Techniques to Help Improve Working Memory in School-Aged Children

Posted on: 20 September 2016


Working memory is the ability to remember short sequences of important information. This is a very important skill for children who need to follow instructions in school and remember small amounts of information to let them read and comprehend texts. Students with a very short working memory often experience learning difficulties and can come across as spacey or disobedient.  

Here are some ways that you can help your child to expand their working memory. 

Draw mental pictures

A common exercise for adults looking to expand their memory is to store information in a 'memory palace' (where each piece of information is stored in a room and the rememberer can walk through the palace). A modification of this for a child could be a memory table where they store each piece of information on a chair or at a place setting. This can help to remind them of multistage instructions.

Number information

It can often help to give children a base to remember instruction. For example, you can say 'Before we can to the playground we need to do 3 things, 1 is to clean the playroom, 2 is to put on shoes and 3 is to feed the dog'. These numbers can help the child prompt themselves if they seem to have lost a number and may make it easier to get through less desirable activities. This can also be used during the school day, such as teachers giving students a list of tasks they need to by end of lesson to help them focus on completing the work.  

Connect important items with colour and emotion

If your child has particular problems remembering certain items such as the fact that need to place a capital at the start of a sentence and a full stop at the end why not let them practise doing these in another colour. Often it is easier to remember that the end of each thought needs a red dot like a small stop sign rather than needing to remember a list of grammar rules that they are already finding challenging. You can also place colour coded behaviour guides on their desk reminding them of things that they need to do such as raise their hand to speak, to help them behave more appropriately in class. 

If your child still needs more help in improving their working memory it can be useful to send them to a specialist such as an occupational therapist for more support.