Understanding: Auditory Working Memory

There are two types of memory, working memory and long-term memory. Students whose Areas for Growth include Working Memory have difficulties passing information from their working (immediate) memory to their long term (storage) memory. Imagine if you had five people yelling at you all the time, and you had to accomplish each goal you were being told. While that is something you’d be able to eventually process and accomplish, it would require develop specific skill sets, and the use of self-selected tools like note pads, check lists, or recordings. By looking at auditory working memory, you’ll understand how to best deliver information for student learning.

From the Experts

Working memory is the ability to temporarily hold on to information while the mind is busy with another task. In the classroom, working memory is critical to learning situations involving literacy and numeracy; it is also vital to social situations.

[A]pproximately 70% of students with LDs in reading score very low on working memory assessments—something that is very rarely seen in students who do not have LDs.

LD at School: https://www.ldatschool.ca/working-memory-difficulties/
Photo by @chairulfajar_ on Unsplash

How Auditory Working Memory Impacts our Students

Students who have Auditory Working Memory as an Area for Growth have specific difficulty when processing information that they hear.  It is for this reason that students need to be provided with a multimodal approach to the delivery of information.

Teachers may question why students don’t know what to do after being told the instructions two, three, or even four times.  For students who have difficulties with their auditory working memory, it isn’t that they aren’t paying attention, it’s that they can’t process the information and move it from working memory to long term memory.

Explicit Strategies

To accommodate for this need, students must have explicit strategies taught to them.  These can be interwoven with explicit classroom teaching. 

For example, students with auditory working memory as an Area for Growth will benefit from closed captions being turned on for videos.  Even auto-generated captions (available with almost all YouTube videos) will enhance their learning.

Additionally, students will benefit from having a written copy of their instructions on the assignment sheet, complementing the oral instructions.  Providing an opportunity for students to make small annotations in structured sections on the sheet will also aid in shifting information from working memory to long term memory.

Task Initiation

Students whose Areas for Growth include Working Memory often have difficulties with task initiation and task completion.  This is not due to a lack of understanding, or a lack of learning, but instead due to difficulties in processing the provided instructions.

When we recognize that students may have Auditory or Written working memory as and Area for Growth, understand how a multimodal approach to teaching and learning creates the structure for all learners in our classroom.  When students are presented with information in a variety of modalities they can approach it in the way that best suits their needs, demonstrating the fact that what is necessary for some, is good for all.

Looking at Other Areas for Growth



Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s