Why is visual memory important for learning?

Visual memory1

What is visual memory?


The skill to recognize previously seen objects/numbers/letters/pictures – especially detail

Sequential memory:

The ability to remember a series of objects/numbers/letters/pictures – very important for spelling

The steps of remembering


The child needs to pay attention to visual input from the environment e.g. watching the teacher demonstrate a task/look at the pictures in a book.


The information now has to be stores until it is needed again:

  • Sensory memory                                            –           a few seconds
  • Short term memory (working memory)   –           up to 30 seconds
  • Long term memory                                       –           more than 30 seconds


To retain information it first has to be encoded. Encoding means linking the information with existing knowledge so that the information can become meaningful. If encoding doesn’t happen the information isn’t stored in the long term memory and the child cannot recall it again.


There are 4 ways to retrieve information:

  • Recalling:        To access information immediately without a clue
  • Recollecting:   Using clues to reconstruct your memory
  • Recognition:   Identifying information after seeing it again
  • Relearning:     To repeat the information to learn it again – this will assist retrieving for the future


To use the information we just retrieved to apply to the situation/tasks/environment.

How will I know if my child struggles with visual memory?


  • Struggles to copy work from the black board
  • Struggles to remember detail
  • Struggles to learn how to read
  • Struggles with reading comprehension

Sequential memory:

  • Struggles to copy words/sentences/numbers from the blackboard or from a text book
  • Struggles with spelling
  • Omit, add or transpose letters in words

How can we improve visual memory?


  • Take picture card where there are 2 of each card. Place them upside down. Each person has to change to turn over 2 cards, if they don’t match turn them back. If they match you have a packet. Continue until all the cards are turned over. Start with 5 packets and increase the amount as the child’s memory improves
  • Place 3 objects on a tray. Show this to the child for 5 seconds. The child has to fetch the same objects from all over the house/the child has to name the objects they remember/have a second set of objects available and the child has to place these objects in front of himself. Increase the number of objects. 5 objects if the child is 5 years old
  • Show a picture to the child with different objects on it – let the child watch this for 5 seconds. See how many objects the child can recall
  • Place some objects on the table. Let your child look for 5 seconds and then look away. You take one object and the child has to recall which object is missing
  • Draw a picture staring with minimal detail. Let the child look for 5 seconds and then let them draw the exact same picture

Sequential memory

  • Place 3 objects on a tray. Show this to the child for 5 seconds. Have a second set of objects available and the child has to place this in the same sequence as your example. Increase the number of objects. 5 objects if the child is 5 years old
  • You build a tower starting with 3 Lego’s . Show this to the child for 5 seconds. They child now has to copy you. Increase up to 7 objects if the child is 7 years old
  • Build a sequence with Jellytots/Smarties and let the child look for 5 seconds. Cover your sequence up and let the child copy it. If it is correct they may eat the sweets
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