Chunking refers to an approach for making more efficient use of short-term memory by grouping information. Chunking breaks up long strings of information into units or chunks. The resulting chunks are easier to commit to memory than a longer uninterrupted string of information.
Good chunking facilitates comprehension and retrieval of information.
Chunking is a strategy used to reduce the cognitive load as the learner processes information. The learner groups content into small manageable units making the information easier to process. Essentially, chunking helps in the learning process by breaking long strings of information into bit size chunks that are easier to remember.
There are several steps to the chunking process. The number of steps you use will depend on the type information you are chunking.
- Break larger amounts of information into smaller units
- Identify similarities or patterns
- Organize the information
- Group information into manageable units
Chunking is used most commonly to organize or classify large amounts of information, even when there are no obvious patterns. Occurrences of chunking as a memory device can be seen in the way information is grouped in our daily life.
The breaking down of seemingly random numbers into chunks makes the number easier to remember.
- Phone numbers are not typically seen or remembered as a long string of numbers like 8605554589, but rather 860-555-4589.
- Birthdates are typically not recalled by 11261995, but rather 11/26/1995.
Letters can also be broken down into chunks helping to remember easier.
“XLETHIPSOXWHYMIX” is difficult to remember as a long string of letters, however if the letters are grouped or chunked, remembering them is easier. The breaking down of the letters into more “logical” chunks also makes it easier to remember.
X LET HIP SOX WHY MIX
Chunking can also work for lists. For example, a shopping list can be segmented into categories.
Chunking can also work for processes. For example, painting a room may be divided into three groups;
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Using “Chunking” Strategies to Help Students with Learning Disabilities March 4, 2011Posted by msheremeta in Reading.
As a special education teacher I read many IEP’s and educational evaluations that suggest “chunking” students work or educational load. Of course as a special educator, I realize the importance of not overwhelming students with too many words and too lengthy of assignments, but I wanted to know exactly what “chunking” means and how I can successfully use these strategies.
Chunks are manageable units of information that make it easier to remember and reduce the information overload. This makes sense, right? Easy! Well, research has shown that “chunking” is critical in enhancing Short Term Memory and the process of transfer from Short Term Memory to Long Term Memory. The most current definition is that “chunking” is a computer term that means “bundles of information” (2008).
Consider the sentence: Michelle put the yellow roses in a vase. A good reader processes yellow roses together and visualizes roses that are the color yellow (Klingner, 2007). The reader must decide which details or “chunks” are important to remember. This is relatively simple in one sentence, but remembering becomes more difficult after reading a long passage (2007).
Chunking to Improve Comprehension
- Before reading a “chunk” students are given a statement of purpose, which guides them to look for something specific in the text.
- For checking comprehension: once students have read a passage they are asked to close their books and pretend they are teachers. They ask the questions.
- After a while, the teacher reverses the roles having the students answer comprehension questions.
*A word of caution* Excessive chunking may slow down reading therefore affecting comprehension.
Chunking to Assist with Homework
- Acknowledge their feelings about the assignment, “You’re right. This is a long chapter.”
- Then help the student divide the activity into manageable chunks. If the chunk is too large, divide each of those chunks into smaller ones.
- Have the student read only one chunk and then use a concrete strategy to summarize what he read.
- Then have him read and summarize another chunk.
- After reading all the chunks, have the student pull together each summary and use those to review the chapter.
In the end, the student will learn
- to store and organize information more efficiently in small chunks.
- that everything begins with one small step.
- It’s the small steps that add up to a bigger accomplishment (2008).
Click here to read how “Chunking” can help with managing behavioral issues:
“Chunking” Connections with the Universal Design for Learning:
- Offers ways of customizing the display of information.
- Clarifies vocabulary and symbols.
- Clarifies syntax and structure.
- Highlights patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships.
- Guide information processing, visualization, and manipulation.
http://education.umn.edu/NCEO, Chunking and Questioning Aloud Strategy Summary Sheet. Retrieved 3/1/11.
http://www.ldonline.org, Richards, Regina, G. Helping Children with Learning Disabilities Understand What They Read. (2008).
Klingner, Vaughn, Boardman. Teaching Reading Comprehension to Students with Learning Difficulties. The Guilford Press. 2007.
- Munyofu, Swain, Ausman, Lin, Kidwai, Dwyer. The Effect of Different Chunking Strategies in Complementing Animated Instruction. Learning, Media and Technology, Vol. 32, No. 4. December, 2007.