Enhancing Working Memory and Fluency in the Classroom: The MTC Check and SENCO Strategies

by | Jun 11, 2024

SENCO Snippet: Working Memory, Fluency, and the MTC Check

Understanding Working Memory: Working memory can be likened to the chalk roller boards that were common in classrooms until the late 1990s. These boards had limited space for writing, and once filled, the content had to be rolled up to make room for new information. This analogy helps us understand the constraints and functionality of working memory.
The Chalk Roller Board Analogy: Imagine working memory as a chalk roller board:
  • Limited Space: Just as the roller board could only display a finite amount of information at once, working memory can only hold a limited number of items.
  • Rolling Back: You could roll the board back a couple of steps to review previous information. Similarly, students can sometimes recall recent information.
  • Overwriting Information: If too much new information is added and the board is rolled too far, the original content is lost and must be rewritten. In working memory, when too much new information is introduced, earlier information can be overwritten, causing the student to lose track and start over.
Fluency and Working Memory: Fluency, especially in foundational skills such as multiplication, plays a crucial role in freeing up working memory. This week, many Year 4 students are taking the Multiplication Tables Check (MTC). Being fluent in multiplication facts helps students perform more complex tasks without overloading their working memory.
How Fluency Assists Working Memory:
  1. Automatic Recall:
    • When students can automatically recall multiplication facts, they use less working memory for basic calculations. This leaves more space for processing higher-level concepts and solving complex problems.
  2. Reduced Cognitive Load:
    • Fluency reduces the cognitive load, enabling students to focus on understanding and applying new information rather than getting bogged down by basic operations.
  3. Enhanced Problem-Solving:
    • Students with strong fluency can approach problem-solving with greater ease and confidence. They can allocate their working memory resources to analysing and tackling the problem rather than recalling foundational facts.
Strategies to Support Working Memory and Fluency in the Classroom:
  1. Chunk Information:
    • Break down complex information into smaller, manageable chunks. This makes it easier for students to process and retain information without overloading their working memory.
  2. Use Repetition and Review:
    • Regularly review previously covered material to reinforce learning. This practice helps students recall and consolidate information, similar to rolling the board back to revisit key points.
  3. Provide Visual Supports:
    • Use visual aids such as charts, diagrams, and post-it notes to support verbal instructions. Visuals serve as external memory aids, helping students keep track of information without relying solely on their working memory.
  4. Encourage Practice for Fluency:
    • Incorporate regular practice sessions for multiplication facts and other foundational skills. Tools like flashcards, multiplication games, and timed quizzes can help build automatic recall.
  5. Allow Processing Time:
    • Give students sufficient time to process information and respond to questions. Avoid rushing through instructions or introducing too many concepts at once.
By understanding working memory through the chalk roller board analogy and linking it to fluency, we can better support SEN students during important assessments like the MTC. These strategies not only enhance learning but also foster a more inclusive and effective classroom environment.

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