Practitioner’s Shortcuts: Chunking

Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

1 2 11 June 2019

As CALP staff, you are extraordinary multitaskers. You never know who is going to walk through your door and what they might need. As a result, it is nice to have things in your back pocket that work with a variety of learners in any of the five literacy and foundational learning categories, across each of the modes of delivery with little to minimal preparation. This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting instructional strategies that do just that. Let’s call them Practitioner’s Shortcuts.

When faced with an overwhelming amount of almost anything, we often break these things into smaller, more manageable pieces. We call this chunking. Chunking refers to the instructional strategy of breaking materials down into smaller pieces. 

Consider something as simple as the CLN Office telephone number, I suspect your preference is to have the number 8774854926 chunked into three distinct parts (877) 485-4926 or 877.485.4926.

Or your packing list for an upcoming beach day. If you were trying to remember everything for an afternoon in the sun, which list would you choose?

This one:

sunscreen, summer read, cover up, sun hat, towel or beach blanket, umbrella, beach ball, bathing suit, sunglasses, surfboard, flip flops


Or one that is broken down into three categories:


  • Swim suit

  • Cover up

  • Flip flops

  • Sun hat

  • Towel or beach blanket

Sun Protection

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunscreen

  • Umbrella

Fun Stuff

  • Beach read

  • Beach ball

  • Surfboard

Chunking is an excellent instructional strategy that can apply to a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a workbook or a logic model. This allows a learner to focus on smaller bits of information at one time. For example, a word like chunking can be split into two parts:





You can encourage a learner to break sentences or paragraphs into smaller pieces by increasing the font size, decreasing the amount of text on a page, using headings and bullet points. Don't be afraid to manipulate the text in order to make it work better for you! Scissors, photocopiers, highlighters and technology are useful tools for chunking. 

As staff in the South region can attest, even the CALP Logic Model benefits from a little chunking!

CALP OME chunked

How to Chunk:

  • Cut material up into smaller pieces
  • Block out surrounding text with something (book, paper, hand etc.)
  • Try colour for chunking (pen, font or highlighter)
  • Use technology (text on a phone is already chunked or increase the font size to make less text visible at one time)

For more explanations of chunking as an instructional strategy check out these resources:

Rising to the Reading Challenges of Adult Learners: Practitioner’s Toolkit Module 2 video demonstrates a multi sensory approach to decoding with a focus on the suffix -ing.

The Answers May Vary Resource Collection on the CALP Portal includes a short audio file dedicated to Chunking from Chapter 2 of the AMV Guidebook ‘Strategies to Build Literacy and Essential Skills into Daily Life’. (Developed and shared by Bow Valley College).

As mentioned above, chunking is a strategy that we use in many ways, every day. Thinking specifically of chunking as an instructional strategy for literacy and foundational learning, please share how, when and why you use this strategy in the comments below.

Emily Robinson Leclair, CLN
South Regional Support Staff


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