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9 Tips to improve working memory and attention in primary school students

9 Tips to improve working memory and attention in primary school students

Do you often find your child struggling to concentrate on tasks or remember important information? As parents, we understand the importance of developing strong working memory and attention skills in our primary school students. But how can we support our children in enhancing these crucial cognitive abilities? 

In this article, we’ll explore practical tips to help improve working memory and attention in primary school students.

1. Chunking Information

One effective strategy to improve working memory is teaching children to chunk information. This involves breaking down large amounts of information into smaller, more manageable chunks. For example, when memorizing a list of spelling words, encourage your child to group them into categories such as “words with ‘ing'”, “words with ‘tion'”, etc. By organizing information into meaningful chunks, children can retain and recall it more effectively.

Imagine your child has a spelling test coming up with a list of 20 words. Instead of trying to memorize all the words at once, encourage your child to chunk the information into smaller groups based on common patterns or themes. For example, if the list includes words like “cat”, “bat”, “hat”, and “mat”, these words can be grouped under the common “at” sound. Similarly, words like “run”, “fun”, “sun”, and “bun” can be grouped based on the “un” sound.

By organizing the words into meaningful chunks, your child can focus on mastering one group at a time. This approach not only makes memorization more manageable but also helps your child recognize patterns and similarities among words, strengthening their understanding of spelling rules. Additionally, breaking down the list into smaller chunks allows for more focused practice and enhances retention, leading to better performance on the spelling test.

2. Using Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are memory aids that help students remember information through association. For instance, to remember the order of the planets in the solar system, children can use the mnemonic “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune). Encourage your child to create their mnemonics for remembering facts, formulas, or sequences, making learning more engaging and memorable.

3. Practicing Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness exercises can significantly enhance attention and focus in children. Introduce simple mindfulness practices such as deep breathing exercises or guided visualization techniques. 

For instance, before starting homework or studying, guide your child through a brief mindfulness session to help them centre their attention and calm their mind. Over time, regular practice of mindfulness can improve concentration and reduce distractions.

4. Implementing Structured Routines

Establishing structured routines can help improve attention by providing predictability and consistency in children’s daily activities. Create a daily schedule that includes dedicated times for homework, meals, play, and rest. Ensure that your child knows what to expect each day and encourage them to stick to the routine. Consistent routines help minimize distractions and create an environment conducive to focused learning.

To further reinforce the routine, create a visual schedule or checklist that outlines the tasks your child needs to complete each day. Include specific times for homework, chores, and leisure activities. Display the schedule in a prominent place where your child can easily refer to it, such as on the refrigerator or a bulletin board.

5. Breaking Tasks into Smaller Steps

Complex tasks can overwhelm children and lead to difficulties in sustaining attention. Teach your child the importance of breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps. For example, when working on a challenging English worksheet that requires your child to analyze a poem or passage and answer comprehension questions. Instead of approaching the worksheet as a whole, help your child break it down into smaller, strategic steps to enhance their focus and attention.

You can start by previewing the worksheet together and discussing the instructions and objectives. Then, encourage your child to read the poem or passage carefully, highlighting key information and making annotations as needed. Next, identify the comprehension questions and categorize them based on their complexity or topic.

Instead of randomly selecting questions to answer, strategize with your child by tackling questions that relate to each other or require similar skills. For example, if there are questions about identifying main ideas and supporting details, focus on those first before moving on to questions about inferencing or analyzing small details.

6. Encouraging Physical Activity and Movement Breaks

Physical activity has been shown to boost cognitive function and attention in children. Encourage your child to engage in regular physical activities such as outdoor play, sports, or even short movement breaks between study sessions. Physical movement helps stimulate blood flow to the brain, improving alertness and concentration. Incorporating brief movement breaks throughout the day can help prevent fatigue and enhance overall focus.

7. Incorporating Multisensory Learning Activities

Multisensory learning engages multiple senses simultaneously, enhancing learning and retention. Encourage your child to use hands-on materials, visual aids, and interactive games to reinforce concepts. For example, when learning about fractions, provide physical objects like blocks or fruit slices for children to manipulate and explore. By appealing to different senses, multisensory activities cater to diverse learning styles and deepen understanding.

8. Providing Clear and Concise Instructions

Clear communication is essential for maintaining attention and understanding instructions. When assigning tasks or explaining concepts, use simple language and break down instructions into clear steps. Avoid overwhelming children with too much information at once. Instead, provide instructions in small, digestible chunks, ensuring that your child understands each step before moving on. Clear and concise instructions minimize confusion and promote focused attention.

9. Utilizing Visual Aids and Organizers

Visual aids and organizers are valuable tools for supporting working memory and attention. Encourage your child to use visual aids such as charts, diagrams, or graphic organizers to represent information visually. For instance, when studying vocabulary words, create flashcards with pictures or illustrations to help reinforce memory. Visual organizers help children organize thoughts, make connections, and retrieve information more efficiently.


As parents, we play a crucial role in nurturing our children’s cognitive development. By implementing these effective tips and strategies, we can help improve working memory and attention in our primary school students. From chunking information to incorporating mindfulness practices, each approach offers valuable support for enhancing cognitive skills. Let’s empower our children with the tools they need to succeed academically and thrive in the classroom.

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