Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Memory is More Complicated than you Think

There are 3 components to memory. The first is short term, where we sort through all the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic stimuli coming at us and select something to hold briefly in our minds. You can see how attention would affect this ability to sort, choose, and hold onto relevant information.

The next is long term memory. Review puts thing into short term memory repeatedly, which allows it to move to long term memory. Getting to know how much review you need and which modalities (sight, sound, feel, touch) are best for you is helpful in developing efficient study habits. It is important to note that lots of short reviews are more effective because attention wanes during long repetitive study sessions. Research has also indicated that reviewing material before sleeping aids movement to long term memory. Having material well organized and hooked to previously learned material also makes it easier to retrieve later when you need it.

The third component of memory is Active Working Memory. This is heavily affected by attention as well. I have heard the analogy of a work table. Imagine some students having a large table for all their supplies for a craft project. Others are working off a TV tray. In active working memory, you must combine new information and instructions with stored information. Holding all that in a smaller space correlates with craft supplies continuing to fall off the table and when you pick one up, another falls. An example would be the child who knows multiplication facts very well in isolation, but has trouble applying them while learning to do long division. Think of all the skills, steps, and information necessary to learn long division, and you may need to allow a student to use a fact chart (who normally doesn't need it) and provide a list of steps for problem completion.

Some other factors that can affect Active Working Memory are:

Some stored facts are easier to retrieve than others
Lack of energy to focus on multiple tasks may be due to physical, emotional, social, or attention issues

Examples where it may become evident due to the complicated process:

In Written Expression, you must apply Letter formation, Spelling, Grammar, Capitalization, & Punctuation, and Organization of Thoughts
In Fill in the Blanks, you must Retrieving answers from words in the vocabulary and have Knowledge of Spelling
In Matching, you must Discern words and meanings and retrieve from your entire vocabulary (word bank may be helpful to narrow choices)

Suggested accommodations to consider:

1.Help students over learn skills so they are automatic and maintained over time
2.Provide references, such as fact charts, word banks, checklists, & formulas
3. Written Expression: Write topic ideas on visual organizer, Allow use of spelling aid, Allow use of most comfortable writing mode, Use editing checklists
4.Long Division: Allow use of fact chart or calculator, Allow use of steps during homework & tests 5. Fill in the Blank: Provide a word bank, Reading question to student to aid understanding
6.Matching: Break into groups of 4 or 5, Identify matching groups, Reading choices (hearing sometimes helps if reading is not fluent)

Memory is something children may need lots of guidance with to develop to potential. Be aware how much attention and available energy stores affect it as well.

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