Students at all grade levels can use chunking exercises to remember and recall important information. Chunking details and information helps to overcome short-term memory capacity limitations, allowing the brain to process more items into long-term memory. Students can then recall what they learned for the test and when it’s time to apply concepts in real life.
Chunking is a method for grouping and organizing information to make it easier to comprehend and remember. Trying to remember a grocery shopping list, for example, may be a challenge. The theory behind chunking is that you can store more information in your short-term memory by bundling or "chunking" several items into a single group or category. If you can store it in your short-term memory long enough, the information can transition to long-term memory.
Remembering a nine-digit number may be a challenge: 987654321. In the context of a Social Security Number, which is divided into three sections, is easier to recall: 987-65-4321. We chunk phone numbers the same way and, sometimes, you’ll hear a person chunk them even further by combining numbers: 2-72-95-13 (read as “two, seventy-two, ninety-five, thirteen”). This is grouping by number. Any time you have a long number to remember, you can break it into chunks.
When you’re attempting to remember non-numeric data, grouping and organizing works a little differently. Consider the number of countries in the world as recognized by the U.S. Putting all 194 of them to memory may seem impossible, but chunking can help. A logical grouping would be by continent. If you already know the seven continents, your first grouping is already part of your long-term memory. Since the number of countries in each continent except Antarctica ranges from 12 to 54, you can create a second-level grouping into which you can organize those countries. The right grouping will differ from person to person, as some people may be able to group countries by first letters, others by language and others by geography as they visualize a map.
Students can also apply chunking techniques to textbook reading. This technique can help them get through text more quickly without compromising comprehension. When reading a sentence, you can break it into key phrases, either verbally or by marking up the text. Draw vertical lines after each key phrase to set them apart. By eliminating word-by-word reading and chunking important information, reading speed increases. For some students with literacy deficiencies, this exercise may also improve comprehension.
- Educational Psychology: A Practical Approach by Edward Vockell, Ph.D.
- Simply Psychology: Short Term Memory
- Science Direct: What’s Magic About Magic Numbers? Chunking and Data Compression in Short-term Memory
- Southwestern Illinois University Edwardsville: Reading Skills -- Chunking
- National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities: Five Strategies to Increase Reading Comprehension With Your Child With Special Needs
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