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Working Memory, Part 2: Ways to Help Your Child... and a FREEBIE!

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

In my previous post, I shared details about working memory - what it is, how it affects learning, and how it is connected to dyslexia. If you missed that information, you can access the post here.

Today, I am sharing things you can do at home (or at school, teacher friends!) to help support your child's working memory. This post includes practical advice and tips for supporting your child's working memory.

See the suggestions below; You might be surprised to find that some of the things you may already do "for fun" home are actually great for supporting your child's working memory!

1. Work on visualization skills.

Encourage your child to create a picture in his/her mind of what he/she has just read or heard. For example, let’s pretend you’ve just asked your child to set the table for five people. Have him/her imagine what the table should look like, and then draw it. As your child gets better at visualizing, he/she can describe the image instead of drawing it.

2. Use visual aids and organizers.

This may include graphic organizers or “mind maps” for organizing thoughts in writing. It may include words, phrases, or illustrations/pictures for support. This is particularly helpful when learning new phonics skills as well! Create a reference poster or anchor chart that helps students visualize the new phonics skill, and keep the poster visible so your child can refer back to it when needed.

3. Have your child teach you.

Being able to explain how to do something involves making sense of information and mentally filing it. Maybe your child is learning a new skill, like how to dribble a basketball. Ask him/her to teach you this skill. Teachers do something similar by pairing students in class to apply new skills by teaching one another. This lets them start working with the information right away, rather than expecting them to retain new information without readily applying it.

4. Try games and tasks that use visual memory.

There are a lot of of matching games that can help kids work on visual memory, like the classic game “memory.” We do this a lot in my sessions, using words that feature our phonics skill each week! You could use a few spelling words from your child’s weekly list at school to create and play this game. Simply write the same word (or draw a picture that represents each word) on two separate cards. Then flip all the cards face-down on the table. Have your child try to flip-and-match pairs. If he/she makes a match, he/she gets to keep it. Play until all the cards are gone! You can start small, with 4 pairs (8 cards in all) and work your way up as your child’s memory develops.

Other suggestions:

* Give your child a magazine page and ask him/her to circle all instances of the word the or the letter a.

* License plates can also be a lot of fun. While sitting at a red light, take turns reciting the letters and numbers on a license plate in front of you. As your child’s memory develops, you can even try saying the letters backwards, too (although the backwards recitation is quite advanced!)

5. Play card games.

Simple card games like Crazy Eights, Uno, and Go Fish can improve working memory in two ways.

(1) Kids have to keep the rules of the game in mind.

2) They also have to remember what cards they have and which ones other people have played. Again, “Go Fish” is one of the most popular activities in my sessions!

6. Chunk information into smaller bites.

Have you ever wondered why phone numbers and social security numbers have hyphens in them? This is because it’s easier to remember a few small groups of numbers than it is to remember one long string of numbers.

Keep this in mind when you give your child multi-step directions. Provide one direction at a time. If you can also provide a picture or image that matches the directions (on schedules or chore charts, for example) then that is even more helpful!

This also applies to reading fluency! Model appropriate reading fluency for your child by breaking sentences down into smaller, meaningful “chunks,” and practice reading those chunks as phrases.

So, after all that information, are you ready for a fun, seasonal activity you can use now with your child/students? The activity below targets #4 on the list - the classic "Memory" game with a seasonal, Thanksgiving theme!

Check out this Thanksgiving-themed freebie now available in the Tally Tales TPT store, and begin supporting your child's memory in a fun, hands-on way today! Teacher friends, this is a great activity to add to your centers this month!

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