Chunking as they read enables students to get a small, immediate understanding of the author’s meaning. From this foundation, they are better able to extrapolate more of what the author is saying.
To teach “chunking” in my classroom, I first present any challenging vocabulary words in the text. Then I give a mini-lesson focused on the first two-to-three paragraphs. As a class we then together discuss the meaning of what we’ve read. Next, I ask the students to cite some textual evidence that directly explains and supports the meanings we just discussed. We go through this process together, two or three times as a whole class. Then, I organize the students into smaller groups–twos, or threes, or independent learners–and ask them to continue to do the same thing. Each group takes a different page and works on the meaning they gather from that particular page. Finally, we come back together as a class and each group presents their results so that everyone ends up teaching each other.
This practice translates into better decision-making across all areas of the students’ lives; it’s not just for a piece of text in English class. I think this process helps them make sense of the world and where they fit into it.