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Working Memory Strategies

Page history last edited by fran toomey 13 years, 7 months ago

Some Working Memory Representaions:  Workbenches from http://www.flickr.com/photos/7ggk/favorites/


    Dreams of Flight by dannysoar                                                                                                  Gary's HomeMade Jeweler's Workbench by SeaGlassJeweler 

    Making Airplanes                                               Constructing Something                                                           Designing Jewelry 


Working Memory is about "doing something" with the information/ideas you've retrieved from LTM and STM.  Sometimes we decide on the "something" to do ourselves and sometimes our teacher(s) assign us tasks that require doing something.  The "something" might involve designing, summarizing, synthesizing, analyzing, integrating, critiquing....and on and on.  We call these "doings" cognitive operations.  That is, we operate on information/ideas mentally.  These operations require actively retrieving and manipulating information from LTM and STM.  The challenge with working memory is keeping "all the balls in the air" (or on the workbench, or in your conscious attention) while we do this task.







What kinds of strategies do you use to  keep all the information/ideas on the workbench while you are working?

For example, if you were writing an essay, you might want to consider the following strategies:


1) Retrieve the relevant information from LTM?

^Do you have a Folder labeled "Writing" with pages for different genre?

^Do you have an example file stored in LTM

^Do you have a rubric stored in LTM or the location of such a file/page.


What if you don't have the information/ideas you need stored in LTM?

^Do you have available complarable examples you can work from?


2)  Control what you can.

^Use a hard copy template for essay writing.

^Write down the directions.

^Set up your computer for easy screen switching if possible.

^Work in a quiet space without distractions that could "capture" your attention and use up a "slot."


3) Use checklists or cue cards to help you stay on track.





 Stop sign on blue cloudy sky by emagine6.


Stop and Record, Think About, and/or Elaborate what

you've read so far. 



Here are a few examples of tasks that put heavy demands on Working Memory:

Writing an Essay in History Class.

You are assigned the task of Writing an Essay about the Costs/Benefits of the American Revolution from the perspectivesof  family members where one person is a Loyalist and one is a Revolutionary.


From Long Term Memory you have to retrieve

1.  What it means to write an essay

      2.   within an historic framework (credibility of sources is important)

3.  An overview of the American Revolution

        4.  including our knowlede of what and how Loyalist and Revolutionary figures might think about costs/benefits.


From Short Term Memory we have to retrieve

1.  The directions including (a) format to use, (b) due date, (c) possible resources.

2.  Where we left our writing notebook we just had.


Keeping your Memory Manager working to:

1.  Keep track of the resources you need.

2.  Choosing and Monitoring strategies

3.  Searching for a new Strategy if the present one isn't working.

4.  Finding ways to ignore or avoid unwanted distractions.

Stop sign on blue cloudy sky by emagine6.


Stop and Record, Think About, and/or Elaborate what

you've read so far. 


2)  Another example is shopping at a grocery store.  Think of all the information you need to bring from LTM (you schema for grocery store shopping, your knowledge of nutrition, your knowledge of your family's eating needs and habits, each items quality/cost).   Think about keeping 30 items in STM as you shop.  Think about the WM distractions of shopping wih a 2 year old, while trying to calculate what you bill will be.  Think about some strategies you could use to make this task manageable:  lists, calculators, store codes for nutrition (Price Chopper), grouping items into categories.  


3) For other examples of tasks that challeng WM, think of the typical tasks you have to do in class:  Summarizing information, Comparing two or more things, Analyzing an historic docment, Algebra Word Problems, Generating questions as you listen to a presentation, Designing a science experiment, etc..


The Magic Number 7+/-2 (Slots)

Many cognitive psychologists think that the average adult can "pay attention to" 5-9 "items" on their workbench while they do a task.  Of course, if you are under 18 (not an "adult") your average working memory span would be more like 4+/- 2 (So 2-6) items).  There are two important tools for maximizing your working memory span:  (1) Changing what you can pack into an "item/slot".  and (2) Doing a good job of memory management.


(1)  Item packing.   An "item" is whatever will fit into a memory slot.  For example:  the following list could be 9 items or 3.   Grapes, soap, bread, cookies, bananas, sunblock, shampoo, pie, watermellon.  (Fruit, Personal Care Items, Baked Goods)  When you put "items" into some kind of superstructure (a semantic map, tree diagram, outline), you can use the titles and subtitles to act as slots.


So, for example, I can package "items" into the following slots:            



Remembering Oveview  (slot)

^Memory Test 

^Metememory Questionnaire

Managing Memory   (slot)


Memory Strategies  (LTM) (slot)

   ^Readings 1 Task

   ^Working Memory Strategies  

   ^Short Term Memory Strategies 

   ^Mnemonic Strategies   



(2)  Memory Management.  Learn to develop and use your Memory Management skills. 

See the Memory Management page if you forgot what Memory Management is. 


Stop sign on blue cloudy sky by emagine6.


Stop and Record, Think About, and/or Elaborate what

you've read so far. 



So,  4 good general strategies for WM will bring you luck:

1)  Keep your Memory Manager Active.  Plan, Monitor and Evaluate your memory strategies. One way to manage is by working on selective attention--learning to ignore irrelevant information that might highjack space in your working memory.  Another way to mange is by letting your teachers kow when you ar getting overloaded with information (raise your hand, ask Qs, ask for help.  You teacher might even have a signal you can use when you are feeling overloaded.

2)  Stop and Record is information that is in STM in a tangible form as you "collect" it: (notes, highlights, underline, copies).   I'd suggest you put these 4 strategies on a 3x5 index card and use them when your memory feels overloaded while you are doing a task.                  

3) Plan  to call on LTM to retrieve the information you will need for the task before you start the task.

4) Pack Carefully:  Put as much into a slot as you can by organizing the information and give it a lable that will make retrieval easy. This should be stored in LTM.




Memory Manager  

Remembering Overview











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