembering sentences, and in instructions); reducing processing demands re-structuring multi-step tasks into separate independent steps, supported by memory aids if possible; making available and encouraging the use of memory aids (e.g., making available ‘useful spellings’ on white boards and cards, and providing number lines).

19 Try Repetition: general classroom management instructions
task-specific instructions (what the whole activity consists of, broken down into simple steps); detailed content intrinsic to an activity (for example, the particular sentence to be written). Children should also be encouraged to request repetition of important information in cases of forgetting.

20 Memory Aides: these include number lines, Unifix blocks and other counting devices, cards and personalized dictionaries with useful spellings, teacher notes on the class white board, and wall charts. These tools can help in several different ways to reduce working memory loads – they may reduce the processing demands of the activity (e.g., useful spellings, and Unifix blocks), and they may also reduce the storage load of the task and so help the child keep their place (e.g., number lines).

21 Developing Child’s Strategies
Asking for help if needed Using rehearsal and practice tests Using graphic organizers Learning to take notes Using strong organizational strategies Active learning- note cards, practice tests, personalized study guides

22 Ways to Exercise Working Memory
Have students do mental math computations. Put them in the context of a real situation, such as going to the movies or carpeting a room. Teach estimation strategies. Practice estimation as both a step in verifying the logic of performed calculations and as a practical mental math tool. Begin with problems that are easy for the student to calculate and are meaningful to the student's life. Give students a list and ask them to give it back in reverse order. Use numbers, words, visuals (shapes, figures), etc. Provide and require practice using both written and oral lists.

23 Ideas for Students Preview material, such as difficult words, new concepts, challenging computations in math, etc. so that students can allocate energy to the task without getting overloaded by active memory demands. Present information in manageable chunks or stages, rather than all at once. For example, Break extended activities down into smaller tasks, e.g., a long lecture into two parts. When giving directions and instructions, limit the use of multi-step directions; e.g., give only 1 or 2 steps at a time. Ask students to repeat the directions before beginning the task. Group similar concepts together in your lesson. Help students see the patterns in what they are learning through how your presentation is organized.

24 Active Listening Teach students to build their active listening skills in order to enhance learning and understanding. For example, Teach students to use a self-monitoring technique for active listening, such as FACT (Focus attention- Ask yourself questions- Connect ideas- Try to picture important ideas). Arrange for students to engage in post-listening activities: Review notes from a lesson after class, Connect what was heard today with what is already in notes, Question themselves if there's anything they don't understand so they can get immediate clarification, Draw up a summary statement from the lecture, and Read the summary statement as a pre-listening tool at the beginning of the next class session. Integrate listening and memory practice into daily instruction by having students give you a title for a short story read aloud, a summary of a brief passage read aloud, or by reorganizing mixed up sentences into the proper order.

25 Multiple Approaches in the Classroom
Use discussion groups and reciprocal questioning activities in which students move through the stages of summarizing ideas, generating questions about the material, clarifying comprehension of the material and predicting or anticipating information to come. Have students create graphic representations of information heard or read. Flow charts, for example, can represent procedural concepts such as steps for a bill to become a law and photosynthesis; tables can be used to compare and contrast concepts learned during classroom instruction, etc. When teaching students how to create and organize graphics such as concept maps and diagrams, begin with content that they are already familiar with and can use independently, so they are able to attend to the details of the strategy. Then gradually have them create graphics for new content as they are learning it. Have students make their own concept maps and/or outlines on a weekly basis, linking new material to what they've learned. These maps should be kept in a folder and used for by students when studying for future tests. Activate associations by having students attach visualizations or mental images to information they are learning. Teach students how to create analogies that help build associations between concepts in their minds.

26 Managing Working Memory in School
May need to work with multisensory techniques and blending techniques with decoding and encoding-be systematic and direct Give more time on tests and written assignments May have test anxiety- support them emotionally Help students write down ideas first before writing Repeat verbal information Model note taking-two column Encourage them to write out steps in math Practice by solving problems mentally Use of calculators and word processors

27 Managing Working Memory Problems at Home
Help with homework- organize assignments, time managements guides, see what needs WM Help child underline as they read- summarize after each section or page Use note cards for names, places and dates Write down all numbers when working in math-discourage mental math Use checklists and plans Have them verbalize out loud when working Write in stages- check spelling and punctuation later

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