Teaching Children Chunking
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Teaching Children Chunking

Today I’ve been teaching NLP chunking to a 12 year old. If you have no idea what this is, or what it does, read on!

In the past I’ve taught chunking to teachers to help them have a method for thoroughly explaining new projects to their class. However for young people to understand this concept is useful in ensuring that they thoroughly explore a topic, or in this case, the answer to a test question.

These days, some tests and exams are designed in a way that will assess how well a pupils has understood a subject matter. This means that they need to provide a more in-depth response to the questions they are asked to demonstrate that they have more than a surface level of understanding.

This is to prevent pupils from memorising set answers to questions, which only then demonstrates that they have the ability to memorise information, not that they have an understanding of how to apply it.

For example, when I took my driving test, the driving theory test had just started. Back then it was just a multiple choice exam, with a set number of questions that were asked from a book that contained all of the questions and all of the answers.

I learned all of the questions and all of the answers from the entire book. I completed my theory test in about 8 minutes, was the first one out of the room and passed. I’m pretty sure I had 100% correct.

I wasn’t a great driver, nor could I tell you what half of the questions meant, but I’d still passed.

This is what the more broad questions in exams these days are trying to avoid. It means the answers are less specific, and that the answers should contain more supporting information, not just one fixed piece of detail.

However, some pupils are missing the framework of how to answer these more in depth questions and the framework is relatively simple to teach and understand because it can be applied to anything. The framework is called chunking. It’s an NLP of NLP that should most definitely be in the classroom.

I usually introduce this by asking the pupil to think of a scene in the outside world. For example a pond.

The top surface of the pond is our initial focus point. A bit like the topic name for a project in school. So if you were learning about magnets, that would be our surface level topic but to really learn about it, we’d have to explore the subject in more detail and also find out how it fits into the bigger picture of the universe.

If we go up from the pond water first, we might bump into ducks, beyond that, maybe birds flying overhead, above them clouds, above that sky right up into the solar system. There’s obviously a good few bits and pieces in between that route, of varying physical sizes, but ultimately if we keep going up, we meet some big, wide concepts and things – like the universe.

It’s a bit like looking at the pond through a camera a gradually zooming out so that the pond becomes a smaller and further away focus in the picture and we start to see instead, more of what the pond is just a smaller part of. This is chunking up.

If we start looking at the bigger picture on magnets, we can zoom out and create analogies with the earths magnetic field, and zoom out further still into the creation of heavy elements like iron and nickel in the universe.

If however we go below the surface of the pond, we get to see the detailed ecosystem that makes it work, the fish, the pond creature, the mud at the bottom and what microscopic beings live in it. This is an example of zooming in and pin pointing fine details (chunking down).

With our magnets that might take us down the route of electromagnetism and quantum physics.

Then we could also go sideways. This allows us to explore subject matter which is similar, but not exactly the same. With our pond, sideways might take us to the sea, or lake or even a fish tank.

With our topic on magnets, it might take us to other universal laws such as gravity.

In summary, we can’t ask children to digest, and then at exam time, regurgitate entire topics, from the big picture to the nitty gritty details, until we have given them the process for doing it.

Getting those bigger concepts and details simply requires a few key questions and ideally a diagram to map it out.

By Gemma Bailey

Director of NLP4Kids

Street Talk

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