With the long summer days coming to an end, parents and children are starting to prepare for school. As you get ready with new backpacks, notebooks, and other important school supplies, don’t forget the most important learning tool—Working Memory.
Working Memory is our ability to work with information. We like to think of working memory as the brain’s Conductor. The conductor brings all the different instruments of an orchestra under control and makes it possible to play beautiful music. Without the conductor, the piccolo might tweet before the violin section, or the timpani (those large drums at the back) might start thundering away when the piano was supposed to begin. Just like the music conductor brings order to chaos, the working memory conductor brings order to the oceans of information we are faced with daily.
Your working memory Conductor has two main functions:
• It prioritizes and processes a limited amount of information.
• It keeps the information as long as you need to work with it.
Children must constantly use their working memory in the classroom.
- To inhibit distracting information, like their schoolmates whispering near them or the bright pink of the backpack in front of them. It also helps them to keep track of where they are in a multistep task.
- To work with the information—the numbers, letters, or words they need to think about to complete an assignment.
- To hold the information for a limited amount of time, as well as helping them complete the tasks as quickly as possible.
Psychologists tested the role of Working Memory in classroom activities. They recruited kindergarteners and gave them a standardized Working Memory test in order to identify those with low working memory (standard scores <85) and those with average working memory (standard scores between 95-105).