Saturday, July 22, 2017

Modifying Instruction for Newcomer ELLs: Chunking

So, we've covered Scaffolding and Supports along with Comprehensible Input. That means it's time to dive into chunking- my third tip for modifying instruction for newcomers.

What is "chunking"?
You  may or may not have heard this term before. Sounds kinda strange, right? Think about it this way: when you eat an apple, do you shove the whole thing in your mouth at once? No- that would be overwhelming and unmanageable- you'd choke! You eat small bits or chunks at a time to make it manageable to chew and swallow.

In the same way- when we give our students too much at once, they become overwhelmed and are likely to shut down or "choke". This is particularly true for newcomers- its much easier for them to become overwhelmed. So, we need to "chunk" for them- activities, directions, texts, tasks, information- providing small bits at a time instead of giving it to them all up front.

How can I chunk information for my newcomers?
It's really as simple as providing small amounts at a time. Here are some examples:

When giving directions for an activity or task, don't give all the directions at once. Give one or two steps at a time. When students have finished those steps, provide the next set of steps or directions. When possible, provide directions orally and written. Another great way to help your newcomer ELLs remember and understand your directions is to use picture cards.

Activities and tasks
If you're already chunking the directions you give as suggested above, then the tasks and activities will naturally be chunked as well. It's great to give an overview of the complete task, but when it comes to actually beginning work, break it down into small, manageable pieces with clear directions. One students finish one chunk, then give directions for the next chunk.

If you ever studied a foreign language and were presented with a huge text, you know how overwhelming it can feel. Break texts into small pieces (such as paragraphs) for students, with opportunities to check understanding, get clarification, and ask questions in between. For newcomers, make sure that your text "chunks" don't have more than one important piece of information, and are comprehensible for their level of proficiency.

How can I make chunking easy?
One great way to easily chunk a worksheet or text is to simply use a folder and cut flaps in it to cover your different chunks. As the student moves through, they can open and close the different flaps to focus on one chunk at a time. I love this idea! You can even use old folders that have other things written on them, or a piece of large construction paper! Sticky notes work as well.

Another way, as suggested above, is to simply "chunk" activities or tasks by how you pace instruction, piece out tasks or assignments and provide directions.

Next up in the series: Alternative Responses and Assessments!

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