A Teacher's Guide to Supporting Pupils with Auditory Memory Problems
Auditory memory difficulties can have a significant impact on a pupil's education. This is often because auditory memory plays an important role in language processing and other cognitive skills. As a teacher, you will understand the importance of being aware of these difficulties. Knowing how to support your pupils with auditory memory difficulties is essential as it can have such an impact on educational attainment. In this blog post, we will discuss what auditory memory is, what difficulties your pupils may experience and how you can adapt your teaching methods and classroom environment to help them succeed.
Auditory memory is quite simply, the ability to remember auditory information which we have "taken in". Once this information is taken in we need to then process what has been said. In order for us to "take in" information, we need to use a number of combined skills including attending, listening, processing, storing and recalling. Children can have difficulties in one or more of these areas which can cause real challenges in the classroom. They may have difficulties in recalling information they have heard, taking part in class discussions or retaining new information which can impact their learning in a number of ways. Just like many other skills, auditory memory develops as children grow older, however, some children may have more difficulties than others and will require extra support in the classroom.
Is working memory the same as auditory memory?
The terms auditory memory and working memory are used quite interchangeably. However, auditory memory is just one type of working memory that refers specifically to remembering auditory information. Working memory can be defined as the ability to keep information in mind while we are doing something else. Working memory is one of the brain’s executive functions and is a skill that allows us to manipulate and work with information without losing focus. It involves three key skills: holding information in your mind, manipulating that information and then using it to complete a task.
How do auditory memory difficulties present in the classroom?
There are a number of signs that may indicate that a child is struggling with their auditory memory. It is important to remember that every child is different and may present differently to their peers, therefore the following list is not exhaustive.
However, some common signs to look out for include:
- Being easily distracted and having difficulty staying on task
- Finding it hard to complete tasks due to losing their place and struggling to get back on track.
- Difficulty following multi-step instructions.
- Giving up easily and appearing confused when completing school work
- Finding it challenging to follow long or complex instructions or forgetting them completely.
- Trouble following class discussions and conversations with a friend
- Difficulty switching their levels of focus and attention e.g. Children may find it hard to listen to their teacher, focus on the whiteboard and then return to their work
- Challenges learning new vocabulary due to difficulties linking and relating new information to prior semantic knowledge
- Difficulties giving a narrative or telling you what they did at the weekend
- Asking the same question multiple times
So what can you do to help?
There are a number of things you can do to support your pupils with their auditory memory skills and that support starts in the classroom. Here are some strategies on how you can adapt your classroom environment and teaching methods to support pupils with auditory memory difficulties:
- Always use the pupil's name before giving verbal instructions and make sure they are looking at you before you speak. This will help the pupil to focus their attention on you and the task at hand
- Use short, concise instructions containing simple language rather than long, complex ones. If a task requires a number of steps, provide the pupil with one step at a time and allow them time to process that information and complete the step before moving on. You could ask the pupil to repeat back what you have said to check they have understood
- Use visual support such as pictures, photos, drawings, symbols or written instructions to support the auditory information you are giving. This will help the pupil to process and store the information in their working memory
- Simplify the instruction by shortening it rather than rewording it. Do not rephrase if the child is not understanding as they will have to process new information as well as the information previously given
- Minimise the number of key points that the child has to remember. Key points can be noted down using pictures or words in an easily visible place, e.g. on the whiteboard
- Ensure that all instructions are specific and given in the order that you expect them to be carried out
- Encourage verbal rehearsal by asking your pupils to repeat the word or instruction over and over again under their breath or in their head
- Use task management and routine boards to support auditory memory by breaking tasks down into small, manageable chunks. Visual timetables and routine boards are also really useful for presenting a pupil's day in a visual and clear way
What can I do to support children in small groups?
- Play Barrier games gradually increasing the length of your instruction. You can download a free "Who am I" barrier game to use with children in your class
- Ask the pupil to follow verbal directions to draw a picture. This requires children to listen carefully, concentrate, filter out distractions, remember what the adult has said, process the directions in their minds, and then put those instructions into practice on the paper.
- When you are reading with the child, ask specific questions about the page you have just read. For example, what was the boy's name? Where did they travel to? What did they forget? etc. This will help the child learn how to extract key pieces of information from a text.
- If you have a few people, you could play a game of telephone. One person thinks of a sentence and whispers it to the person next to them. This continues until it gets back to the first person. The sentence is then said out loud and you compare it to the original to see if it has been changed.
We hope this blog has been useful in supporting you to identify pupils which may need extra support with their auditory memory and to highlight useful strategies to use in your classroom. For further information on auditory memory, check out the blogs 5 Things Teachers Ask Me About Auditory Memory and The Impact of Auditory Memory on Language Development.
If there is a child in your class you suspect may have difficulty with their auditory memory talk to one of our therapists and ask about a Speech, Language and Communication Assessment. You can call us on 0800 024 8646 or book a meeting with a therapist here.