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“Working and learning together to improve children’s lives”



Starting points for the knowledge rich curriculum – working memory

Posted 6/2/2019

As highlighted in the previous blog too many distractions in a lesson prevent the learner from fully focusing on acquiring and deepening knowledge.

Considering working memory is another key factor in the shift to more knowledge rich teaching. Many primary school lessons include a wide range of activities and tasks. However, when there are too many activities in a lesson it overloads pupils’ working memory and prevents effective learning. Research shows that on average pupils’ working memory will struggle to focus on learning if there are more than four different elements to remember in a lesson.

There will be some pupils in each class that will have low working memory and may only be able to concentrate on one or two things during their learning.


It is vital that teachers consider working memory when planning knowledge rich lessons. Long term memory grows by pupils regularly using their working memory.


Colleagues exploring how working memory works in teaching would benefit from watching the following video clips:


Canadian TV show for parents provides a clear account of working memory; the expert provides helpful practical examples to explain memory. This can be found at the following link:


For a detailed account of research into working memory watch Dr Joni Holmes presentation at the following link:


This research identified ways to support pupils with low working memory and the download of this document is available here  to support your improvement work.


Remember a knowledge rich curriculum must be built on knowledge rich teaching.


DP 06/02/19

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