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What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
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The Rule of Seven - Practical Applications to Boost Working Memory

By Andrew Loh



Before learning more about the “Rule of Seven” and its application, we shall know the signs of low working memory capacity so that it becomes easier to comprehend the wider ramifications of the technique. Some signs of low working memory capacity are as follows:

  • Normal to below normal social relationship with other children.

  • Very poor representation in group related activities like discussion and debates.

  • Cannot follow instructions in a proper manner.

  • Poor in accomplishing complicated tasks.

  • Keeps repeating steps within a project work and later abandon the entire tasks.

  • Very poor recall and retrieval.

  • Distracted and troubled.

  • Poor in memory retrieval and processing

Tips to enhance working memory in children:

  1. Break down tasks into smaller chunks and make instructions simple and deliver them into a series of steps.

  2. Intervene at the end of each individual step and tell them what to do next.

  3. Children usually end up confused and they may end up lost. To prevent this allow them to ask questions when they have some doubts and confusions.

  4. Ask them repeat what they learn and make them well versed with remembering.

  5. Ask them to make notes and go through them at regular intervals

However, these steps are too general in nature and may not be useful under all situations. To enhance working memory and to boost learning, you may need to consult educationalists to learn more about “the rule of seven”. According to Jacqueline Leo (the writer of book titled, Seven - The Number for Happiness, Love and Success”, “Seven is the maximum number of tasks that should be on a daily to-do list to avoid mental overflow.” However, this was again a generalized idea to streamline a day's work in a child's life. To boost brain learning and to improve memory, we may need to use a different technique like “The Rule of Seven.”

A simple yet basic approach to learn and understand this technique is given below:

“If you group and arrange items and treat them as chunks in the memory slot, then you can enhance your memory capacity by streamlining, indexing, and regrouping those chunks into a definite order”

Here is a simple example of grouping information and arranging them into an organized format so that memorizing them becomes easier:

Let us presume that we have set a series of numbers with ten separate digits. In life, memorizing and recalling them in a sequence is quite difficult as seven is thought to be the maximum chunks of information bits that a child can memorize and hold inside memory slots. Ten separate digits are too many for a child to store in memory. Hence, you may need to teach your children a different method to memorize them. Here is a simple method:

Let us assume that we have the following series of numbers:

2219911998

Let us also assume that two children share this number in the form of their birthdays. In this case, their birthdays fall on January 2, 1991 and 1998. It means that there are two sets of numbers that can be remembered quite easily with some practice. Some of the advantages of learning this method are:

  1. Learn birthdates of two children at the same time.

  2. Learn the birth years of two children at the same time.

  3. Learn all digits in a sequential manner, but in smaller chunks.

Similarly, you can extend this concept to learn by reading complex sentences and lines. Here is an example:

Tom is an energetic boy who likes to go cycling and trekking among wild nature. For a child, learning this line could be somewhat difficult. By using the rule of seven (plus or minus 2 - it means that the range might extend from 5 and 9), we can make our children learn the meaning of this sentence:

  • Who is Tom? He is an energetic boy.

  • What does he like? He likes cycling. He also likes trekking.

  • Where does he like to cycle and trek? In the wild nature!

In other words, your child will learn his or her lessons, bit by bit and in smaller chunks. This makes learning and easy and interesting task. Learning anything involves understanding things in smaller bits and chunks. When children learn how to break things into smaller chunks, learning becomes effective and organized. Learning also become streamlined and sequential that eventually leads to better personal productivity and effectiveness. Learning both verbal and non-verbal materials becomes easier with this amazing method.

Featured Resource

Improving Working Memory: Supporting Students' Learning
By Tracy Packiam Alloway

Your working memory is the information your brain stores for a short period of time, it is your brain's post-it note if you like, and how much information you can remember has a huge influence on how well you do at school, and beyond. By understanding a child's working memory, you will be able to support their learning at school, and their concentration. Better working memory can be particularly useful to children with conditions where poor working memory is thought to be an underlying factor.

This book explains how to spot problems early, and how to work with children to improve their working memory, therefore increasing their chances of success in the classroom. It also explains the theory behind working memory. Underpinned by rigorous research and written in a highly accessible style, this book will appeal to practitioners, parents and students as an essential guide to helping their students fulfil their maximum potential.

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