Every teacher knows chunks as groups of words that can be found together in language. What is more, chunking is not not only about vocabulary. It is an effective teaching tool for all subjects in terms of identifying, classifying and reproducing the information.  When it comes to the ESL classroom, chunking can be used for teaching nearly all skills. In this article, we will present some practical chunking strategies for different aspects of language teaching. 

What is chunking?

Chunking refers to the technique of organizing or combining individual pieces of information into small and manageable  “chunks.” This technique will ease the retrieval of the information as students have to memorize the chunks instead of the overall information. The research shows that chunking each lesson into small sessions will help the learners to digest the material with more ease. This video shows the importance of chunking on the retention of students’ attention span.


Chunking strategy is mostly used to facilitate the reading process. Here, we will present some important tips on how to use chunking in reading.


Chunking can be used with challenging texts of any length. Teachers need to break up text that may be too long or difficult for a student 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. Moreover, according to research studies, students who struggle with reading comprehension improve significantly when reading material is chunked into smaller units. Here are some tasks: 

  1. The teacher chunks, divide the text into small, manageable parts depending on the learners’ abilities and language level. They work on one chunk and then pass to the next one.  As a part of work on each chunk, they may do any reading comprehension task or vocabulary work, e.g.: 
  • circle words that are unfamiliar.
  • use context clues to help define these words.
  • look up the meaning of unknown words.
  • write synonyms for these new words in the text.
  • underline important places and people and identify them.

Then students predict what next passage is going to be about.

  1. Students paraphrase the meaning of the passage by rewriting chunks in their own words.
    By the end of this activity, students should have a paraphrased version of the original text. As further step students compare their versions of the text. This step often leads to interesting discussions about interpretation – how people can often find different meanings in the same words.
  2. To improve comprehension and retention of ideas, students need to visually represent the selected chunk as a picture or symbol. The teacher can prepare a picture for each separate chunk and ask students to match the pictures to the reading chunks and clarify their choice. 
  3. Paragraph shrinking can also be used to clarify the main ideas of each chunk by summarizing  the meaning of a paragraph in ten words or less.
  4. The teacher divides a longer text into sections and asks small groups to work on summarizing a paragraph or two each. The activity can be designed by Jigsaw strategy.


Learning vocabulary items is one of the challenging things for students in terms of memorizing the material and using it in the necessary contexts therefore chunking is of utmost importance in this case. 

While dealing with new vocabulary items students are better to learn them in fixed expressions so that they use them in a more natural way. Besides, learning words in chunks is much easier than remembering them as isolated items. For example, when students learn the word sight , it is very  important to know the usage of the given word in the chunk from first sight.  See this article for getting insight on where to find word collocations. 

Tackling Grammar

Finally, speaking in chunks lets us speak in a grammatically correct way without really having to learn grammar. For effective communication, it is much more beneficial to learn some phrases in chunks. For example:

What’s up? (How are you?)

I used to (I had the habit) eat a lot of ice cream when I was a kid. 

What are you up to (What are you planning to do ) today? It depends on the weather. 

If I were you, I’d check the forecast.

In all these examples learning the language in small manageable chunks helps to communicate in a natural way and the expression itself gets stuck in mind rather than learning its individual items. 

Here and here you can watch videos on chunking and how it is used to teach spelling.

So chunking in the learning is an extremely useful process of breaking long strings of information into small chunks that are easier to remember and reproduce.

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