Some children have excellent eidetic or photographic memory. This is a good skill to have when playing Pairs – providing people put the cards back in the same place! These kids may also be able to observe a display of pictures and, when the display is removed, arrange separate pictures to make the same layout. When trying to remember things heard but not seen, it can get much more difficult for some.

I have observed that children seem to remember more if they see a relevant illustration while hearing information. Repetition helps too. As does ‘chunking’ the information (i.e. splitting it up into smaller units which make sense), and leaving gaps between saying the separate chunks. I can help myself remember if I repeat the errands I must do – or write myself a list. Without the written list (a ‘permanent trace’), I can try to improve my memory by reciting the list, counting the items off on my fingers, trying to plan the order I will do things, visualising my route and so on.

Many children with poor language skills have weak memory for instructions or information they hear. Some have obviously processed the meaning because they can give back a version that has a comparable meaning in different words; others have no idea of the message if it was too long and/or too complex, or they miss out so much that the message is garbled. Things only get worse if someone says something else while the first message is still being dealt with.

Adults can help by encouraging ‘good listening’ with games that require players to listen out for details and tell them back, or carry out instructions. As with other tasks, it is great if it is possible for the child to judge his own performance. There are computer-based games for boosting memory in this way. You can also have items or pictures of items to be recalled as there will be ‘proof’ of success or failure. If the child only hears what has to be found, it will be an auditory memory task; if he sees the items to remember, it will be a visual memory task; if he hears and sees what must be remembered, it will be a general memory activity. A few children may be overwhelmed by multi-sensory input, but many find it helpful.

These links are to memory games, or activities with a memory task included. They may provide ideas for building memory training into a task on any topic. So many children with SEN (speech and language) have weak auditory memory skills. Unlike the ones who can listen, talk, explain themselves… e.g. I heard a child of about 3y being told to remember something. She came straight back with, ‘I don’t forget – I got my thinking stuck in my head!’

RECALL 2-4 ITEMS recall 1 Both activities can be used as barrier games where adult and child can take turns, first to direct and then to do the action. Pictures for real objects (2-4 THINGS): print 2-up on A4 card and cut as marked. You need to find the common items in order to play the game. Suggestions given for building up auditory memory. Remember to present items the child asks you for in L-R order from the child’s point of view! This can be easier if the ‘instructor’ stands behind the person sequencing the items. TWO SCHOOL ITEMS – a game to increase ability to go and request things from adults. Cue cards and pictures are used to give the instructions and demonstrate recall. Additional polite request words to be included if possible.

RECALL, RETELL STORIES recall 2 Print single-sided on A4. 12 pictures with 3 sentences to be read out to make a ‘story’ as the child sees the picture. Read twice through and then ask the child to retell the story. Then put the suggested questions. You can also use the text and questions for more able children to read and answer the questions by writing. All answers available from the text. (If you want the child to practise exact recall for repeating sentences, play a ‘parrot’ game. Read two or three words from the first sentence and the child has to repeat it. Then read that bit again and add the next ‘chunk’. Until the child can actually remember the whole sentence. Work your way through all the story sentences, using one at a time, before asking the child to tell you story and answer the questions. Do not expect the whole ‘story’ to be retold in the exact words!)

MINIBEASTS recall 3 Illustrated vocabulary sheets for minibeasts and pond dipping with tally sheet for minibeasts. Count down in 2s pages for minibeasts includes naming and memory task and opportunities for discussion. Items to count are presented in the same layout as Numicon pieces.

FOODS recall 4 Illustrated items from basic food groups/ Odd one out activity to check knowledge/ Illustrated vocabulary for making sandwiches/ Count down in 2s – fruit (incl. naming and memory tasks)/ Count down in 2s – vegetables (incl. naming and memory tasks). Items to count are presented in the same layout as Numicon pieces.

PRE-READING : MEMORY & ORIENTATION, PLUS WORD-MATCH recall 5 Word and picture cards illustrated with PCS or Widgit symbols for a listen-remember-find game. Targeting sequential memory and left-to-right movement as pre-reading requirements. Extra task is word-matching. Three sets of cards to make a variety of 2-5 word sentences.