Working memory for kids
Working memory is like the mind’s Post-It note. It helps us to store and use information for a short time. Working memory is very important for many school and everyday activities. For example, in Maths class children may have to solve a problem like “39 + 17”. To solve it, one has to hold 39 and 17 in mind, then add 30 and 10, keep the intermediate result in mind, add 9 and 7, and add the intermediate results of 40 and 16 to get the final answer of 56. Working memory is also important in English class, e.g. for writing a story. The child will need to think of a plot and then keep it in mind while constructing the individual sentences that make up the story.
The amount of information has a limit. Typically, working memory increases from childhood to early adulthood. At any age, people may differ in how much information they can hold in working memory. Limited working memory can make school difficult for some children. They may show slow school progress, appear withdrawn in group activities, and have difficulties following instructions. Fortunately, there are some resources that help teachers to spot children who may be struggling with working memory and adjust their teaching to remove barriers for these children [1,2]. We would now like to expand on this and help children to become aware of their own working memory capacity and equip them with strategies that can help them in school and everyday life. For this purpose, we developed a lesson plan with many interactive and exploratory elements that can be delivered by teachers in one school lesson. The materials for this lesson can be downloaded here: WorkingMemory_for_Kids
When you tried the lesson plan, please get in contact with any feedback to help us further develop the materials.
This lesson has been developed by Joe Bathelt, Annie Bryant, Sally Butterfield, Fanchea Daly, and Erin Hawkins and has been supported by a prize for public engagement from the “I’m a scientist get me out of here” competition (https://about.imascientist.org.uk/).
Further reading about working memory:
- Susan E. Gathercole & Tracy P. Alloway (2008): “Working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers”. Sage Publishing. ISBN: 1412936136