How can you help a child with a poor working memory to increase reading comprehension?
- Play memory games. Lay face down a deck of cards and find pairs. Or play “In my suitcase.” The first person says, “I packed my suitcase, and in it I put a ____.” The next person repeats what the first person said, and adds a second item to the suitcase. Now the first person repeats what the second person said and adds a third item. The internet offers plenty of other kinds of online games.
- Give directions one step at a time. You might say, “Put your pencil down,” and wait until the child does that. Then say, “Put the book inside your desk.” Again wait for compliance before giving the next direction.
- Use simple sentences when giving directions. Also, use transition words like “first,” “next,” and “finally.”
- Choose children’s books written mostly in simple sentences or compound sentences. If there are complex sentences, make sure they are limited to one subordinate clause and are clear.
- Ask the child to explain a complex sentence. Ask him to describe the relationship between the two parts of the sentence–cause and effect, for example, or time order.
- Eliminate distractions. At home, have the child do her homework in a quiet place with plainly painted walls and draperies. Settle the dogs down. Turn off all electronics. Even a ticking clock can interfere with a child’s concentration.
- Don’t rush a child. That stress might distract her, her working memory.
- Remind the child that she needs to remember what she reads. Later, ask her questions about what she read so she gets in the habit of remembering.
- Question a child about what she has just read. After each paragraph, or after a short conversation, ask what those sentences mean. If the child has trouble remembering the beginning part, question the child after she has read less information.