This article discusses how chunking, monitoring, and listening strategies help improve reading comprehension.
Chunking means to to break up text that may be too long or difficult for a child, into manageable sections or “chunks.” Chunking helps students organize information, making it easier for them to pull information together for a better understanding of the main idea of the text.
Let’s look at examples of how to use chunking to improve comprehension. First I will show you a regular text passage, then explain how to use chunking, and show you examples of chunked text.
Regular Text Passage:
Michael’s birthday party was on Saturday. He got so many presents he didn’t know what to do. His toy chest, closet, and drawers were already all filled up and he didn’t know where to put his new toys and clothes. His new stuff was all over his room and his mother kept coming in and telling him to find a place to put it. Michael was so frustrated that he decided to take a break and look through his old baseball cards in the garage. While he was out there, he saw some of his toys from when he was in preschool. That was when he got his big idea. Michael asked his mom if he could donate his old toys to other children who did not have a lot of toys. She said “Yes.” Now he would have room for all of his new toys and clothes.
How to Use Chunking
Break the passage into separate sections. After the student reads each section have them monitor their own comprehension by asking questions about what they don’t understand, explaining or writing the passage in their own words, and making predictions about what will happen next.
After practicing several times with you, encourage them to try these strategies on their own. When they first start using this technique independently, chunk the text for them. While they read each chunk of the passage, have them jot down questions they have so they can ask you later, look up words they don’t know, rewrite or say the passage in their own words, and make predictions about what will happen next. Once they get the hang of using these strategies, encourage them to to start making chunks on their own with future passages. As you notice considerable improvement in reading comprehension, have the child take on more difficult, longer passages.
Example of Chunking
Michael’s birthday party was on Saturday. He got so many presents he didn’t know what to do.
His toy chest, closet, and drawers were already all filled up and he didn’t know where to put his new toys and clothes. His new stuff was all over his room and his mother kept coming in and telling him to find a place to put it.
Michael was so frustrated that he decided to take a break and look through his old baseball cards in the garage. While he was out there, he saw some of his toys from when he was in preschool. That was when he got his big idea.
Michael asked his mom if he could donate his old toys to other children who did not have a lot of toys. She said “Yes.” Now he would have room for all of his new toys and clothes.
You might be asking yourself, “How do I make these chunks?” There are several methods you can use. If you can write in the book itself, you can draw lines in between sections, highlight sections different colors, underline sections, or circle sections. If you cannot write in the book you can photocopy the pages and use these same methods. If you are a parent and do not have access to a copy machine, you can ask your child’s school if they are able to make copies for you. If none of the options are doable, or if you just want another chunking method, you can cover up the chunks with a blank piece of paper or index card, only exposing the ones you are reading or have already read.
Side Note* Children who have significant difficulty sounding out new words or automatically recalling familiar words often lose meaning when reading. If you are working with a child who has significant difficulty reading words, you may want to try very small chunks to help with comprehension. Below is an example of very small chunks, using an excerpt from the passage above:
Michael’s birthday party – was on Saturday. He got so many presents, – he didn’t know what to do. His toy chest, closet, and drawers were already all filled up and he didn’t know where to put his new toys and clothes.
Here are some questions you can have the child answer after reading each chunk:
Michael’s birthday party – Who had a party?
was on Saturday – When was the party?
He got so many presents – What happened?
he didn’t know what to do – How do you think he feels?
His toy chest, closet, and drawers were already all filled up – What is Michael’s room like?
he didn’t know where to put his new toys and clothes – What problem is Michael having?
Once your child or student gets the hang of answering these types of questions, teach them to ask themselves and answer similar questions when reading small chunks in future passages. Have them practice coming up with questions and answering them in front of you until you are confident that they have the hang of it.
Another excellent strategy to help students develop their comprehension skills is listening to someone read while they read along. Listening while reading helps with comprehension because students who struggle to understand text, are often able to understand the same information when it is spoken. Studies show children often learn better when taught using different modes at the same time. This is called multimodal teaching. In this example the two modes are auditory – hearing the words, and visual- seeing the words. This strategy can also improve a child’s ability to recognize words automatically (sight-word recognition).
Here are four free websites that allow children to read along and listen at the same time:
Another site that allows you to read and listen to books online is Raz Kids. Although Raz-Kids is not a free site it has many benefits over free sites.
- Raz-Kids has 400+ eBooks that students can listen to, read, and even record themselves reading.
- There are 27 levels so you can pick the right one for your child or student.
- Every leveled eBook has an accompanying eQuiz to test reading comprehension.
- With students being able to record themselves and take comprehension quizzes, you can easily monitor their progress.
Keep Your Cool
Remember to always stay calm when working with a child or student, even if you think they should be getting something that they are not getting. If you get frustrated with them, they may start to feel anxious, angry, inferior, stupid, etc. which will lead to a less productive learning session.
For more strategies on reading comprehension, read Strategies for Reading Comprehension: Planning, Monitoring, Evaluating and Strategies for Reading Comprehension: Making Connections.
For a guide that gives you several strategies to help your child or students become engaged, thoughtful, independent readers try Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement.
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