At Meriden, we always seek to improve our practice and ensure our teaching is as effective as possible. Our teaching is informed by research from cognitive psychology about how children learn most effectively.
Working memory and long-term memory
The working memory is a bit like a mental workspace. It has a finite capacity (evidence suggests that the working memory can hold approximately seven chunks of information) and is where we hold information we are dealing with and using at the time. For example, if you are trying to solve a mathematical problem, all of the numbers and information you need
while trying to solve the problem will be held in your working memory. If you were given a set of instructions to remember and follow, you would hold them in your working memory. It can sometimes be useful to think of working memory like a mental post-it note. You can only hold so much on it; it can be easily lost but you can keep it if you put it somewhere safe.
Children will find tasks easier if their working memory is not overloaded.
As teachers, we try to design our lessons and the tasks we give children so that they do not place too many demands on the children's working memories. Supporting pupils to become more fluent with certain aspects of the curriculum - spelling high frequency words, memorising times tables for example - reduces the demands on children's working memory.
Long-term memory is sometimes thought of like a library, with memories catalogued and stored away. Research suggests that long-term memory is much more complex than this. Long-term memory generally has four stages: encoding, consolidation, storage and retrieval. Information is encoded if we attend to it and engage with it in a meaningful way. It has to be consolidated if we are going to remember it, as we immediately start to forget new information. We store the memory, but need to continue to retrieve it, reconstruct it, reactivate it and re-consolidate it if we are going to be able to continue to retrieve it in the future. Making links with what we already know helps us to encode new information and retrieve it more easily. We carefully sequence our curriculum so that children follow a clear progression of knowledge and skills, building on, and reconstructing, their prior learning.
For more information on our curriculum progression, visit the curriculum pages.
Retrieval and spaced practice
In order to ensure that children are able to retrieve their learning in the future, and that the learning is retained in children's long-term memories, we regularly use retrieval practice activities in school. These activities often take the form of quizzes, but can also involve flashcards, written tasks or drawing activities. The knowledge that all children should learn
in each of our topics is set out in the knowledge organisers. These are sent home at the start of each new topic. This video (right) about knowledge organisers and retrieval gives you more information about this.
Research shows that spacing out retrieval exercises will make it more likely that the learning will be retained. This year, we have introduced 'Flashback
Friday' in Maths. In these weekly sessions, children practice key Maths learning from the previous week, month and term. We have also tried to ensure that homework tasks include revision of previous learning. Teachers regularly review the knowledge organisers from previous topics and build in retrieval exercises that require children to think back to their learning from previous days, weeks and terms.
The importance of sleep
Research has shown that sleep has a vital role to play in learning. Firstly, a child who has not had adequate sleep will not be able to concentrate and attend to their lessons, meaning they
will be less likely to process what they are learning. If a child is lacking sleep, the new learning will probably not go into their long-term memory. Secondly, sleep plays a vital role in the consolidation of new learning. When we are asleep, the brain reactivates and reorganises what we have learned in the day. We need sleep in order to store our learning properly.
This NHS webpage can help you to find out more about healthy sleep in children: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/healthy-sleep-tips-for-children/
Children of 6 to 12 years of age need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a night. If your child is not getting the sleep they need, this could be having a negative impact on their learning.
If you would like more information about any of the topics covered on this page, please contact your child's class teacher or Mrs Evans, who is leading on effective learning strategies across school.