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Improving Working Memory

Improving Working Memory - Memory Series from All About Learning Press

In the last post in our Memory Series, I highlighted the differences between short-term and long-term memory and how important it is to work toward permanently ingrained learning…or learning that “sticks.”

Though it may seem like long-term memory is of greater importance than short-term memory, in this post we’ll look at why one particular type of short-term memory—working memory—is such a critical part of the learning process.

Have you ever been introduced to someone only to realize five minutes later that you can’t recall her name? Or maybe you’ve experienced this one: you suddenly remember that you need to add something to your shopping list, but by the time you find a pen, you can’t remember what you were going to write. Have you ever been frustrated by your child’s inability to remember a short list of tasks you’ve asked him to accomplish?

The examples above demonstrate the potential shortcomings of the working memory. Inevitably, we all face these issues from time to time. But for a child with more significant memory challenges, these issues can dramatically impact the learning process. Is there hope? YES! But let’s back up for a few minutes to consider several important questions.

What is working memory?

The SMI Method - Memory Series #3 from All About Learning Press

Working memory is the ability to hold information in your brain for a short period of time while you work with or manipulate the information. Working memory is critical for learning to read and spell. For example:

  • It helps you sound out unfamiliar words.
  • It helps you keep your place in the text, allowing you to look away from the page yet still find your place again.
  • It helps you remember the words you just read as you finish the sentence or paragraph, enabling comprehension.
  • It makes it possible for you to compose a cohesive paragraph, writing down one sentence while you think of the next.

Working memory is one of the most important indicators of how easily a child can learn. In fact, research has shown that working memory is actually a much better indicator than IQ is of how easily a person can learn.

What are the signs that my child has poor working memory?

A child with poor working memory will struggle with tasks that require him to hold some information in his mind (such as a dictated sentence) while doing something else that is challenging to him (such as spelling the words). Without some adaptations, he may fail to complete the task because crucial information (in this case, the remainder of the sentence) is dropped from the child’s memory and is no longer available to him. It may appear that the child is not paying attention, but in reality, he has simply forgotten what he is supposed to do.

In addition, a child with poor working memory may have one or more of the following problems.

  • He may have difficulty paying attention to lessons.
  • He may seem uncooperative during learning activities.
  • He may fail to comprehend what he is reading.
  • He can’t follow a string of instructions.
  • He “spaces out” during lessons.
  • He seems forgetful.
  • He often misplaces things.
  • He struggles to complete multistep activities.
  • He often forgets what he was going to say.

What can I do to help build my child’s working memory?

As you implement the six ideas below, you will begin to see improvement in your child’s working memory.

  1. Avoid information overload. When too much information is presented in a lesson, your child’s working memory becomes overloaded.
  2. Eliminate distractions. When your child is working, try to reduce distractions such as TV or radio in the background, siblings or classmates talking, and toys or other interesting activities nearby.

    Improving Working Memory - Memory Series #5 from All About Learning Press

  3. Make sure your child is comfortable during lessons. Physical stress (from things like headaches, an uncomfortable chair, hunger, being too hot or too cold, and eye strain due to vision issues or from facing a bright window) can have a negative effect on working memory.
  4. Read aloud every day for at least 20 minutes. When you read aloud, your child has to recall what you just read and anticipate what is coming next. All the while, he is interpreting the words and comprehending the story.
  5. Do motivating activities with your child that require following instructions, such as crafts or recipes. He should read one or two simple steps and then complete them. (Depending on your child’s reading level, either you can read the instructions or he can.) This will exercise and stretch your child’s working memory.
  6. And above all, have patience! This might be the hardest part! Be encouraging, and keep emotional stress to a minimum. If your child is worried about performing properly or disappointing you, that just adds another layer of stress that taxes working memory even more.

AAR and AAS work well for students with working memory challenges.

All learning involves working memory, and I made sure that the lessons in our programs reduce unnecessary load on the working memory.

  • Lessons are short and focused on just one concept at a time.
  • When there are activities involved, we give only one or two instructions at a time, and the scripted verbal instructions are easy to understand.
  • The lessons follow the same routine each day. This lessens the demand on working memory because the student knows what to expect, making it easier to focus on the lesson.
  • The letter tiles are color coded, giving the students visual cues as to what category they belong to on the magnet board.Improving Working Memory - Memory Series #5 from All About Learning Press
  • As a mastery-based program, we make sure that students understand the basics before asking them to move on to a more complex task. For example, before asking a student to comprehend the sentence The hawk sat on her nest, we make sure that he is able to easily decode the word hawk. Because the child has already mastered the sounds of the phonogram AW, his working memory is freed up to work on comprehension.
  • Crucial information is reviewed frequently. This pushes the information into long-term memory, freeing up working memory space.

An effective working memory is a necessary part of the learning process. But the good news is you can help your child strengthen his working memory! With a bit of extra effort, you and your child will see big rewards!

Don’t miss a single post in my Memory Series. Each post provides another way to help your child retain reading and spelling information.

To be notified when new blog posts are published, sign up for our newsletter.

Help Your Child's Memory Report

Photo credit: Rachel Neumann

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Leave a Comment

Leah

says:

I don’t know if this is where I am supposed to post this, but I have a dilemma. I have a student that can’t store anything in his short term or working memory. You can tell him that this letter is A and you will ask him what letter is this and he will say 2. You can do this exercise over and over and over and still ask him what letter it is and he will say 1. What are some suggestions in achieving short term and working memory to long term memory exercises. Sorry, if this is not where you are supposed to post this. I’m just at a loss. There must be some sort of disconnect and I am trying to find the way for the pieces to fit together. Thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Leah,
How old is your student?

Can he name every day objects? If you point to a dog and say, “What is this?” can he answer?

When you show him the letter, have him repeat after you right away, with no words or questions between you saying the letter name and him repeating it. Say, “Repeat after me, A, A, A,” and have him say, “A, A, A.” Don’t ask him what the letter is, tell him and then have him say it.

Only work with one letter until he can get that one letter down. Every day spend some time with that one letter, and make it as hands-on and fun as you can. Engaging multisensory learning is much more effective for memory. You will likely need to spend a least a week on a single letter, but don’t add another one until the first is mastered. Then, continue to review the mastered letters as each new letter is introduced.

Check out our Letter Recognition Activities page, which has all kinds of hands-on activities you can do to work on letters. Other things you can do:

ABC Snacks and Tips for using the ABC Snacks to work on Pre-reading skills
– make letter of the day or week placemats
– Go on a letter-treasure hunt: Put the letter you are focusing on on index cards and tape them on things around the house that start with a letter and have him find the letters, or just hide letters for him to find.
– Give him a fun pointer stick. As you both sing the alphabet song, he should point to each letter as it is sung. Do this every day.
– Play games: Take index cards or squares of paper. Write a letter of the alphabet on each piece of paper. Set out four NON-CONFUSABLE letters at a time. For example, set out a, b, e, and f. (Do not set out c and e together, or b and d.) Take turns being the teacher. The teacher says “Point to the f (or whatever letter).” If the student points to the correct letter, he gets to keep it. Continue until the student has collected all four letters. Over a period of days or weeks, gradually add in more letters. First work with the uppercase letters; then move on to the lowercase letters.
8 ways to use refrigerator magnets
Free A to Z Letter Sounds App
Swatting Phonograms–have him “swat” letters on index cards as you say them.
– An idea for very active kids is the snowball game. You can just tape the letter cards to the wall.
– If he is also working on handwriting, have him work on writing the letter he is learning. Use tactile methods to practice letters, or practice them in various ways like a gel pen on black paper, or crayon that he paints over (or have him color with all different colors, then color over it with black, and use a coin or other object to write a letter–it will scratch away the black and the letter will be rainbow-colored).

I hope this gives you some ideas! Get Ziggy involved in learning the letters as well; many kids respond really well to Ziggy.

Jennifer Spencer

says:

Trying all of these but oh #6 is a killer :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
YES! I completely understand, but it just could be the most important on the list too. Keep up the hard work!

Learner

says:

Thanks for the discussion! helpful material!

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome! (This series of 5 posts on memory issues is one of my favorites. It really helped me personally as a homeschool mom to better engage my kids and encourage real learning that sticks.)

Katherine

says:

Thank you for helping so many people with your articles. I have a child that struggles with learning and memory and i have learned much from your articles.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

I’m glad that we’ve been able to help you, Katherine! These blog posts were written with moms like you in mind. We really want to make teaching reading and spelling a joy! You may be interested in downloading the free report we just published called “Help Your Child’s Memory” (http://info.allaboutlearningpress.com/memory/).

Julie Summerfield

says:

Thank you so much for talking about this topic. My son has had cognitive testing and it turns out his working memory is very low. So we have to work so hard to make anything stay. It made sounding out words challenging because by the time he finished sounding out the 3rd sound in a word he couldn’t remember the first two sounds or the order of them. That issue right there made learning to read VERY difficult! I just ordered All About Reading level 1 a couple days ago and I can’t WAIT to get it and start using it. I have high hopes!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Julie,

My oldest was the same way. The blending procedure can help with this because the student can learn to hold two blended sounds as one “chunk” and then add another sound. It can take work to get there though. The good news is that you can help students increase working memory over time. It may never be “high,” but it doesn’t have to stay where it is either–so there is definitely hope for kids who struggle with this. Let us know how it goes for your son with AAR 1. If you ever have any questions or struggles, please know we’re here to help–you can email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com.

julia wilson

says:

I too have a daughter 10yo who has severe working memory issues, but quite good long term memory ??????? yeah its frustrating.
In 4 years of hard work she knows her alphabet upper and lower 95% and still struggles to do simple words cat dog fat rat etc etc
yes its time consuming and the progress is slow slow and slower than icecream melting.
Repetition is the only thing that works but that is very time consuming as a single parent. they say Intell Disability kids need 20x times repetitiveness and normal IQ kids only need up to 5x…….
Whatever is learnt today and forgotten tomm :(

Jaime Schmidt

says:

I appreciate your insight into how the brain works. Do you have any recommended reading for parents who have children with signs of dyslexia? Thanks for all you do!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Jaime,

Definitely read the other articles in this memory series (it’s a 5-part series). You’ll find other helpful articles on here as well (check out the Struggling Learners section: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/struggling-learners, and information on reversals especially: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/how-to-solve-b-d-reversal-problems/)

If you are looking for a good book, (there are many out there), one I really like is The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide.

Jen

says:

Thank you for posting information about working memory. My daughter has issues with this and your posts will be used to help her. Thanks again!

Leah

says:

I think these tips are helpful for me too. I had a better working memory before I had kids and before the internet became such a big part of our lives (information overload affects my ability to remember what I am doing!)

Haley

says:

The built in review in AAS and AAR truly helped my son cement the rules in his memory. He’s a fantastic reader and strong speller now.

Becky

says:

My son suffered a brain injury when he was two years old. He certainly struggles with his working memory. I look forward to implementing these strategies to help him improve. Thanks!

Heather Chandler

says:

This was a great post. My son is definitely struggling with working memory. I love the concrete examples you gave to improve it. Thanks!

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Heather! I hope you see steady improvement with your son’s working memory.

Jody

says:

Fantastic post! Thank you so much for this! Some days we struggle with our homeschool lessons and the tips were great reminders, especially #6!

Kristen

says:

Thanks – this explanation of working memory is really helpful.

Tesha

says:

The first tip is definitely the best one! Too much information is probably the biggest problem I have with my preschooler using the free online resources we have used for learning. They may be fun, but they are also addictive, so she keeps wanting more, which then overloads her, and I don’t see any benefit (other than mere entertainment).

Jennifer S

says:

My daughter is doing great 95% of the time, with dictation and spelling. Her memory loss is when it comes to tasks! If I give a 2 part instruction, more than likely she will “forget” to do part of it. Would you say this is an obedience/training/habit/character kind of issue, rather than truly a memory concern?

Merry at AALP

says:

Not necessarily. Try giving her one task at a time, and teach her to come back to you to tell you when she’s done. Try these steps:

1, be on her eye level when you give the instruction. Don’t call instructions from another room, or try to talk while she’s in the middle of playing with dolls. Call her to you and get down on her level when you give the instruction.

2, keep instructions as short as possible. Getting too wordy often throws kids off.

3, a gentle hand on the shoulder can help some children pay better attention.

4, have her repeat the instruction back to you, or explain to you what she is to do, to show that she understands. If she’s not used to coming back to you after doing a task, have her include that part: “and then come to you.”

5, it helps some children if they also repeat the instruction to themselves as they go to do it. Some children struggle with focus and concentration, and this is one way to help them.

6, make sure to praise her when she comes back.

You may want to role play several times to help her with this, especially if she’s not used to coming to you after completing a task. Only when she’s very consistent with doing one thing and not getting distracted on the way would I again try a 2-part instruction. If you notice that she struggles with that, go back to 1-part instructions again for a time.

If the task is something new, you’ll likely want to do it alongside her several times first, to add the concrete of “showing” how to do it.

Some children struggle with verbal instructions, so I wouldn’t assume it’s necessarily an obedience issue (over my years of parenting, I often learned in retrospect that things I thought were obedience issues at the time were really a matter of not enough training, or a child’s readiness, or some other factor like that.)

I hope this helps!

Tesha

says:

Thank-you, thank-you! I really appreciate having more tips for this.

Merry at AALP

says:

I’m glad that helped!

Will this series of posts be put together in a PDF file we can download? Thanks!

Merry at AALP

says:

We don’t have posters of these unfortunately. We’ve had a number of requests for a printable version, and will contact you, as well as post online, if we come up with something. Thanks for your interest!

Merry at AALP

says:

Oops, I answered too soon, sorry! At the top of the post, there is a “print this post” link, right after the author’s name and time stamp. See if that works for you.

I’m thinking of a print-out that wouldn’t include photos, or else smaller ones, to save on ink. :-)

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Nancy,

Okay, I just talked with Marie and found out that in May, we’ll be creating a PDF with the memory series. It will be offered as a free report at the end of May. It will have very small graphics, not nearly as big as those found on the current blog posts.

I’m really excited about this! When Marie first released these blogs a few years ago, it transformed how I taught a lot of subjects for my kids. It would have been so helpful to understand when my kids were young.

For now, you can copy and paste the text into a document for your own use, and then print the file. Maybe that would work?

Thanks, Merry. Looking forward to the PDF of the memory series!

Lyndsay

says:

Thanks for this information. I believe my daughter struggles with this.

Kim

says:

Thank you so much for all of this info!

Ashley J

says:

Thank you so much for the tips! My daughter struggles in this area!

Dominique Jackson

says:

This is exactly where my son is struggling. Thank you for writing these tips!!

Elaine P.

says:

Great!

Judith Martinez

says:

Never mind the children, I need these tips for me! My working memory is terrible!

Shannon

says:

These are great tips! My son needs the info broken into manageable chunks. Your programs are spot on for this. He can be successful quickly and he gains confidence.

Renee

says:

I used these with one of my children a while back and it did help. I need to start using them with my younger ones.

Tia

says:

This is really exciting info! We’ve been working on our work environment to create few distractions and noises, at my son’s request. We had been working in the kitchen, but he said even the noise of the appliances was annoying to him at times when he was thinking really hard. In this context, it makes complete sense!

Cathy

says:

I love the activities in Blast Off to Reading! They are simple (one discrete skill) and therefore focus working memory on the task of learning the specific skill. They are short, which means the student can focus all working memory and feel satisfied quickly. The student doesn’t feel overwhelmed by a long activity. And they are fun!

Saira

says:

Thanks for sharing.

Christine

says:

This is very interesting to me. My son struggles with working memory but until reading this I did not know. I thought it was due to lack of attention. After me giving simple instructions, he will often get frustrated and say he is so confused. I have always assumed he isn’t paying attention to what I am asking of him. Thanks for the info!

Sarah

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Cherie

says:

All About Reading and AAS are working great for my grandkids.

Robin

says:

Fascinating!

Marie

says:

Thank you so much for the information. I have been struggling with one of my boys and just reading this article really clears things up and helps me to rethink things. I definitely need to work on his working memory. Thank you!

Wendi S

says:

Love these suggestions…I love to read aloud to my kiddos, never considered the benefit it could have on their memory :)

Julie

says:

Thanks for the useful info!

Gloria Phillips

says:

I enjoyed reading the tips in how to help build my sons working memory, while most days he seems to get it there are other days when he just can’t focus. Looking forward to implementing some of these.

Paul Thieken

says:

Thanks for all the wonderful info. It helps me out a ton when working with my children.

Danica

says:

My son has struggled with this quite a bit, but we are working on it :)

Leah Varner

says:

I am new to homeschooling, but look forward to checking this out. Thanks!

Britni N.

says:

I am actually covering this in my psychology 101 class right now and I found this post very insightful. Thank you! (:

Britani

says:

This will really help with my oldest. There are just some concepts she just cant seem to get past and into her head. Im excited to try something that may help!

charline avila

says:

Thank you for this information. It has put new insight into why my boys may be having trouble with some of the lessons we have been doing in school. They are 6 & 7 and I am finding they do not retain much of what we study. This has helped me see that I need to try a new approach. Thanks again.

KristenA

says:

My son is 9, and is very dyslexic. He had been attending a hybrid school since he started kindergarten. By the time we were halfway through first grade it was clear there was more going on here. We had him tested, and found out he was indeed dyslexic. We continued with tutors and remained at school. This year he is in 3rd grade, and his confidence had been lost before the first 9 weeks were through. He no longer wanted to go to school. He was now struggling full circle regardless of help and tutors using OG instruction. I pulled him from school and starting using both AAR, and AAS programs. What he has gained from these programs is amazing. He has regained his confidence, he is flourishing with these 2 programs as if they were made exclusively for him. I am not a teacher, and never saw myself homeschooling my child, it has been so rewarding to see my son happy, confidant, and truly learning and retaining. It has been life changing for both of us. We have also been able to eliminate tutors. I highly recommend these programs.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Kristen, I’m so thankful to hear that your son is finally making the breakthrough that he needed in reading. I’m sorry that he had to struggle for so long, but I’m just so happy to hear that he’s doing well and that you both can enjoy learning together now!

DawnM

says:

I have used AAR and AAS as a homeschooling mom and love it because it works! I chose this program because as an occupational therapist I saw the value in this approach to learning to read and spell. Thank you!

paul

says:

My son loves using all of the special tools to help him spell and read. He has improved so much in a year that my husband and myself can’t believe it. When he started this year he was on a low first grade reading level and now he is on a middle second grade reading level. Spelling has improved as well he actually remembers all of the rules and is spelling on a third grade level. We absolutely love the program it definitely helps a student with a learning disability.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

I’m overjoyed to hear that your son has progressed so much in a year, especially at this time in his life when learning the fundamentals (like blending and segmenting) that are so pivotal to reading down the road! Thanks for sharing your son’s achievements!

Jennifer Kimbrough

says:

We are really loving AAR level 1.

Rachael Leggans

says:

I would love to use these!

Tiffany Cooper

says:

My third grader is having trouble remembering the info to convert units for liquid measurements. Will have to use some of the tips.

Jessica Checketts

says:

This understanding of the short term memory is so helpful. We’ve been LOVING All about reading and spelling. Thank you for the added help and support through this blog!

You’re so welcome, Jessica! I’m glad that you have found our memory series to be so helpful!

gwen

says:

I have been using Level 2 with my 6 and 8 year old. My younger one is an advanced reader. My older one has dyslexia that has improved with phonics teaching, but he is still a little behind his grade level. They both love this program. It definitely keeps them interested and they love all the different activities and the magnet letters. The scripted lessons make it much easier on me. I will definitely be sticking with this program!

Caitlin Crutchfield

says:

Awesome info about working memory; this is definitely something we’ll be applying with our kiddos. :) Thank you for making such an awesome site.

Elaine Duree

says:

I love All About Learning Press. I am so impressed with it and love using it with three out of my four children so far. Thank you!

Laurie D

says:

Both of my kids and I have horrible working memory and comprehension issues when reading. My son is on the austim spectrum and just has trouble reading all together, but my daughter who is not on the spectrum also has some issues with reading and comprehnsion and is behind where she should be. I feel like I used to have a awesome memory, but it has faded… it’s almost like my kids stole a portion of my memory and we are trying to share one brain now! All about reading sounds great.

Lisa

says:

LoVe All About Spelling and All About Reading! Thank you!

erin h

says:

Great article

Shannon O'Neal

says:

Very helpful! Although getting my 2, 4 year olds quiet at the same time while the 5 & 7 years olds are doing reading and math activities can be quite difficult, which is why we save those subjects for nap time. :)

Susan Kukua

says:

Very interesting reading.

Joyce M.

says:

I do like the color coding on the tiles for Level 1. My boys can see if the word they are spelling is missing a vowel very easily (and they know from going over the blue cards that every word has to have at least one vowel).

Cami

says:

This was a very interesting post and I’m definitely dealing with working memory issues with my child. I think these programs would be a good fit for our family.

Maria

says:

Great information! This curriculum would definitely help!

Krista

says:

I have been considering these curriculums for my youngest, and it seems like they would be a great fit!

Alison

says:

This sounds like my kids!! I have wondered what is wrong, and I Think this is it! Thanks for the great post!

So glad that the post was helpful, Alison!

Thelma

says:

I’m looking forward to teaching my children how to read and really understand what they are reading with this program!

Barbie

says:

As the parent/teacher of a child with compromised working memory, I can attest to the efficacy of Marie’s methods in coping with this challenge, and thereby enabling the learning (we were told could not happen) to occur. Every point made above is valid. When assisting a student with learning difficulties, one often feels more ought to be done. I am thankful for these (blog post) reminders of what is possible when obstacles are removed.

Thanks for chiming in, Barbie! It’s always good to hear from parents who are in the trenches. You are right–it is good to have a reminder of what is possible.

jay

says:

Great curriculum!!

S.Long

says:

Great ideas! Will keep these in mind for my kiddos!

Gina

says:

Fantastic article!

Kristi

says:

I now have a name for what we’ve been experiencing! Great suggestions for building a child’s working memory.

Shannon

says:

great article!

Amy

says:

Great thoughts! I love your helpful insights.

Kathy Cade

says:

Good information. Always good to read reminders that help teach the students that have memory problems.

Charlene

says:

Thanks for this useful information!

Amber

says:

I am so happy to use products from a company that is always giving tips and advise for success! Thank You! You have been there for me for the past 5 years and look forward to the years to come!!

Merry at AALP

says:

Thanks so much for your kind note, I’ll be sure to pass this on to our team! It’s a joy to serve!

Dawne

says:

We love the success the kids experience with AAR and AAS and the confidence that comes with that success.

Steph

says:

My son is able to recall information right after hearing it, but if you ask him 10 minutes later he won’t remember the information. Therapists have said that his working memory seems to be okay, but he can’t hold on to it. What does this mean? Do you still work with it as a working memory problem?

Hi Steph,

It sounds like your son needs more review to help move the information from his short term memory to his long term memory. Here is a blog post that will be helpful to you: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/making-it-stick/.

Lisa

says:

AAS has been very effective and easy to use for us. I’m looking forward to using AAR next year. Thanks for a great product that doesn’t take a lot of planning time for busy moms.

Portia

says:

I have 2 daughters with reading and spelling challenges, and have tried many phonics and non phonics based programs to help them learn to read. AAR and AAS is a wonderful program that is daily helping my children achieve their goals! I have witnessed their working memory ability increase 10 fold over the last year. Thank you for developing this wonderful program!

Thanks for the great report, Portia!!!

Joni

says:

Thanks! As always, great information!

Julie

says:

I just had alot of bells and whistles go off in my head – Thanks for the information and tips for improving!

Kamila

says:

Any opinions on how to teach multiple age groups easy and with as little time as possible. I am teaching a lot of subject a that require me to teach each age group separately.

Emma

says:

I’m in the same boat and haven’t found an easy answer yet. I guess this is why schools were invented! One thing I do is not do a particular tutoring subject with every child every day, ie alternate, and not complete a whole lesson each time. Set a timer. Just know that the individual tutoring will pay off in the end and this stage won’t last forever.

Lilia

says:

Thanks! This will help me improve my sons memory.

Christine B

says:

We love all about reading!

Andrea

says:

Thanks for these extras! I love the AAR and AAS programs and they’ve made a big difference to my boys.

Emma

says:

Before finding AAR in late 2014 my 7yo couldn’t remember what sounds each letter made from one day to the next, or even within the same drill session. I was in despair. I had been drilling the sounds for months and months with very little result. Now we have been doing AAR 1 for a few months and although it has been hard, it is so systematic and thorough, and my child is now beginning to gain confidence in his reading, even attempting to read words in the books I read aloud to him. The way the cards are organised makes it so easy to teach and learn the sounds and words, and I don’t have to try to remember what he knows! I am so grateful to Marie and Merry at AAR. I have decided to use a similar card system with one of my other children for learning mathematics facts.

Hi Emma,

I am happy to hear that AAR Level 1 is working so well for your son! My hat is off to both of you for sticking with it, even when the going gets tough.

Merry at AALP

says:

Yes, good for you for sticking with it! Your son has made excellent progress–it’s such hard work for some kids (and therefore, for mom). Hang in there–I’m glad we could help.

Tami

says:

This is a great post. I’m going to read all the post in this series. AAR would be great for my son who is turning eight and still isn’t reading.

Teresa

says:

Thank you for this! This describes my 4 year old to a T! I have not started formall teaching him yet, but was worried about how he and I would do. I hope to implement these ideas and am more encouraged at the thought of starting with him :)

Hi Teresa,

I’m glad to hear that you were encouraged by this post! There are many informal activities that you can do with your son at this age to help him develop his working memory (crafts, cooking, following game instructions, reading aloud)–and you can have fun while you do it!

Victoria Taylor

says:

Great article! I know this an area my middle son struggles with. Thanks for the tips.

Deanna

says:

I read to my children daily, but did not know that it helped with their working memory. Thank you for the information.

Amy charbonneau

says:

Great info! Will even share with my hubby :)

Kelly

says:

Thanks for all the great tips.

Sheila

says:

I deal with students who have working memory issues…I am interested in learning more!

JenC

says:

Enjoying these memory posts and look forward to more!

Corey

says:

Great ideas! Thank you.

Christi Rainier

says:

Thank you for all these helpful blog posts!

Sherry

says:

Great information! Thank you!

Kala

says:

Thank you! My son struggles with sort term memory so these ideas are helpful

Gwen campbell

says:

Really great ideas!! Thanks for putting this together, sometimes I need reminded not to overload my son.

Susan

says:

I’m appreciating these articles on memory. I wish I had this for my older children. My youngest (now 7) is displaying some issues with memory, so I’m looking forward to trying this program.

dena Stanwood

says:

Thank you for these posts about memory. It can be challenging teaching focus and memory to my daughter.

Theresa Clark

says:

I find that sleep deprivation really decreases my working memory, and I’m sure the same is true for our kids.

Great point, Theresa! Thanks for commenting!

Amanda Greene

says:

I’m just beginning to learn about working memory and how that impacts my dyslexic child. Thank you for all the great information!

Joy

says:

What a great article! I definitely agree that smaller children…and mommies too…fair better with a few instructions at a time.

victoriya

says:

I am a speech teacher and have few children on my caseload who may benefit from this materials if i’ll be a lucky one. And anyway tx a lot for all your hard work!!!!

Julie

says:

My son definitely struggles with a poor working memory (as do I). The color coded tiles do help him a great deal!!

Diana

says:

I love this! This explains why my son does well with your Spelling program!

Wendy

says:

Great information on the working memory! I like how the AAR program helps with it, especially the lessons being systematic so the child knows what to expect at every lesson. I also like how there are minimal instructions so the child is not overloaded. I’ll be keeping the suggestions of this article in mind as we go through the program.

Sadie Heywood

says:

Thank you for the tips on how to make the working memory WORK!

Sara

says:

Thank you for this series. This info. is so helpful.

Lacey E.

says:

Thanks for all of this information on memory. Very helpful!

Angie Strobel

says:

I love the information regarding information overload! Especially the analogy of the funnel and too much information going into a child’s brain at once. Very helpful! Thank you.

Katie

says:

Very helpful information. Looking forward to using AAR next.

Sarah Larson

says:

Love this

Cristy

says:

This is helpful!!! Thank you.

steph j

says:

Thanks for all the great ideas to help with memory!

Mindy

says:

What a great reminder to limit the amount of information taught! It is easy, as a talker, to overload my students with too many words.

Bridget

says:

I read aloud to my children for at least 20 minutes a day. I love sharing good books with them. I love to have them want me to continue reading!

Christine

says:

I love AAR and AAS. I have noticed a great improvement in my 1st graders working memory due to dictating phrases as part of AAS.

Deanne

says:

Great tips. Thanks!

Swan

says:

You are right on regarding working memory challenges and how to help children overcome those challenges. Thank you!

Lori

says:

I love these memory articles. This is something that one of my children struggles with, and I appreciate the tips you are sharing.

Judith

says:

I really like the idea of reading aloud 20 minutes a day. So often we seem to expect reading comprehension, when children haven’t yet developed listening comprehension.

Wendy Clark

says:

Wow, I am new to the dyslexia world, as my son was just diagnosed last year. I am homeschooling so I need to learn all I can to help him. This sounds like a very good series.

Hi Wendy,

My son was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was younger, so I understand what you are going through. Let me know if there is anything we can do to help you and your son! You can email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com or call us at 715-480-4900 with any questions you may have.

Sarah

says:

This is very helpful, thank you!

Karen

says:

Great tips. My son with dyslexia was diagnosed with a very poor working memory.

Suzi

says:

My son has working memory issues as part of an Executive Functioning issue. Thank you for the suggestions. Will definitely apply some to him.

Jessica holm

says:

Great post! I think we all need to work on improving our “working memory”. Our son struggles with processing due to a brain abnormality. So fluency isn’t always there….Its difficult to distinguish between the two problems of working memory or processing….and I wonder if he will improve or if he will continue to struggle as he has no control over the abnormality with his brain. It can’t hurt to keep trying…which we are, but that “patience” thing you mentioned can be tried to THE MAX!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Jessica,

Yes, many times it IS difficult to “tease out” all the different strands of learning struggles. In some cases, the solutions are similar though–the things that help with working memory also often help with processing. The more you can help your son to recognize how he learns and how to accommodate his difficulties, the more he can adapt to what he needs to be successful. “Meta-cognition” (thinking about how we think) is an ongoing process, but one I’ve found useful in my homeschool.

As for patience…I think the thing that helped me most was adjusting my expectations. If my expectation is that they’re going to forget a lot and need lots of reinforcement and lots of different ways of inputting this information until it sticks…it was a bit easier to handle those days when I wanted to cry! Where did everything you knew yesterday go?! Hang in there. It really does get better.

Cindy N.

says:

Great info and tips, thanks!

Myko Mayer

says:

Greetings,

I really liked this post. Isn’t it true that we tend to forget, or overlook, the simple things. Thanks.

Michelle Autry

says:

Great information. Thank you for posting!

Becky

says:

Very interesting. I have never heard of working memory. Definitely would like to learn more about it.

Tamara Doratt

says:

This is my son to a t. I am looking foreword to implementing some of these strategies. Thanks!

amy

says:

My son really struggles with this, but I have definitely seen him grow as we keep practicing with things like dictation and narration. Thanks for the helpful info!

Misty

says:

wow…this is my daughter! Great tips! Thanks!

Rachel

says:

I could so benefit from these tips and strategies!

Tammy

says:

This blog opened my eyes when it comes to those students that I can’t get over that hump of recalling information especially when they just read it. I wonder if these strategies are still helpful at an older age.

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Tammy,

Yes, many of them are. In fact, I was going to require my teens to read these articles! As kids grow, they can take more responsibility for learning; they need to understand their strengths and weaknesses and learn to self-accommodate. If they can recognize when their environment is distracting them from being able to learn, they can take steps to change that to help their studies. They can take time to understand which methods help them better retain information. And I find the funnel concept (first article in the series) comes into play often. My son will be going to college next year, so I gave him some practice this semester–instead of telling him his daily or weekly goal in a couple of subjects, I gave him a syllabus with the name of the text, test dates, and project due dates. It’s up to him to schedule when and how to study. One day he mentioned that he thought he might read all of the chapters first, then go back and do the “reviews” to study them. Talk about funnel overload! I pointed out that it might be difficult to cram all of that information into his mind in a short time. And also that I suspected his purpose in waiting was really to delay the “not fun” part of writing–which helps him remember things. As much as he would dislike writing and taking notes as he goes–he would probably dislike it much more if he had nothing to do but write for days! Turns out that was the issue–he was wanting to put off the writing, and hadn’t thought about how much he’d dislike doing all of the writing at once!

So, work with your older students to help them start to discover things about themselves. See what creative ways they come up with to accommodate their needs and encourage learning.

Jocelyn

says:

I have noticed that reading aloud has really helped working memory with our struggling reader. Thanks for the tips!

Cathy

says:

I look forward to using these strategies.

Lacey M

says:

This is a great reminder

Janelle

says:

Thanks for the info. I worry about my own working memory. I’m constantly forgetting what I was just about to do and I get distracted by all of the small tasks that need to get done.

Merry at AALP

says:

I hear you! Studies have also shown that cutting corners on sleep can also cause issues with working memory. I do find that when I’m more tired, I’m much more likely to forget things! I do think as moms, we can get overloaded with things to do–I find making lists helps me. I do hate when I walk into a room and forget why though!

Anne

says:

Thank you for these posts!! I am learning a lot about how to better teach my children!

Denise

says:

Valuable information! Since homeschooling 2 years ago, I have seen my child grow such an amazing sense of confidence in her reading skills. I wish I would have not been so worried when we started and been able to relax about it more. Patience is so critical and sometimes in short supply!

Karen

says:

Combating distractions is always difficult because my daughter has very sensitive hearing. Even the slightest sound grabs her attention and makes it difficult for her to remember what she is doing

Merry at AALP

says:

Karen, my oldest was this way. He had to have absolute silence in order to learn to read. Sometimes this can also be a sign of an auditory processing struggle–many of the tips in this article might be helpful to you as well:

http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/auditory-processing-disorder/

I’ve found that noise-cancelling headphones or listening to music can be helpful for my kids. I also found it helpful to keep instructions shorter, to get down on their level and make direct eye contact, to show more and talk less, and to have my dd repeat instructions to herself a few times or retell them to me.

Margriet N

says:

Thankyou for this valuable information! We have finished AAS level 1 and are working on level 2 for my 7 year old, and have used AAR pre-level 1 and are now using level 1 for our 5 year old. We love this program so much, all the fun games and worksheets make it so attractive for children! They just love to learn now! I would love to have AAS level 3 and AAR level 2 next!

lauren

says:

great info…thanks!

Leah schroeder

says:

This post clarified things I had always wondered/theorized about! Thank you!

Heidi Eighme

says:

The information you provide in your All About Learning Press is presented in the same manner as your curriculum..thank-you for the excellent curriculum you provide to help us be excellent educators.

Jeannette M

says:

As a special educator, I use the spelling program with my small group of students. I have seen a difference in the way I teach the skills and their abilities to retain information. Thanks.

Angela Paul

says:

Thank you. Having patience is so important.

Sandy

says:

I love using AAR and AAS for my 9 year old with dyslexia. I’m looking forward to starting my youngest when she starts Kindergarten in the fall!

Liliane

says:

Thankyou, Marie. This was very helpful and encouraging!
I’ve been homeschooling for 8 years and have tried many different language arts programs for my, now 13 year old. However, it wasn’t till we started your AAS program, did he (we

Sarah

says:

Thank you for the opportunity. I am using AAS with my 8,10, and 12 yr. old. I started using AAR level 3 with my 8 yr.old daughter and I have seen a big improvement in her reading skills and confidence. She was in the ‘remedial’ room at her previous school and I now homeschool.

Leanne Sanchez

says:

Implementing these strategies immediately!

Kristy

says:

too bad you don’t have something for pregnancy brain!

Allison Stivers

says:

Great info!

Jennifer L

says:

Thanks for the great article. Good things that I have heard before, but needed to be reminded of… especially patience!

Theresa

says:

I love the suggestion to use crafts and recipes as opportunities to improve working memory. Memory is such a common issue with dyslexia, and yet such students are often artistic and creative. I never thought of specifically seeking out craft projects for the sake of following directions. What a great way to tie in my daughter’s interests to helping expand her memory!

Merry at AALP

says:

Great point about students with dyslexia often excelling in creativity!

Lindsay

says:

Very helpful! Thank you.

Kim

says:

I love how AAR and AAL work with my youngest child. I wish I knew about them with my older ones.

kathy

says:

love that you are doing this. I so need all of how to help memory!!!!

Vanessa

says:

Very Helpful. Thank you.

Faiza

says:

Love this post . Thank you for AAR and AAS. Love the program.

Barbara

says:

Following recipes has been a huge help for my daughter. She lives the immediate results.

Merry at AALP

says:

Great idea!

Lou

says:

Reading aloud has definitely helped my dc with working memory issues.

lynna

says:

Thank you for helping me to understand what is going on with my daughter and providing some easy steps to helping her better retain information. I will begin practicing these with her immediately!

Amber

says:

Good ideas. I think I will try moving my son to another room for some of his work to help with distractions. Never connected that to memory!

Holly Schoeppler

says:

Great suggestions; thanks for the info!

James Young

says:

As a psychology student I have to say that the information you gave about working memory and the tips you gave are spot on!

Karen

says:

These tips will come in handy when working with my daughter…

Joy

says:

Very helpful and useful information! Thank you.

Sarah

says:

Never heard about the conceot of working memory before…

Meagan Z

says:

Fantastic ideas! I never would have thought to color code the different letters. Lots of great ideas I can incorporate.

Nikki

says:

I loved this article! I have my middle boy in cognitive training right now — this is one area he is “weak” in. We’re working on growing those pathways together! Love how AAR ties it all in!

Wende

says:

I loved your article on this and I am working with a student know that I tutor and this has helped tremendously. Also shared this with his mother so she could work with the teacher on his spelling words for the week. Thanks

Julia

says:

I have heard amazing things about this program and I can’t wait to try it out with my kids!

Jennell Marks

says:

I see struggle with working memory in both of my school aged kids. I had never even heard of it before, but it is always nice to be aware of these things so that I can help them and know where they need extra work and I need to have extra patience. Thanks!

Aimee D

says:

This is a great reminder! I would add that after read-aloud time (me reading to the kids), I employ the Charlotte Mason method of narration, and I am surprised at how that helps them to retain what they have heard!

Jenn

says:

Thanks for the ABC recipes. What a great idea!

Jenn T.

says:

Thank you SO much for posting all this helpful information!!

Alicia

says:

So informative. Thanks!

Megan

says:

Great post.

Suzanne

says:

Awesome stuff, thanks

Laura Freeman

says:

Anxious to share this with friend whose son was recently diagnosed with working memory issues

Becca

says:

My oldest son (7) has Aspergers and working memory is something we struggle with during school time and non-school time!

Great informative series. Thanks.

Bethany

says:

This is very helpful! Thank you!!

LS

says:

Great information! Another reason we love AAR!!

samantha abell

says:

My daughter loves read aloud time…actually they both do. It doesn’t matter who is reading. They are thoroughly engrossed during story time. Not only is it a great time to spend together but they can just listen to the story and work on comprehension at the same time. Love AAS/AAR.

Krista

says:

This is so helpful! Thank you very much, Marie! Looking forward to making some small but potent changes in our home school :D

Susan

says:

Helpful, as always. Thank you!

KJ

says:

This would be SO useful for my 12-year old. Reading is still a struggle for him and he consistently skips over words, instead of trying to sound them out. He also becomes overwhelmed by a full page of text and requires a “reading tracker” to stay on task.

LJH

says:

Thank you so much for this information. A light bulb went off regarding struggles my daughter has.

Esther

says:

Thank you for the informative post. I believe one of my children struggle in this area and am looking forward to working to improve her working memory.

Leah Jager

says:

Such great information! Will definitely be keeping this in mind when we start our next lesson. Thanks so much!

Christin

says:

We found that many of these tips work for us as well… Will try to be more intentional with them!

Jamie

says:

I enjoyed this blog post! Thank you for sharing!

Stephanie Taylor

says:

Thanks!

Stephanie Laughlin

says:

Thanks for all of the hints. my seven year old does a lot of the things in your list. but once he really “hears” something, he never forgets!

Brooke Zimmermann

says:

I have doing a lot of research on this topic for my son who has dyslexia. Thank you for adding this very interesting and helpful information for teaching our children!

Adrienne

says:

thanks so much Marie! This is really helping my late-blooming 8yo!

Rosemary Gustin

says:

Great tips. I have to remember to only give one or two steps at a time.

Trisha DeLorme

says:

I found this article on working memory to be very informative and helpful in understanding what working memory is. My son is autistic and dyspraxic and a few other learning related issues and he has very poor working memory.

Colleen

says:

Wonderful. Thanks.

Carissa

says:

Great ideas!

M. Jackson

says:

Really great information!

Lisa

says:

Wonderful information !
Especially when working with students with auditory processing issues!
Thank you

Merry at AALP

says:

Yes, sometimes both issues can come into play. You might enjoy the tips in this Auditory Processing article as well: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/auditory-processing-disorder/

Fei Yu

says:

Thank you for the article. I think my son needs to improve his working memory.

Emily

says:

Thanks for the great tips!

Alicia

says:

Great read! Thanks you!

Julie Burke

says:

Thanks! These tips will help my kids learn better.

Jennifer Robinson

says:

This is very valuable information that I will be keeping in mind and utilizing within my school.

Shelli

says:

My son also has trouble remembering some lessons. This is really useful information and explains so much. Can’t wait to read the rest of the articles.

Michelle

says:

Thanks for this great information. My son has had trouble with memory from day to day with certain lessons. I will be looking at the rest of the memory series.

So helpful! Thank you for this!

Jaime

says:

Wow, loved this post! I had never thought about the thought process behind learning to read. Great tips.

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