Why Might It Be Difficult to Listen to Directions and Take Notes?

Beth Lawrence, MS, CCC-SLP

When our students have a difficult time with reading comprehension,  following directions, listening in class, and/or engaging in conversation, we assess a wide variety of skills, one of which is called Working Memory.  There is a difference between short-term memory, long-term memory and working memory.  An example of a short-term memory task would be to quickly repeat, for example, 3-7-9-4.  Long-term memory is when information is deemed important and is stored (hopefully in an organized manner) for long-term use to be recalled at a later time.  Working memory is that memory which requires us to actively engage with the information. Rather than simply “spitting out” 3-7-9-4, we ask our brains to “do something” with what we just heard.  For example, repeat the numbers in reverse, or say them in order from least to greatest.

When working memory is an area of weakness, it can impact such a wide variety of tasks!  Listening to a story or a lecture in class requires solid working memory skills.  One must be able to take in new information, assess whether it is pertinent to prior information, determine the relationship, and store the information in an organized manner, possibly using note-taking skills.  All of this while listening to new information!  During the writing process, many of our students will begin writing a sentence, and, due to weak working memory, forget where they were headed prior to finishing the sentence.  Deena and I look forward to sharing some strategies that we use to help students who have difficulty with working memory.