Direct Instruction (Chunking) Strategy

Mrs L Smith 

I have been applying the strategy of Direct Instruction within my Year 8 lessons this term in order to break down a number of processes they needed to learn in our unit of ‘Weather and Climate’. The strategy has been used to breakdown: The water cycle, the track of a hurricane and types of rainfall. Students worked together to create storyboards/diagrams/a piece of prose using the ‘chunked’ information they had received and then discussed. This strategy has been successful in breaking down complex information and keywords that students needed to know, understand and apply.

Miss L Fallon 

I have used the ‘Chunking’ Strategy this term for my year 11 class. They needed to learn the steps involved in a reflex arc (The nervous system) It is quite complicated and there are many steps so I used the strategy to split the process in chunks, and feed the students who worked best in groups of 3, chunk by chunk. I found that using a script to guide the students works best, as it allowed some students to work at a different pace than others. At the end of the hour lesson, every member of the class was able to say out loud and write out the process for a reflex arc. Pretty amazing!

Mr P Robinson 

I have used the ‘chunking’ strategy this term mainly for my year 9 Geography classes. They have been studying Water on Land and so needed to know the four processes of erosion and four processes of transportation along a river. I broke down the four processes (Hydraulic Action, Abrasion, Attrition & Solution) into 4 chunks and followed the strategy. I repeated the same process the following lesson for transportation (Traction, Saltation, Suspension & Solution). I also trialled telling a story (about 4 characters – Hydro, Abra, Attitude and Solly) in chunks and made up personality types linked to the characteristics of the process to increase engagement.

Mrs R Beaumont 

Following the CPD on ‘Chunking’ delivered by the S5 group I explored its use within the Dance curriculum. I have applied this at both KS3 and KS4 and found it useful with both cohorts. With my KS3 student I used it as a starter with the definitions for 3 Physical Skills they were focusing on for their end of term performance forming the 3 chunks. Alone the strategy was quite superficial but when linked with the practical rehearsal students demonstrated understanding the application of the skill in performance more efficiently than through the old delivery method of teacher demonstration. At KS4 I applied it to the use of SMART Targets which fitted very well expanding to 5 chunks in line with the 5 elements of SMART. Again as a starter this was an engaging way to begin a theory lesson and students appeared to grasp the concepts quickly and were able to move on the expansion tasks smoothly as the basic understanding of the concept was already there.

Miss M Dugmore 

My year 9i Science class often at times struggle with retaining information, especially because of the more complex language used in KS4.

I have encouraged them to use the ‘chunking’ strategy to help them remember key separation processes such as filtration, chromatography and distillation.

The students were asked to read through the key points in chronological order and then repeat them (blind) piece by piece to a friend, who would then pounce them back but adding in extra detail each time.

This process worked well with the majority of students in the class, and seeing them repeat the steps almost perfectly in their end of term test was very encouraging!

Mr A Comer 

I have used chunking in my practical construction lessons. I found it helpful when students would have to process timber to create a given woodwork joint. The students would need to follow a procedure in order to create the design of the joint correctly. I used it to break a detailed process such as triangular sawing into “steps” or “chunks” for the students to follow. I found it to work well with my groups.

Mr J Martin 

I have used the ‘chunking’ strategy this term mainly for my GCSE classes, particularly with Year 11. They have been studying the muscular system and needed to recall new information as well as key terms. I broke this information into 3 chunks (pulling action, antagonistic, and the muscles themselves) and followed the strategy. I repeated the same process the following lesson to recap the topics before their unit test and then used this to get them to team teach each other. I later used the system with visual prompts and demonstrations to further their understanding.

Miss J Griffin 

I gave this a go with my year 9 class during period one in regards to how to structure a PEE chain. The students (9E1) are quite difficult to engage but they really seemed to enjoy and by the end were able to give me the steps to create a PEE so that I could write it up on the board. The session was very useful and is definitely something that I will continue to use in my lessons to break down large texts into manageable chunks.

Mrs K Abrey 

The year 10 GCSE group in food required to know about pathogenic bacteria and how temperature plays a crucial part in controlling food poisoning. They needed to know the conditions for bacterial growth remembering some key temperatures. I used ‘chunking’ to break the requirements down (time, temperature, food and moisture) and included the key temperatures. (danger zone and timings). The students were able to recall this important information and were able to explain this in their own words.

This information was vital for part of their coursework.

Mrs H Robinson 

I’ve used the chunking strategy with my year 11 English class as a way to introduce poems. I have found in the past that when we read the poems, it’s difficult for students to annotate them as they struggle with the content – what the poem is actually about. Giving the students a summary of the poem before we read it through the chunking method, allows them to develop a greater understanding of it before I ask them to annotate it.

Mrs S Flowers 

I have used S5 strategy in few of my lessons. Using facts to help tackle tasks within lessons. E.g.:  recall 3 points when finding 10%, 1%. Facts to understand how to read and write bearings.

I have only used 3 chunks so far. During the lessons, I have asked targeted students to recall certain chunks. It has helped some students retain more information.


Mrs J Chester 

I have used chunking to support student learning of colour theory in year 7 - which has gone very well. Students have been able to describe features of the colour wheel using vocabulary such as tertiary colours, complementary colours etc. explaining where they are found, how they are mixed and what effects they have when put next to each other. This is a step forward from previous years!

Miss N O'Reilly 

I have used the ‘chunking’ strategy this term mainly with year 10 Music group. This is a mixed ability group and I noticed that the engagement of the class was so much better using this strategy. They have been studying Music Venues and so needed to know 4 music venues. Along with knowing the four venues they also need to know what type of performances would take place at the venue, the reasons why that performance plays at that specific venue and an example of that venue in this country. I broke down the four area into 4 chunks and followed the strategy. The pupils were more engaged and found it easier to remember the elements of each venue.

Mr E Martel 

I used DI with both of my Y7 classes, French & Spanish, to teach them the months of the year in the target languages. The repetition meant that they were almost all able to recite the months correctly by the end of the session and now reel off from January if they need to remember a later month!

Miss H Wray 

I have been using the chunking method with my year 11 class. We have recently started to study poetry which is a new and challenging topic for them. I have found that using the chunking method has increased students confidence when understanding the context of the poem which then helps students to annotate the poem and understanding the poet’s intentions. It has prevented me from overloading them with facts and giving them the ‘ I cannot do this’ attitude towards a new topic.

Mr P Ferguson 

I have used a similar version of chunking, but adapted it slightly for drama, I have used this before and called it snowballing and I did it with year 9 to show how to learn lines as a muscle memory activity, it went really well.

Miss Z Donegan 

I used Direct Instruction with my y9s. I wanted them to be able to recall the first 12 Prime numbers. I started with what Prime numbers are and then I chunked the numbers into 3 groups of four. We have and will repeat this process throughout the term.

Mrs C Lima 

I showed the students the clip first and asked them to explain the Menstrual Cycle, by taking notes and through direct questioning. (Students forgot vital parts of the clip). After watching the clip first time, I asked a selection of the students to name the key events  in the clip using the key words and describe what each key word was and how this works during the Menstrual Cycle,(uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries etc…) . The students found this quite difficult, so I used the chunking method to help the students understand. I then paired the students up and labelled them A/B. I directed the students to listen very carefully and watch the clip in stages and repeat using the chunking method. After I stopped the clip each time, I then allowed the paired students to explain to one another,( A explain to B first part, B explain to A first and second part etc…). When the three stages were completed I chose random students to explain the whole process of the Menstrual Cycle. This method proved to be very effective as students were able to take more notes on the task set and they gained an understanding of what happens during a Menstrual Cycle.

Miss E Terry 

I use chunking in my lesson in order to support exam structure; particularly for the 9-mark questions (which provide the highest value). Using a 9-mark question as an example, I separate the answer into 5 paragraphs of which I ask students to ‘chunk’ separately.

  • Paragraph 1; Option 1- advantages
  • Paragraph 2; Option 1- disadvantages
  • Paragraph 3; Option 2- advantages
  • Paragraph 4; Option 2- disadvantages
  • Paragraph 5; Conclusion

When chunking, students will use a variety of strategies- this can include, independent work whereby they will identify with a highlighter/ pair work through discussion/ or as a class whereby I will target questions.

Mr M Hodges 

I used direct instruction with my psychology group to work through an unknown case study by Anderson and Dill.

Each section was broken down and given as a direct instruction, for example the aim. Procedure etc.

The students seemed to enjoy this and left knowing the finer details of the study that allows students to access the higher grade, such as the number of participants or the name of the games that the participants played in the study. Questioning students a few weeks later showed that they had retained a large amount of the information in the chunking lesson.

Mr R Davis 

Year 9 needed to know how to do binary. The main focus of this chunking section was to know the binary number line 128, 64 , 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1 and how this relates to the corresponding decimal hundreds , tens and units. The chunking section was useful to help them remember the order  and what the conversion process entails.

Mr J Goodearl 

I have used the ‘chunking’ strategy predominantly with my year 11 history class. They have been studying the American Boom in the 1920’s, which we looked at the impact of shares. I split this down into 5 ‘chunks’, these were ‘why people went to buy shares, What shares are, how the stock market worked, The stock market boom and buying shares using loans. I found that this allowed students to challenge each other’s thinking and allowed them to recall their information clearer and develop his/her evaluation of the topic. I also found that all ability children found this activity stretching and challenging.

Mr S Doe 

I have been experimenting with Chunking in practical PE and I have found it to be an extremely useful technique for questioning in mini-plenaries and in particularly developing students responses to questions. For example in Basketball – My year 9 group have been working on their ‘Triple Threat’ which gave me the opportunity to recap core skills in three different areas (Dribbling, Passing and Shooting) – I used these three categories as chunks – and did this for 2 rounds – firstly to get their initial ideas on the three categories and then in the second round of questioning to develop their answers by asking other groups to expand on what had originally been said. This method really cemented their understanding of the core skills for basketball and proved to be an effective way of questioning students and being inclusive.

Miss L Skipsey 

I found the chunking really useful with the teaching of my Year 11 the novel ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. We read one paragraph of the text and then students would discuss and then feedback to me (this gave us the opportunity to identify any close analysis quotes). The reading continued, with the previous paragraphs read also being revisited with each explanation. A really effective method of teaching and learning which not only clarified meaning but also offered students to reflect on the content.

Mrs I Coetzee 

We used this with Yr7 in a global warming lesson. It was incorporated into the lesson in conjunction with  a jigsaw technique. Students had to learn the causes & effects of global warming. They worked in pairs and then a group of 4. Students were able to list the causes and effects of global warming and then write a paragraph on the topic. Students were engaged with this.

Mrs C Mclean 

Today I used Direct Instruction to help ensure students understood a text on Gothic features. Because I had 4 pages of varying information, I had students work in peer groups. I modelled the technique for the whole class  and gave them step by step instruction before setting them off on their own. Students worked in groups of 3-4, where one student was the reader of no more than 2 sentences, a second students then explained the two sentences to the rest of the group, using their own words. I stressed that I did not expect students to repeat anything, but rather communicate the key ideas. Students then took turns being the reader, teacher and audience until the text was complete, reading only 2 sentences at a time.

This was far more engaging for the students, and helped to structure a group reading of a text, when some students, whose reading ages may be significantly lower than the rest, could access the information in a far less intimidating way.

The ZPD of learners also meant that the ‘explainer’ would be far more likely to use ‘child friendly’ language then I might have when explaining.

Mr B Streets 

I have used Chunking to get students to link things together, we looked at Push and Pull factors. Students had to chunk three Push factors for Migration at a time and then their partner was chunking three Pull factors – this was then relayed in dialogue between the pairs. This worked well for getting students to recall, but also helped them to clearly see the relationship between the two things.

Where I have used it purely for recall purposes on a process like the Water Cycle, I get the student listening to count the number of subject specific words a person uses and also suggest at least one word they could change in their explanation for a better word, this encourages really good listening and they enjoy listening out for places where they feel improvement could be made.


Mrs E Rafferty-Tally 

With a year 9 class I was introducing approaches to a 10 mark exam question. There are 5 different stages or steps that students need to follow if they are to meet all the assessment criteria for the top marks. Rather than giving the students all the steps at once (which would have been rather overwhelming for this class) it was ‘chunked’ by step, with students given the opportunity to follow each step separately.

Once they were familiar with the steps and their order, they were more able and confident to follow the exam approach without being prompted by me. Even several weeks later, the students can still recall what they need to do in order to be successful for this particular type off question.

Mr N Cuthbert 

Chunking within my lesson has helped develop understanding and progress for my students. The chunking has linked topics and as a result helped students in 10g1 tackle A grade questions with clear understanding and method. Certain problems given in the exam require high level understanding of several topics to solve. I have ‘chunked’ together certain topics to certain lessons before tackling these problems. Chunking Pythagoras theorem, area of a circle and area of a curved part of a cone are all required to solve the surface area of a cone. Keeping these areas separate and then in the one lesson bringing them together to solve A grade surface area of a cone problems has worked remarkably well. The lesson simply put together these 3 chunks, the learning in the lesson could then focus on analysing the question and choosing which knowledge to apply. Rather than having to focus on every simple part at once. The lesson went well and set them up nicely for another where they can develop the knowledge further.

Mrs A West 

I have used the ‘Chunks’ strategy again with year 9 in order to break down the perfect tense to them. So the topic was ‘how to form the perfect tense’ and I am trying to give them a foolproof method in order to be able to get this right. This consists in a)working out the subject pronoun b)finding the verb in the infinitive in French c)working out what auxiliary you need (avoir or être – by checking the sheet handed out with all the verbs that take ‘être’ for auxiliary in the perfect tense), d)working out if it is an –er –ir –re ending verb and work out the past participle according to the little sheet handed out. c) writing down the completed verb form.
This was reinforced by a powerpoint afterwards with recap and tasks.

Mrs S Cox 

I used Chunking in Biology. It was used to reinforce the processes in controlling blood sugar levels. Following the chunking strategy I broke the learning into the following chunks:
increases blood sugar levels/ pancreas releases insulin/glucose out of blood converted to glycogen/ stored in liver. Decrease blood sugar/glucagon released/glycogen converted back to glucose/released into blood. Students responded very well to this.

Mrs L Lawes 

I`ve used the direct instruction strategy with Y11 and Y10 for revision purposes.
I`ve explained key points in how to answer an English Language Reading Exam question to the class.
I`ve then asked one partner to explain it to the other and then the partner to repeat it back.
I`ve also taken it one stage further and explained how to answer one question to half the class and another question to the other half.
I`ve then asked them to buddy up with each other and explain their question and then asked the partners to feed back to check understanding, clearing up misconceptions as they go.
I`ve done the same to revise poems for the Literature exam.
I`ve given brief information sheets about a group of poems expressing the same theme to members of a group of four/five students. Each student takes a different poem. They are the `expert` on that poem. Their job is to explain how it expresses the theme to the other group members. The other group members listen to each explanation and feedback to the class their understanding of each poem and misconceptions are cleared up by the `expert` or the teacher.

Mr A Day 

First I trialled this strategy with my 9e classes. I have often used this strategy with students prior to entering the workshop to emphasise the importance of health & safety which seems to work well as I broke this down into smaller chunks for them to understand.

Mrs M Sesay 

In teaching my A Level staff class, I need to teach/recap the skill of completing the square and staff then need to master that before being able to apply to manipulating an algebraic equation to find the centre and radius of the graph of a circle. In teaching trigonometry, we ensure students can master labelling the sides, before moving on to choosing SIN, COS or TAN. Then we need to ensure that students can use the ratio triangles, then we need to ensure that the students can reset the calculator and use them correctly. The final outcome is that students can find a side or an angle in a right angled triangle. Then we move on to problem solving. In order to find a complex area, it first needs to be broken up into areas of simple shapes; hence we focus on teaching areas of rectangles and triangles etc, mastering these, before moving on to composite shapes. Then move on to problem solving involving these. In teaching the use of multipliers for percentage increase and decrease, it needs to be broken down into manageable steps such that students understand converting fractions to percentages, then converting a percentage increase/decrease into a fraction and hence a percentage and then using these as multipliers. Once this is mastered, then we can build onto reverse percentages. Again, this is then taken through to problem solving involving percentages.