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Working Memory, a component of executive functioning, is what allows us to temporarily hold and manipulate information in mind to apply in other processes. With our Working Memory, we recall and apply the knowledge stored in our Short- and Long-term Memories to understand what we are reading and to plan and structure our writing. Because Working Memory is limited in its capacity, if Working Memory becomes overtaxed, a student may seem to be distracted because they are having difficulty recalling and using information when they read and write.
Working Memory can also be called updating as it involves working with and updating information in memory. One influential model of Working Memory lays out four components, each considered to have a limited capacity. These separate components are responsible for maintaining verbal Working Memory, visual and spatial Working Memory, and for integrating information from these components that serves as a link between Long-term Memory and Working Memory. In addition, there is an executive control system which directs activities within these systems, including shifting and focusing attention between them.
Cognitive load is another important element of Working Memory and refers to the amount of mental effort being expended by Working Memory during different tasks. Cognitive Load Theory proposes that instruction can be designed in a way that reduces some components of cognitive load:
While the executive functions Inhibition and Working Memory are very much related processes and show similar developmental trajectories in childhood, they become more distinct processes during adolescence. The rapid development of the brain during adolescence leads to improvements in Working Memory capacity and efficiency.
Advance graphic organizers link prior knowledge to upcoming learning to help students anticipate and understand the structure of new information.
When annotating, students engage deeply with a text and make their thinking visible while reading.
Audiobooks allow students to hear fluent reading and experience books above their reading skills.
Checklists and rubrics help students understand expectations as they navigate more complex tasks and assignments.
When peers are able to work together to plan, draft, edit, and revise during the Composition process, their writing quality improves.
As part of a varied curriculum, explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies from teachers can help older students use strategies meaningfully and flexibly.
Seeing and using new words repeatedly and in many contexts is critical for Vocabulary acquisition.
Explicitly teaching strategies for planning, writing, and revising texts improves students' writing quality.
Interpreting and composing discipline-specific texts requires tailoring literacy strategies, like annotating or asking questions, to the disciplinary goals and practices.
Teaching students how to systematically evaluate sources prepares them to navigate in an increasingly complex, digital world.
Providing constructive feedback supports students' writing development by letting them know how to improve their writing.
As students move through multimodal stations pertaining to a particular unit, the social and physical nature of the activity supports deeper understanding.
Adding gestures and motions to complement learning activates more cognitive processes for recall and understanding, particularly within content area instruction.
Visualizing how ideas fit together helps students construct meaning and strengthens their recall.
During guided inquiry, teachers foster student autonomy by designing lessons centered on meaningful questions in which students locate, analyze, and present relevant information on their own or in small groups.
Independent reading promotes literacy by emphasizing student choice with teacher support in selecting books, as well as setting the expectations that everyone is a reader.
As students work with and process information by discussing, organizing, and sharing it together, they deepen their understanding.
Through short but regular mindfulness activities, students develop their awareness and ability to focus.
Creating patterns for remembering content information, important Vocabulary, narrative structures, etc.
Brain breaks that include movement allow learners to refresh their thinking and focus on learning new information.
Instruction in multiple formats allows students to activate different cognitive skills and Background Knowledge that are necessary to remember procedural and content information.
Connecting information to music and dance moves enhances Short-term and Long-term Memory by drawing on auditory processes and the cognitive benefits of physical activity.
When students provide constructive feedback on each other's work, they learn to give relevant suggestions, receive specific ways to improve their writing, and engage in Metacognition.
Maintaining consistent routines, structures, and supports ensures that students are able to trust and predict what will happen next.
Providing guiding prompts and questions for students to use when reading or participating in discussions deepens their understanding of texts and gives them space to question and grapple with issues of power, justice, and equity.
When teachers provide students with model texts for their writing, they learn to identify effective elements to incorporate into their own writing.
Reading aloud to adolescents models Reading Fluency as texts become more complex and disciplinary in nature and therefore, more difficult to understand.
Teachers can provide individualized support through one-on-one conferences to assess reading comprehension, understanding of content, and spark further interest in reading.
When students explain to others, they deepen their understanding and gain confidence in their learning.
Sentence frames or stems provide language support for students' writing and participation in academic discussions.
Providing a story or concept map prior to lessons or having students create their own maps during or after reading helps learners identify and organize key elements of a text.
Transforming written text into audio supports learning by activating different parts of a learner's brain for comprehension.
During reading, giving students the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud allows them to recognize the strategies they use, solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory.
Think-pair-share encourages meaningful student discussion by allowing for extra processing time and multiple shares.
Writing conferences allow students to fully immerse, share, reflect, and receive feedback during the writing process, promoting Motivation for continuing the sometimes lengthy revision process that occurs in the upper grades.
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