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SPiCE Skillbuilding Scoop: Working Memory Skills and Strategies

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By: Jen Schehr, Intervention Specialist

Working memory, or short-term memory, refers to thoughts or information that you temporarily retain in your memory so that it is available to complete a task.  It acts as a kind of shelf in your brain that can hold several items at a time. The number of items each person can hold in his or her working memory at a time varies, as everyone develops at their own pace and has different memory capacities.  Young children may only be able to hold onto one or two items in short-term memory. Children and adults with ADHD or ADD typically struggle with weak or limited working memory. Working memory is necessary to learn new ideas and skills, follow multi-step directions, to take in new information to be committed to long-term memory, and to remember what to do or bring on any given day.

We can increase the amount and importance of information that is stored in the working memory, and help to move ideas into the long-term memory for later retrieval through several strategies.  

Let your child know when you’re about to share important information that he or she needs to remember.  Make sure you have his or her attention, provide a short count of details to be recalled, help with visualization, and have him or her repeat it back to you.

Establish a daily routine that includes putting things away in the same place every time, right away.  To avoid nagging and constant reminders, create a schedule of important steps in daily routine using pictures and words with your child.  Have him or her include what materials to bring. This can be adjusted to be most appropriate based on your child’s needs and age. Check that the child is prepared and has truly checked and completed each task or packed each needed item consistently until the routine is established, and reward that behavior.

Monotask.  Only one thing should be the focus or task at a time.  Multitasking is linked to shorter attention spans and unfinished tasks.  Limit your workspace to only the needed materials and avoid distractions.  Have a short list of what needs to be done, and do only one thing at a time.

Use multiple senses to take in and use information.  We use both verbal and non-verbal (visual and spatial) memory to take in and retain information.  Visual-spatial memory is often stronger in children, particularly those with ADHD or ADD. Pictures and images are often more powerful than words.  Visual images of the non-verbal working memory help the brain to act, and the verbal working memory acts as its guidance system. Figure out what senses or combination of senses help your child retain information best.

Break it into meaningful chunks.  Instructions and tasks should be broken into meaningful chunks, and new information can be set to songs, rhymes, pictures, or groupings which are typically stored in the brain as one chunk.  This way, more can be stored in the working memory at one time. For example, phone numbers may be stored as 3 chunks: (111)222-3333.  

Build on associations to known information.  Think of known information as hooks on a wall.  New information without any association will just “fall to the floor” without anything to hold on to, but associations give it a place to go and an avenue for retrieval.  

Add humor.  Have your child come up with a silly association, picture, or mnemonic device to remember several names or concepts.  For example, have him or her picture a funny image to recall the meaning of a vocabulary word such as nervous dogs performing a skit for the word “skittish.”

Externalizing.  Help your child to use the information and created frameworks to store and recall it.  Creating a physical representation helps to commit ideas to memory without overtaxing the brain.  There are lots of ways to do this, but here are a few that can work for students of all ages.

  1. Write it down. This uses muscle memory and so is more effective than typing it into a device.  Include imagery, not just words. This is helpful for creating everything from schedules and to-do lists to goals and notes. 
  2. Use the Color, Symbol, Image Routine to capture the essence of an idea.  After a new concept is taught or book is read, have your child identify and draw a color, a symbol, and an image that makes him or her think of the new idea, and describe the meaning of the color, symbol, and image verbally or in writing.

  3. Concept Mapping helps to externalize ideas, build connections, categorize, and prioritize the importance of concepts and details.  Post-its work well for this because they can be moved around as new information comes in or as your child makes new connections.

https://www.additudemag.com

www.visiblethinkingpz.org

https://www.cooper.com/journal/2016/08/concept-mapping-for-designers-of-the-future-2/

 

SPiCE Skillbuilding Scoop: Homework Help

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Homework Help

By Megan Sobecki, Intervention Specialist

While the beginning of the school year can bring about familiar routines, it can also bring with it the frustration of homework time. Whether your student struggles with a certain subject, organization, or time management, we hope these strategies and systems will provide your family with beneficial ideas to make this part of your day a more positive experience.

Organization

-Launching Pad

Does your child routinely forget his/her homework, planner, or lunchbox? Try creating a “launching pad” in your home. Choose a spot near the door, in a cubby, or somewhere your child can easily access.  Define the area with a bin, box, or other marking. This is the spot where your child will keep his/her backpack and other materials that need to go back and forth to school everyday. Make it an evening routine to check the launching pad.  Ensure planners and homework are zipped inside the backpack, and that lunch boxes and other items are in the launching pad as well. Making this a habit can help mornings run more smoothly and help your child to be independently responsible for his/her belongings. 

 

-Clean Sweep: Keep Archive Toss (KAT)

Papers and books can easily build up in a backpack. Set a consistent time each week to do a “clean sweep” of your child’s backpack. In just five minutes, take out old papers and items. Sort them into three categories: Keep, Archive, Toss (KAT). Items chosen for the keep pile should be organized and kept neatly in the backpack. Archived items should be kept in a predetermined bin or file. Archived items might be work your child is proud of or notes/quizzes/study guides that could be helpful later in the year. 


Prioritize

– Must Do, Should Do, Could Do

Help your child learn to prioritize his/her responsibilities by categorizing the tasks as “must do, should do, or could do.”  “Must Do” items are those with an immediate deadline or need to be addressed that evening. “Should do” tasks include those that may not be due the next day but would be beneficial to spend a little time on. “Could do” items do not need to be done for several days.

Work Time and Space

Although daily schedules can change depending on extracurriculars and family time, try to create a consistent routine as to where and when homework is completed. If your child needs a break when he/she gets home from school, set a 30 minute timer for him/her to play, eat a snack, and relax. When the 30 minutes is up, homework begins. Right before dinner or right after dinner are other effective times. Try to avoid crunching homework into bedtime. If your mornings are generally easy-going, this may be another time your child could finish up work.
Allow your child to try a few different spaces around your home to discover where he/she works best. 

– Using a timer also helps children use their time more efficiently. You may need to help them set realistic expectations for the amount of time an assignment will take.  Breaking tasks down into smaller chunks of time with a change of activity in between can also help them stay focused and motivated during the work time.


Constructive Help and Communication

– Don’t tell them how to do it! If your child is stuck or struggling, ask him/her to show you notes or examples. Respond to his/her questions with questions to get him/her thinking:  “How do you think you could start?” “What part do you feel confident about?” “Can you teach me what you know about it?”

– Ask POWERFUL questions.
Rather than asking “Do you have homework?” try asking “What are your priorities today?” When you know your child has a test, ask “What’s one thing you might do to study for your ___ test?”
If your child had a challenging task or assessment, ask “Next time, what’s one thing you might do differently to prepare?”

– Encourage your children to seek help on their own by writing the teacher an email or writing a note on the assignment to remind them to ask about it at school.

 

Homework is intended to reinforce what your child is learning in school. If your student reaches a frustration point, take a break, let the teacher know it was challenging, and positively support your child when he/she is ready to try again.

Remember, your children have already spent the majority of the day sitting and working! Time to move, play, socialize, and being with family play an important role in their success as well.

 

Resources
“7 No-Fail Strategies for Getting Homework Done on Time and Without Drama”
Ann Dolin, M.Ed.

SPICE “Get Moving” Summer Fitness

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The “Get Moving” SPiCE fitness program is returning this summer to help children get moving and into shape!  

The summer fitness program will look different this year. Students can participate in two different sessions. One session will take place from June 11th-27th, 2019 meeting twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-8.

The second session will take place from July 16th-August 1st, 2019 meeting twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-10:30.

Sign ups for each session will take place two weeks before the start of each session.

All incoming 1st-4th grade students in St. Brigid School and parish are welcome to participate. The program will be especially sensitive to kids with special needs.

Click here to sign up for the July session.

The following forms must be completed and turned in at your child’s first session:

  1. Medical Form
  2. Consent Form