Tip Tuesday: Visual Memory Activities!

Visual memory activities

Last week I introduced the topic of working with students with memory issues.  It is my firm belief that not only can we help these students but we are uniquely qualified to do so in order to improve any underlying or comorbid communication deficits that are present.  But how do we go about it?  Where do we start?  Well in my experience, visual memory has more often than not proven to be the strongest asset for these children.  This doesn’t mean it always is, but for most children, working on visual memory skills also aided in improving their working memory, memory recall and language skills as I attached our language goals to these types of activities.

  1. Visual Memory Games: We all know how to play memory. I’m sure it’s still a staple in many therapy rooms.  But do you know how to modify these games to facilitate improved visual memory, working memory and manipulation skills all while targeting language?
    1. Depending on the student’s severity of deficits, I will begin with as few cards as the client requires to be successful initially.  So if it’s no more than four cards, I’ll use four cards.  Two cards? Then I’ll use two cards.  One card?  Oh yes, I’ve used one card before.  How?
    2. Single Card Memory Activities:  I’ll choose a picture card (first a real life photo then you can work up to cartoons and even black and white picture representations if you want) and place in front of the child.  We will label that picture.  We will talk about the object’s function, where we might find it, what it looks like (shape, color, size), etc.  So you can see this particular activity lends itself nicely to a language activity targeting on improving vocabulary skills, attributes, semantic mapping (by discussing categories), etc.  After we discuss all things about this picture, I have the student label the picture again, then close his eyes and name the picture while not looking at it.  Finally, I will take the picture away, put it behind my back, and wait a few seconds (maybe initially 3 or 5 seconds, depending on the child’s baseline skills), before asking the child to name the picture I showed him.  We will do this again and again during the session to see if I can lengthen the delayed recall time for each trial.  In addition, as my client gets better at this task, I might even begin asking him/her a simple question or two while I’m hiding the picture behind my back before I ask him/her what the picture was.  This way I’m encouraging some memory manipulation, alternating topics then asking the student to recall the picture we were looking at.  Once a student can do this it’s on to…
    3. Two Card Memory Activities: This activity is pretty much like the above activity, just facilitating my client to recall more than one object label at a time, thus holding more information in his/her working memory.  Again I’m going to facilitate language via talking about both pictures.  I’m also going to look for increasing the delay time between memory recall as explained above.  The interesting thing I also look for is the sequence in which the child recalls the pictures.  If my kiddo continues to recall the second photo first, followed by the first photo, then I know his/her memory, although improving by recalling 2 items, is not able to sequence correctly.  If I don’t work on it at this time, I will see serious sequencing and recall issues when I add a third card to the mix.
    4. Three Card Memory Activities:  This again is the same premise as explained above, three different pictured items.  Again, I’m looking for correct sequence recall after a delay and working on making the delay as long as possible.  All of these skills are demonstrating successful manipulation of working memory skills!
    5. Two+ Pair Memory Activities: It isn’t until this time that I present the idea of traditional memory for finding pairs.  I am looking for my client to recall where items are and name them BEFORE they turn over the pictures.  Once we master this level, I continue to increase the number of pairs in order to facilitate stronger visual memory skills, holding more items and their locations in one’s working memory.  Once straight memory skills are 4-5 pairs for PK kiddos, or 8-10 pairs for school age kiddos are mastered, then I begin to “move around” the memory cards, while turned over so the student is required to manipulate more working memory skills.
  2. Color coding activities: You’ve read about them, seen them implemented (I hope) to facilitate Executive Function skills in middle school, but have you ever thought of using them in therapy?  I hope so b/c they can really work for some students with memory issues.
    1. Color coded attributes:  This is a simple activity I have used to facilitate semantic skills (categories, category items, semantic mapping, attributes, etc.).  I begin with a simple picture to represent each attribute (function, location, size, shape, color, composition-made of, etc.) but I make sure to color code each one.  This way I can eventually remove the pictures and just use colored blocks, pom poms, post its, candies (skittles, M&Ms) whatever I choose to represent each attribute.  This way, I am working on working memory and recall matching the color to the attribute.
    2. Color coded syntax:  I’ve used this activity as a means to improve syntax,  facilitate expanded sentences, and formulate multi-clausal sentences.  I give each word type a color (e.x. people-purple, objects-pink, verbs-yellow, adjectives-green, adverbs-blue, prepositions-orange, articles-red, etc.) and I print off pictures for each object, person, verb, on the corresponding colors.  Or if my students are readers, I’ll just write words on the corresponding color.  Then I will begin with asking my student to produce basic sentences.  So for a simple sentence I may say I need a “purple, yellow and pink”.  Then we read/say the sentence.  As we add more and more “colors” to the sentences they will be longer and have more words.  The fun part about this activity is, I can move the order of the “colors” to create a different sentence.  All this can target syntax, expanded sentence formulation, working memory, word/picture recall, etc.


These are just a few of my go to Visual Memory Activities that I have used to improve visual memory skills while improving language skills.  Next week I’ll be talking about auditory memory activities.

Happy talking and “walking down memory lane”!