Fluency Strategies: Chunking Text
When you first learn to read, you really focus a lot on individual words and try to figure out what they say. But you can’t stop there. Reading only becomes interesting when you group the words together into phrases that mean something. Fast, smart readers don’t think about one word at a time. Instead they group words into phrases that mean something.
Take this sentence as an example: “I do not like green eggs and ham.” When you look at it, you see a sentence with 8 words. You will learn to break sentences down into phrases. The 8 words in this sentence can be broken into two phrases: “I do not like” and “green eggs and ham”. This helps you in two main ways. First, it helps you focus. Instead of worrying about 8 little words that don’t mean much on their own, you only have to worry about 2 phrases where the words are working together to mean something. In our example, the first phrase tells you what I’m doing: I’m not liking something. And the second phrase tells you what I’m not liking: funny-colored ham and eggs. The second way phrasing helps you is that it helps you read more quickly and more smoothly. Instead of having to move from each word to the next word you just move from one phrase to the next. In our example with 8 words, you go from having to move from word to word 7 times to having to move from phrase to phrase just once! Reading the sentence in phrases helps you focus better and read more quickly and smoothly.
Chunking text is a strategy where you mark a text to break it up into little chunks so that you can focus on reading those phrases. Print a copy of the sample below and have a coach read the marked copy of the text for you. They should emphasize grouping the words together into the phrases that are joined together with the lines underneath them.
There isn’t really one right way to chunk a text. Just be careful not to break up words that naturally fit together into phrases like “under the table”. To see how this works pick out a reading from the Leveled Reading Materials List. Have a coach show you how to mark the phrases for about one page of text. Then, have the coach read it back to you emphasizing the phrasing that they marked.
Setting it Up
Practice chunking texts and then reading them in phrases. Use readings from the Leveled Reading Materials List. This is a unit where you might need a lot of help from a coach. You might ask a coach to help you read through a text once before you chunk it. Or you might need a coach to help you decide which words to group together.
Once you have the text divided into chunks, you’ll need to reread it several times. For fluency practice, you’ll always want to read a passage at least 3 times. Sometimes you’ll need to read it 5 times or more before you feel comfortable and confident with it. That’s fine. Just remember to focus on your phrasing each time you reread.
When you get comfortable with reading a text, dividing it into chunks, and rereading it several times to practice, then you’re ready to test. Talk to a coach. They’ll give you a copy of half a page of text at your practice level from the leveled reading materials. You’ll divide the text into chunks and practice it several times. Then you’ll read it to the coach emphasizing your phrasing.
If you and the coach agree that you are identifying useful phrases and then reading them with emphasis, you pass! If not, you can practice more and try again.