An important skill for students to practice is the ability to comprehend challenging texts. Chunking is an example of a strategy that helps students breakdown difficult text into more manageable pieces. Dividing content into smaller parts helps students identify key words and ideas, develops students’ ability to paraphrase, and makes it easier for students to organize and synthesize information.
Step one: Preparation
Chunking can be used with challenging texts of any length. A paragraph can be chunked into phrases and sentences while a reading of several pages can be chunked into paragraphs or sections. It is often helpful to have students record information about each “chunk” in a graphic organizer, which you may want to prepare in advance.
Step two: Review reading strategies
Before having students work on paraphrasing the text, it is helpful to go over specific decoding strategies. You may want to post the following “reading reminders” on the board:
Step three: Chunk the text
“Chunking the text” simply means breaking the text down into smaller parts. Sometimes teachers chunk the text in advance for students, especially if this is the first time students have used this strategy. Other times, teachers ask students to chunk the text. Students can work on chunking texts with partners or on their own. Depending on students’ reading level, the lengths of chunks can vary. A struggling reader may work with phrases, rather than sentences. A stronger reader can often work with longer chunks.
Step four: Paraphrase meaning
Students should rewrite “chunks” in their own words. By the end of this activity, students should have a paraphrased version of the original text.
Step five: Assessment and sharing
The paraphrased text can be used to evaluate students’ understanding and reading ability. You can also have students compare their versions of the text. This step often leads to interesting discussion about interpretation – how people can often find different meaning in the same words.
To see a lesson plan that uses the chunking strategy, refer to lesson six of the Identity and Community unit. This lesson includes another example of a chunking graphic organizer.
Ensure student comprehension by emphasizing a purposeful reading and then rereading of a text.