Understanding Your Restless Classroom

As children learn, they employ short-term, long-term, and working memory. Working memory is a newer concept, different from short-term memory, in that it encompasses the ability to store information, while also recalling and manipulating it to reach a certain cognitive goal, rather that just parroting back facts. Working memory is needed to perform various activities including reading, spelling, comprehension, and math. Because it is related to many essential skills, it is important that teachers partner with their students to strengthen working memory. Activities that incorporate reading challenging material, completing brain teasers, participation in simple memory exercises, etc. have a dramatic effect on this skill. Unfortunately, if a student fails to foster working memory capabilities, there can be noticeable consequences. Difficulties with working memory can exhibit themselves in many different ways. Typically, students are found to have a reduced attention span and easily become distracted. In addition, these students tend to forget about the task at hand, have trouble remembering directions, fail to complete tasks, make careless mistakes, and have difficulty solving problems. While encouraging appropriate exercises to strengthen these crucial skills, teachers should also remember that students who are having trouble with working memory take longer to process material and plan accordingly. Time exercises are generally ineffectual and fast paced lessons make it more difficult to follow.

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