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What is Working Memory?

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Executive Functioning | 0 comments

Working Memory describes the ability to hold information in mind while performing complex tasks that involve remembering, processing, or acting on that stored information. It also incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experiences, to apply to a present or future situation.

Students who experience difficulty with working memory, often have trouble planning, organizing, and carrying out routine tasks. 

How Difficulties with Working Memory May Manifest in Students: 

  • Following multi-step directions
  • Completing multi-step tasks
  • Frequent re-reading to understand what has been previously read
  • The necessity to write everything thing down in an effort to not forget
  • Struggling with simple computations 

What Are Some Accommodations? 

  • Break down information, tasks, and assignments into small, actionable steps and check in before starting the next step or presenting new information
  • Offer breaks during tasks that require sustained attention
  • Encourage the use of graphic organizers 
  • Allow students to discuss or use think alouds for their understanding of a new concept 
  • Encourage students to read out loud 
  • Use dictation software programs 
  • Provide audio or e-books 

Supporting Students with Working Memory Difficulties

School Psychologists can consult teachers to adjust their instructional practice to include the following strategies: 

  • Play games that involve remembering steps, singing songs, or making up rhymes or mnemonic devices
  • Provide students with visual prompts as well as associated non-verbal signals 
  • Pair verbal lessons with visuals 
  • Be as concise and direct as possible with instructions and directions (i.e. give multi-step directions, one step at a time)
  • Teach students how to paraphrase and make brief notes for themselves or provide them with a visual checklist of steps to follow
  • Provide graphic organizers of spelling words, order of mathematical operations, and general reminders about classroom routines 

For more information, check out our guide by clicking the button below.


Matheis, L. (2021). How to help children with working memory deficits. https://www.additudemag.com/how-to-help-children-with-working-memory-deficits/ 

Dawson, P. & Guare, R. (2018). Executive skills in children and adolescents: A practical guide to assessment and intervention (3rd ed.). The Guilford Publications Inc.
Dawson, P., Guare, R., & Guare, C. (2013). Smart but scattered teens. The Guilford Publications Inc.

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