Verbal working memory involves the ability to remember something and to perform an activity using this memory. Verbal working memory helps maintain information in mind to use for learning, reasoning, or producing a result. At home this could be seen when shutting off the television while remembering to gather your coat and keys before leaving the house. In the classroom verbal working memory is crucial for taking notes, following directions, and doing math word problems. Verbal working memory in the classroom plays an important role in learning to decode words, promoting reading fluency, and, more powerfully, developing reading comprehension. Working memory involves storing information temporarily and using that information in problem solving, motor activities, and self-control.
The impact of verbal working memory in the classroom can also be seen in students’ ability to focus and sustain effort. Kids with weakness in verbal working memory often forget what they are doing and are more likely to get off-track. They may struggle to remember the rules of a game or classroom activity and be inconsistent in using previous classroom experiences of learning in new situations. Kids with weak working- memory skills often need help from teachers to remember directions and are confused while attempting to complete multi-step mathematical problems or master complex materials in science.
We encourage educators to learn more about the skill of working memory that is so important in the classroom. Many teachers have heard about working memory but have limited training in helping students with weak working-memory skills. We have selected a group of websites and research articles that can provide teachers with an in-depth but practical understanding of verbal working memory in the classroom.
For more information on verbal working memory, visit these websites and articles:
LearningWorks for Kids: What is Working Memory? This webpage defines working memory and explains how kids improve their working memory by playing video games. It includes a video to explain in further detail.
National Institutes of Health This online article details research on the topic and explains the differences among long-term, short-term, and working memory in thorough, extensive detail.
Understood.org This website discusses five different ways children use working memory and explains why it is important. It also briefly explains ways that parents can help their children practice their working memory.
LearningWorks for Kids: Five Ways to Build Your Child’s Working Memory Skills This webpage explains five different ways to help children practice and improve their working-memory skills.
The Cognitive and Behavioral Characteristics of Children With Low Working Memory This article includes a study that explores the cognitive and behavioral profiles of children with working-memory impairments and gives an overview of working-memory deficits in children.
Working memory and mathematics: A review of developmental, individual difference, and cognitive approaches This article contains detailed information on the relationship between working memory and mathematics.
Is Working Memory Training Effective? This article, published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology, discusses the potential of working-memory training in youth.