Friday, March 4, 2011

Reading Comprehension and Working Memory

Reading Comprehension and Working Memory

Students with reading difficulties may have one of three cognitive deficits that need addressing. The easiest to address is a second language learner that needs more time learning a new language. Most difficult to address is a learner with an auditory processing deficit or cognitive impairment. Finally the least common cognitive deficit is a learner that is dyslexic. The latter two are a grey area in many classrooms and at times never diagnosed or understood by teachers or parents. A teacher may assume a child is suffering with attention problems when they may just have very poor auditory processing skills. Teachers often see some students make great gains using a reading system while others students are stagnant or regress, and they have no clue why. Using a published reading program to address all reading difficulties is nigh impossible without a clear understanding of a students auditory processing/echoic memory ability. What is the solution to help all students succeed?
     Auditory processing enhancement and working memory augmentation in the form of brain work is essential to helping all students maximize learning. Academic achievement is slow or impossible if you are not augmenting working memory and enhancing auditory processing. Time and best practice will negate all but the most severe and profounds cognitive deficit that hinders academic progress.

Remedial reading programs must meet the needs of a diverse student population. Finding great methods to use with at-risk students is difficult at times.The best single resource that I have found is a reading handbook published by New South Wales Public Schools. The book is free online and has given me many great ideas to help learning disabled students. Reading Handbook!
Fluency Drills and Assessments for all Grades!

A quick assessment for auditory processes deficit or dyslexia:
  • Students with dyslexia will tend to be very intelligent with excellent auditory processing skills.
  • Students with a cognitive deficit will struggle with basic auditory processing/echoic memory skills.
     Assessing students cognitive ability is essential to understand students needs. A strong understanding of what you are assessing is also imperative for teachers. A quick echoic memory assessment for your students: Read a level sentence to the student and then ask them to repeat the sentence exactly.

  • MODERATELY DIFFICULT  ASSESSMENT! SILVER, FRIEND, RUNNING, APPLE, INSIDE, FARMER, DANCE. QUICK PAUSE. Have student repeat. 8,4,7,3,1,9,2. QUICK PAUSE. Have student repeat. Students with excellent echoic memory will recite the sentences, words or numbers with little or no errors. 
  • Repeat the assessment with a new sentence telling the student that they have to hold the sentence in their memory for 10 seconds and then recite it with no errors. Students that struggle with reading yet can do this task with ease may be your students with dyslexia. Many students today have an underdeveloped echoic memory or show poor listening skills. Poor listening skills will impact all areas of academics if not corrected and addressed.

     Training the echoic memory will benefit all students and help make dramatic changes in academic outcomes for all students. Boosting listening skills with games and activities will produce very quick academic results. Students need to sing, reread, repeat passages, words, sentences, poems, and directions over and over in their head, and then rehearse it in echoic memory to build the neural pathways. Students will have difficulties with auditory task at first if they have not trained extensively to attend and focus on echoic memory. The key to sustained longterm success is duration and frequency of the echoic memory activities. 

  • Activities to build echoic memory or improving auditory processing. 
  • Learning the lyrics to a great song
  • Memorizing a stanza from a poem
  • Reciting and rehearsing during vocabulary activities
  • Playing telephone
  • Read, reread, repeat, rehearse, recite
Wiki definitions:
  • "Working memory is the ability to actively hold information in the mind needed to do complex tasks such as reasoning, comprehension and learning. Working memory tasks are those that require the goal-oriented active monitoring or manipulation of information or behaviors in the face of interfering processes and distractions. The cognitive processes involved include the executive and attention control of short-term memory which provide for the interim integration, processing, disposal, and retrieval of information. Working memory is a theoretical concept central both to cognitive psychology and neuroscience."
  • "Echoic memory, the auditory version of sensory memory, refers to the phenomenon in which there is a brief mental echo that continues to sound after an auditory stimulus has been heard. In comparison to sensory and iconic memory, echoic memory is thought to last a little longer, for upwards of about three or four seconds. Due to its short span, echoic memory is a type of sensory memory as the echoic memories are temporal and last only for a brief period of time."
More to Come on Dyslexia and English Language learners

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