Chunking a Lesson

Chunky peanut butter means you there are pieces or chunks of peanuts. The peanut butter is broken into distinct parts. Chunking in teaching means breaking a concept or lesson into distinct, smaller parts. This makes it easier for students to process the lesson and the concept. They focus on less content at one time which is important given that working memory has a limited capacity, especially for many students with disabilities.

Here is an example of how it can play out. On a lesson on slope (compute slope of a line given two points from the line) the steps are as follows for (1, 5) and (4, 11):

  • write the formula y2-y1/x2-x1 (rise over run)
  • plug in the ordered pairs (11-5)/(4-1)
  • compute 6/3 = 2

But there is also the conceptual understanding that is often lost on the students. These steps do little to help with conceptual understanding.

In the photo below the teacher is presenting a conceptual piece as a chunk of her lesson before she gets to the steps listed above.  She has drawn a triangle to represent going downhill, another going uphill and a horizontal line segment representing no hill. The rise and run are listed for each (the horizontal line segment has no rise). The students wrote a rise over run ratio showing the slope for each then practiced this before the teacher moved onto to the steps listed above.

kristen lesson on slope

Upon completion of this chunk the teacher can give a practice or pop quiz to help students fill in the gaps individual students may have before moving on to the next chunk.

The next chunk would not yet involve the formula. A slope triangle would be drawn under the line to visually represent the rise and run. Students would practice finding slope using this approach with the next step bringing in ordered pairs and the formula listed above.


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