Sunday, 27 January 2013

Poll for #NIedchat on Wednesday 30th January

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Working Memory Difficulties

@littleladyjayne was our guest host on #NIedchat on Wednesday 17th January 2013. She has kindly agreed to share her knowledge of how teachers can recognise and help pupils with working memory difficulties.

'Maze Puzzle (Blender)' photo (c) 2012, FutUndBeidl - license:“Approximately 10% of children have a poor working memory” (Gathercole & Alloway 2008)

What is working memory?

Working memory is what enables us to keep several pieces of information active while we try to do something with them. Working memory is quite purposeful -- we hold all these pieces of information together in order to solve a problem or carry out a task.

How do we identify these children in our classrooms?

Typically, children with poor working memory:

• are reserved in group activities in the classroom, rarely volunteering
answers and sometimes not answering direct questions.
• behave as though they have not paid attention, for example forgetting
part or all of instructions or messages, or not seeing tasks through
to completion
• frequently lose their place in complicated tasks that they may
eventually abandon
• forget the content of messages and instructions
• make poor academic progress during the school years, particularly
in the areas of reading and mathematics
• are considered by their teachers to have short attention spans and
also to be easily distracted.

Children who suffer from working memory difficulties may have a specific learning need such as
Asperger’s Syndrome

How can we help these children?

Frequently repeat important information
It is good practice when working with children with working memory difficulties to regularly repeat information that is vital to ongoing activities. This will include:  
• general classroom management instructions;
• task-specific instructions (brief & simple steps);
• Children should also be encouraged to ask for information to be repeated if they forget.

Encourage the use of memory aids/visual tools

  • number lines
  • multiplication grids
  • personal dictionary
  • wall charts
  • audio devices
  • computer software


  • Daily timetables
  • List of items needed for various classes/activities
  • Diaries

  • Copying from the board should be avoided
  • Use alternative methods of recording eg mind maps, diagrams, storyboards, dictaphone
  • Encourage joined handwriting ( reduces place finding and orientation difficulties)
  • Dictation sentences are a good method of practising and testing spelling.
  • An alternative to reading comprehension - cloze passages/ sentence completion exercise/ paragraph analysis

Brain Training Activities to improve working memory

  • Yes hunt out Dr K’s Brain Training DS game you know you have it somewhere.
  • Digit recall - Call out about 5 numbers then get students to repeat them to you ( not as easy as it sounds)
  • Object recall - as above only object names ( like a prize list in a game show )
  • Directions recall - call out directions and get students to recall ( Touch head ,eye,ear toes, knees ) in order.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Does Homework have an educational value?

It was no surprise that this topic attracted a lot strong views but what was surprising (for me anyhow) was the strength of feeling against  traditional homework routines. It was generally agreed that a number of myths surround homework:

1. The setting of homework is the mark of a good teacher.
2. Homework promotes independent study/learning
3. Homework provides an necessary home-school link

The consensus seems to be that the setting of traditional type homework task are generally no more that time fillers. Homework is set because teachers feel that parents and school leaders expect it to be set, not because pupils need it. It does not promote independent study as children are compelled to complete it in a specified manner and quite often they learn to resent independent study. Many participants also resented the fact that the needs of the school came first in their relationship with their children and would be happier if they , as parents, could decide on evening activities for their children.

Effective Homework

A discussion on 'effective homework tasks' developed and it was interesting to read the types of activities that are being set

* designing new chocolate bars
* Facebook group discussions
* Optional maths puzzles
* Blogging - Learning journal
* Using LNI or Edmodo to put all homework activities online

A collaborative document was hastily set up to collect ideas on what 'Effective Homework' looks like and what our guiding principles should be when assigning a homework task. You can view it and add ideas here.

Selected Tweets

Below are selected tweets from the discussion. A full transcript of the discussion is available here.

Would we ask most adults to work from 5pm to 8pm most evenings - repeating stuff they did during day? ~ @computing_teach

Homework can be so generic, leaving little room for differentiation, not to mention stressful for SEN pupils, major de-motivator! ~ @MrsAMcCrory

I liked a teacher who didn't just give homework but gave you something to think about! ~ @donn00

Surely if a pupil is enthused about a topic you have been teaching they would go home and further their knowledge? ~ @bcripps078

As a parent I'm dreading t thought of my son starting school and getting hwk! Wld prefer to choose how I spend my time with him! ~ @kmi_edu

read somewhere that traditionally teachers wanted to control students home environment as well as classroom ~ @johnmayo

Found in ks3 maths, lots of hw needed to cover course. In ICT, plenty just love Scratch and don't
need to be asked ~ @computing_teach

Homework is still very relevant and useful although we will need to update our views, things like
Edmodo etc can greatly help ~ @keenan_robbie

too many home works are just time fillers and it turns students off work at home. It
needs to challenge ~ @PeadarHynes

[Homework has] no value...source of stress for families, pain for teachers.. With range of abilities in class, v hard 2 strike balance 2 suit all ~ @CathyabcCathy

I had a teacher who gave tons of HW so seen to be "a good teacher" - so bad in classroom only way we learnt was doing HW ~ @johnmayo

We may need to change views. many think that if their child has no homework they are not learning
and you're not doing your job ~ @keenan_robbie

We set easy tasks because teachers have done that for years, and because we haven't time to mark better stuff!~ @computing_teach

Really need to rethink homework. It seems to be one of the major stresses for families.
Is greater use of ICT the answer? ~ @s7teach

I tend to suggest small tasks on our class Facebook groups. Committed students do the work & others learn from their shared work ~ @camaxwell

I give optional maths puzzles on class blog every night using puzzles from 7Puzzle Blog. Lots of kids love these. ~ @seomraranga

When I was a student I never saw the point of homework and I see it even less as a teacher. ~ @dmurray742

Can't wait for homework in a few weeks! Design & make a new chocolate bar & wrapping!! Turns into a chocolate feast! ~ @MrMalcontent