Grouping Information

UDL 3.3

Chunking is strategy in which content is grouped into smaller units in order to make information easier to retain and recall. Because short-term memory can only hold a limited amount of data at a time, chunking helps the brain quickly and easily process information in order to transfer it into long-term memory. Chunking can be used to support learning in any content area. Teachers can chunk content into smaller parts, such as assigning one paragraph at a time versus an entire chapter. Higher-order thinking and complex tasks can also be chunked. For example, students might begin by focusing on one particular skill (e.g., only identifying variables in math problems); then after demonstrating mastery, focus on a different skill using the same text or problem (e.g., solving for x).

Implementation Tips

Identifying Who Might Benefit
Identify students who will benefit from chunking through classroom observations. Some indicators that a student might need more support in this area include when a student appears to consistently be daydreaming, inattentive, or not listening to directions. If these indicators are present, teachers should consider the possibility that a poor working memory is making it difficult for the student to attend to multiple, simultaneous sources of information (e.g., peers talking, taking notes, listening to teacher lecture).
Visual Presentation
Chunk information by changing the visual layout for students who are visual learners. For example, have only one math problem printed per page or for text, place one paragraph per page and center align the text with only one sentence per line.
Putting it All Together
Facilitate students in connecting each chunked piece of information to the bigger picture by reviewing how each element fits under a larger topic or skill. Doing so will Increase the likelihood that students will retain the information.


Reading Comprehension
When reading a passage, teachers can chunk the text into paragraphs or sections. When reading literary texts, reading can be chunked by significant plot events (e.g., beginning/middle/end, conflict/climax/resolution, etc.) For informational texts, chunk the reading sequentially (e.g., the first Civil War battle, the second stage of the water cycle). Students can then record information about each “chunk” in a graphic organizer before continuing to read the passage.
When performing math problems, teachers can use chunking by assigning students smaller batches of problems and allowing students to take breaks between work sessions. Teachers can also chunk a single math problem by having students work on a subset of the problem (e.g., only focusing on grouping like terms).
Sequencing and Timelines
When students are expected to memorize a list of steps or events in order, they can create flashcards by writing the name of each step or event and a brief description on an index card. Students can then chunk the events based on a pattern that emerges from them (e.g., cause and effect, first/then, etc.)
When giving multiple directives to a student, instead of giving all steps of the task at one time, the teacher can "chunk" the directives into sections. For example, the teacher can wait until the student has completed one step of a task before giving him/her the next step.

Related Strategies