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How to Teach Chunking When Writing Essays


In essay writing, the practice of "chunking" is involved in the prewriting and research process, though it is also part of actually writing the piece. Chunks are blocks of information that include ideas such as the main topic of an essay, evidence, and commentary. Using chunks in your paper will allow you to organize it in a way that will create a sense of flow, making your essay easy to follow and reference. Teaching this process to students involves some technique.

Give your students a prompt that has to deal with a topic that they are likely not familiar with. This can be about any topic regardless of class subject, from language arts or science to history. The idea is to help students start thinking about prompts critically and forming them into chunks so they can begin research; not necessarily knowing the answer right away.

Demonstrate how the prompt can be broken down into several chunks of information, even though the subject is not familiar. For example, if the prompt is "How does Orwell define the role of government in Animal Farm? What are the consequences of this role?" Chunks will include a synopsis of Animal Farm, a description of government as defined by Orwell, conflicts in the book caused by government, and ways the logic in the book can be applied to real world government.

Use the chunks formed during this practice to create an outline that will guide the writing process. Have students practice this process several times both as a class and independently. From the chunks defined in this process, students should be able to form a thesis statement that will guide the essay.

Prompt students to expand their outline to include a more detailed look at the chunks they organized. Within each chunk will be information such as the statement being claimed, the evidence to support this claim from the text or from a secondary source, commentary about this information, and a concluding statement that transitions the reader to the next argument.

About the Author

Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including USAToday.com. Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.

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