How to Support Working Memory in the Classroom

Working Memory: What is it?

Working memory is one of the brain’s executive functions that allows us to remember something long enough to be able to use it or apply the information. It is unlike short term memory in that short term memory is brief and can be thought of as quick recall, whereas working memory is the using of that information for a purpose.

Working Memory: How does it support learning?

Working memory enables us to learn, process and make connections and ultimately allows for the transfer of information into long-term memory. Long-term memory is that bank of knowledge, skills etc. that we gather and store over a lifetime.  Working memory facilitates planning, comprehension, reasoning and problem-solving.

Working Memory Challenges: What can they look like?

Students who struggle with working memory can find everyday classroom tasks challenging. These challenges can include any of the following:

Working Memory Supports: What can teachers do?

To avoid overtaxing a student’s working memory there are specific strategies that can be used in the classroom. For example, teachers can reduce the number of items/concepts presented at any one time It is helpful to chunk and connect those ideas, so it is easy to recall. Verbal and elaborative rehearsal or practice can strengthen students’ working memory.

The following tips can reduce students working memory load in the classroom:

Working Memory Strategies: Tools to support

The below video discusses a number of strategies and tools teachers can use in their classrooms to address challenges their students might have with working memory.


Kaufman, Christopher, (2010) – Executive Function in the Classroom – Practical Strategies for Improving Performance and Enhancing Skills for All Students, Brookes Publishing

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