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Helping Kids By Reducing the Demands on Working Memory

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Note: Please read Livia McCoy's earlier post that defines working memory, before reading this blog post. Otherwise, it may not make much sense!

Imagine that your daughter has not mastered cursive handwriting. This is a likely occurrence since we are not really teaching cursive handwriting anymore! For homework, she is asked to write a story about going to the homecoming dance, and her teacher mentioned today that she would no longer accept work written in manuscript. 

Your daughter is hearing her teacher’s voice, “Students, remember that all homework must be either typewritten or in cursive! No more printing. That’s for younger students.”

Your daughter begins working on the assignment, but she has difficulty coming up with the story. She spends all her time trying to figure out how to form the cursive letters (her brother is using the computer). 

This is an example of how working memory space is completely filled up with the task of forming the letters, and there is no room left for actually coming up with the story. 

How can this problem be solved? There are several things you might do to help your daughter.

Consider taking dictation for the story. This allows her to free up her working memory to be creative.

Have her copy the story in cursive. This allows her to use her working memory capacity to practice her cursive.

Use voice-to-text software. If this tends to be a reoccurring problem, she might benefit from using voice-to-text software to do the writing. This option does require a computer.

Make sure she’s an expert computer user. Making sure she has access to a computer every day is very important for her.

We are learning more about working memory and how important it is for success in school. But, similar strategies to those mentioned here can help overcome working memory problems. It depends on what skills are deficient and occupying the working memory capacity.

Please share your own experiences: What strategies you have tried with your child that have been helpful?


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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?