Working Memory

What’s on this page?

Working memory is used to recall things for short periods of time

It helps us remember what we are working on

Difficulties using working memory make learning difficult

Working Memory at St Luke’s

Learning relies on the gradual building of knowledge through listening, practice, experience, and teaching. In order for knowledge and skills to develop and grow, people must be able to recall their previous learning and build on it, taking a new step forward.

We rely on our working memory to help us store and quickly recall knowledge and skills when we need them. Sometimes children may experience difficulty recalling information and this can make building on previous learning a challenge. Here are examples of strategies that can help your child recall facts, ideas or routines.

Precision Teach

Research has shown that by practicing a particular skill or fact for short periods each day, they can be made more secure in our long term memory. Precision teaching is a method which uses this idea to practice specific facts, and help move them from a child’s short term memory to their long term memory.

Children practice a short list of facts each day for a short time, up to 10 minutes. Each session involves a child looking at flashcards for each fact. The facts they get correct are recorded or put to one side. This is repeated every day in a quick and snappy session. When a fact has been recalled by a child 3 days in a row (or 5 to fit with a week) it is more likely to be secure in their long term memory.  In subsequent sessions, the known facts are gradually replaced with new facts. Some known facts are mixed with new facts and in this way a child will always have some success in every session – an important part of the process to help their confidence to grow. As a guide we recommend using 10 facts in any list. This can be made shorter or longer, depending on your child and how they find the approach.

The Precision Teach method is particularly effective at helping children learn spellings and Maths facts they find challenging to recall. It has also been found to be much more effective if done more than once a day.

Make your own flash cards template

Track your child’s progress with this tracking grid

(A similar approach is known as ERT – Expanded Rehearsal Technique)

Memory Hooks

Having a hook of some sort to help children recall a specific fact can also work well. Many of the ideas for helping children learn to spell and to learn new vocabulary (on other pages), rely on this idea, but it can be used more widely to help children within all aspects of their learning and life.

Simple hooks can include: colour coding, grouping facts together, displaying facts around the house so they are seen frequently, associating a picture with a fact, learning a ‘trick’ that helps.

Memory Games

Playing simple games that rely on your child remembering something can be a fun way for your child to practice remembering and recalling things. 

15 minute memory games

Online memory games