“Chunking” is strategy in which pieces of information are grouped together into larger “chunks” so fewer smaller little facts are needed to retain. It is a method of organization that students can use when reading words on a page or studying large amounts of information.
Many sentences, when written down, seem much more dense than they would be if they were instead spoken aloud. Quite a few readers have trouble parsing sentences with complex or numerous phrases, and so get bogged down in the specifics of the sentence and have difficulty comprehending the overall meaning. Chunking is an effective way for all readers to more thoroughly understand written material.
Consider a complex sentence like “The three-thousand foot high mountain is approximately five thousand meters from the next nearest mountain, and between the two, one can count six hundred and thirteen bison.”
The numbers in the sentence, the many phrases from which it is comprised, and the overall length all contribute to the density of this sentence. Many people, upon encountering this sentence, become overwhelmed.
Instead of struggling in this manner, it can be beneficial to “chunk” the sentence, or to separate the sentence into more meaningful chunks or sections. When broken down in this way, into so many more manageable parts, sentences become a lot easier to comprehend in their entirety.
For instance, this is how the above sentence might look when chunked:
The three-thousand foot high mountain / is approximately five thousand meters from the next nearest mountain / and between the two / one can count six hundred and thirteen bison.
Think of it as a way to reflect your own thought process. Above, I picked out four essential parts of the sentence – the first mountain, its distance from the second mountain, the relationship between the two mountains, and what lies between the two mountains – to chunk it into sections that made sense to me. The key is to do it in a way that has meaning for you.
Another example is a telephone number: 231-5678 becomes 2, 31, 56, 78 This may be an easier route to retain the numbers.
Different students will have different ways of chunking the material – for instance, there is a good chance you did it differently than we just did! –
But the essential point is to separate the long sentence into smaller sections that have meaning for you.
Studies have shown that all students, not just those with learning disabilities, can benefit from chunking. You’ve got nothing to lose – give it a try!