By Fiona Abou Abdou
Working memory is a brain function that is essential for long-term memory and learning. While thoughts that each individual’s working memory capacity was innate, research in cognitive science and psychology shows that we can actually work this memory to be better and faster.
What is working memory?
According to Alan Baddeley, a British psychologist who popularized the concept, working memory is “a system that temporarily holds and manipulates information while performing tasks such as understanding, learning and reasoning.” This memory can therefore be defined as the ability to temporarily retain data while our brain is busy with another task. In our daily life, this memory is essential and for our children, it is just as much for understanding instructions or texts, solving problems, calculating mentally, writing, concentrating, taking notes, learning a foreign language, etc.
While working memory allows individuals to retain on average up to 7 items between 1 and 10 seconds, this memory capacity differs from one individual to another! People with learning disabilities or mental disabilities will retain less separate information at a time. And for some students, the loss of information and then “dropping out” will be a direct consequence that has repercussions on learning.
Several signs can alert parents or teachers to a child with working memory problems: difficulty following instructions, forgetting a word in the sentence during dictation, slowness in completing a task, poor concentration, etc.
The importance of working memory for children:
Working memory is used very regularly in children for many tasks.
- It enables learning by connecting new information with current knowledge.
- It allows the tracking of complex instructions (two or three directions given at a time).
- Working memory helps maintain focus and concentration on an activity.
- It develops mastery of reading skills and vocabulary.
- Finally, it promotes the ability to easily acquire math skills.
How to stimulate working memory in children?
Most people remember visual images better than verbal or written information because the images are less abstract. Encourage your child to visualize what he saw or heard to get a real picture of a concept. Reviewing the image strengthens memory. By mentally imagining what is required for a specific task, the child will be able to focus and process the sequence of events that require its completion.
The use of pictograms or images, especially for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, is gradually giving clues so as not to overload the information. They can be used in everyday routines.
By using sensory material, the child is encouraged to explore, manipulate, aid in visualization and therefore, in memory.
By schematization, memorize a lesson by transforming and organizing it in a personal way into a drawing, mind map, lap took…
By the loci method, place words in places and then mentally revisit them. To memorize a poem, we associate each line with a room in the house. By reciting it, we mentally revisit each piece
2. Active reading
Reading requires recalling stored information in order to understand the text. Active reading helps children improve their language, vocabulary and comprehension. After your child has read a story or a book, have a chat. Ask him to tell you the story or tell you about key passages from the book. You can even tell him that he can take notes in the margins to remember something important from the story. Reading aloud, with special emphasis on keywords or phrases, also helps in producing mental notes.
When children read aloud, verbalize or paraphrase with emphasis on keywords, they produce mental notes that they store in their memory.
3. Memory-enhancing games
Memory and card games are good ways to improve visual memory skills. Visual information processing involves looking at pictures and remembering certain details and aspects that help to remember them. Games that encourage the formation of our visual memory also help with concentration, paying attention to detail and classifying information according to their similar or different attributes.
4. Watering & Cut out information:
Instead of giving blanket instruction, focus on one task at a time. By breaking down a set of multiple tasks into more manageable parts, your child can go through them one by one. The child will then work more efficiently and finish one task before starting another while learning more easily.
Favor short and spaced work sessions rather than long intensive sessions. It is better to wait 2 to 3 days to return to a lesson
5. Make connections & Mental images
Forming associations and connections with different details makes learning easy and efficient. It also helps to recover stored information or long term memories. Using familiar analogies for your child simplifies the memorization process. Associating a word or a phrase or an image helps to remember it better. You can even invent a story from a list to memorize.
6. Learn and teach
When your child learns something new, ask him or her to teach it to you. This practice encourages him to go beyond what he has learned, to understand it and to memorize it, which allows it to be stored in his long-term memory.
7. Offer tools to boost the concentration
How about setting up fidgets? Fidgets, small tools for children and adults with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD / ADHD) or concentration help focus attention by providing a motor outlet for tension and desire for movement.
Does your child keep still and have difficulty concentrating? There are solutions! Promoting dynamic sitting will help the child to concentrate. Indeed, thanks to perpetual movement and stimulating sensations, the seat adapts to the child’s need for movement.
8. Nutrition and sleep
Of course, a healthy diet and sufficient sleep greatly influence working memory. The brain must be nourished with the necessary vitamins and well hydrated. Vitamins E and B12, antioxidants and folic acid are known to improve memory capacities. Poor sleep also has negative effects on the performance and working memory capacity of the child.