My Personal Approach-Building on Success and ‘Chunking’

My whole approach to teaching and learning can be summed up with these two strategies, which are my own personal method for applying the Constructivist, Orton-Gillingham, and Zone of Proximal Development learning methodologies.  Building on success is so important, because when the student feels like they are succeeding at something, then they are encouraged to keep working at it, and are more willing to try something new. Experiencing success also helps to change their identity to someone who is capable of succeeding.  The more experiences they have of success, the stronger this “I can do it” identity will be. In order to build on success, the focus needs to be on determining the student’s strengths and using it to their advantage. Doing this can create much more growth than focusing on their weakness and trying to fix them.  For example, if a student is very visual, good at drawing, and loves space, then learning the sounds in words can be done with pictures (drawing each sound inside of a planet to show how they are segmented when reading).

Another aspect of building on success is making the lessons adaptable so that the student can successfully complete the task or learn the concept. The inclusion of adaptability into the lessons is important for all students, but in particular those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and memory/processing issues.

An adaptable lesson means having the ability to alter the lesson according to the needs of the student. This includes making the content ‘small’ or easy enough for them to master with just a bit of challenge and effort. As the student gains confidence, the material can be made ‘bigger’ or more challenging. Since they were successful with what was learned previously, they are willing to attempt the new material (their identity as a learner has become a more positive one).  Also, practicing a concept or skill in multiple contexts helps the student to increase their familiarity, as well as their confidence.

The strategy of ‘chunking’ goes hand in hand with building success.  Chunking simply means to take a larger or more difficult idea, concept, lesson, etc. and break it down into smaller parts.  The content can be broken down into as small of parts as necessary, until the student is able to learn it successfully (and gain confidence). Once they are confident with these smaller ‘chunks,’ the larger ones can then be attempted with much more ease.

Here are Some Examples of Chunking for Various Subjects:

  • Reading

Breaking down sentences into phrases, phrases into individual words, and words into phonetics (prefixes, vowels, vowel teams, etc.). For comprehension, summarizing a chapter or article is broken down into paraphrasing individual paragraphs, which can be further chunked into understanding the meaning of individual phrases and vocabulary words.

  • Writing

Using a graphic organizer to break down paragraph writing into topic, detail, and conclusion sentences, and breaking down the revising/editing process into descriptive words, transitions, and punctuation.

  • Math

Breaking down ratios into the concept of fractions and fractions into the concept of part/whole, breaking down multiplication into repeated addition and addition into mental math strategies.

A Strategy for Success

Using the strategy of chunking in conjunction with building on success creates the best opportunity for the student to realize their full learning potential.