Chunking: Managing Your Classroom with the Weekly Packet

Lesson plan chunking is one of my biggest “go to” classroom management strategies for classes that are chatty, have a lot of side conversations, or struggle to focus during class. I use this mainly for days that are really teacher-centered (me standing in front of my kids and talking for a long time), TPRS days, PQA days, or other heavy verbal input days that require the kids to focus and sustain their attention. Here’s how it works:

I give students a weekly packet every Monday. The “packet” is really a note catcher where they record their answers for the Do Now (bell ringer), new vocabulary, illustrations, and answers to PQAs / comprehension questions. I collect the packet every Friday, grade it, and return it every Monday.

What’s in the packet? Students have 5 copies of the daily template (one for each day of the week). The templates include a box for students to answer their Do Now, a box for them to record their vocab, a box that says “drawings”, a half page that is lined to do our write and discuss, and a box for their exit ticket / quick quiz. (See picture below)

How do I use the packet? Every day, students enter and do a Do Now that is pencil to paper. After the Do Now, I chit chat with the class a little bit to gauge how “on” they are that day – Are they following directions? Are they having a ton of side conversations? Are the energetic? Etc… I try to milk every input-heavy moment in class out as much as possible. My goal is to talk in front of my students for as long as possible until they have to write something. I stop teaching and prompt my students to draw or write something when we get off track, there’s a lot of side conversations, students won’t stop blurting out, I’m tired, etc…. I call these moments my “escape valves”.

What do students draw / write? When the class has gone off the rails and I can’t manage them whole group, I turn all of my discussion questions / PQAs into a written response activity. I’ll post the PQA on the power point, tell students to draw their answer, then I pick up 3-4 student drawings, display them under my doc cam, and provide input as if it were a picture talk. I do this instead of asking a student or the class to respond verbally, because it’s much easier to manage this way.

Chunking your Write and Discuss with the Packet. The lined paper on the back is for us to “chunk” our Write and Discuss. (If you are unfamiliar with Write and Discuss, click here: https://senorachase.com/2019/01/03/write-discuss/ )

“Chunking” means that instead of saving the Write and Discuss for the end of class, we do a little bit of it a time. So I’ll talk in front of my kids for 5-7 minutes (story telling, PQAs, picture talks, etc…), then we’ll do a Write and Discuss of what we just talking about for 2-3 mins, then we get back into our verbal conversation. I’ve found that doing this helps students 1) Re-focus their minds, 2) Let the language sink in more, and 3) gives me as the teacher a mental break to clean up any classroom management items I need to address (like the 3 kids in the back asleep, the 2 kids having a constant side conversation, the kid I’ve seen texting on his phone but didn’t want to interrupt the flow). I sometimes write 5 sentences really fast on the board or powerpoint, tell the kids to copy, and then I circulate the room and deal with pesky management issues I couldn’t deal with during the whole group discussion.

When to “Chunk”? I chunk when the class needs it. If the class is with me 100%, we aren’t having any issues, and the flow is going great, I don’t make them write anything down in the moment. The second that things start going awry (kids blurting out in English, side convos starting up, etc..) I resort to chunking.

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