When children master the sequencing skill, it means that they have somehow developed the concept of organizing things; including the fact that events in a story occur in a certain order for it to make sense. This “logic order” process is connected to the real life of a person; we know that ordering events in real-life situations is something learned not innate and happens on a daily basis. However sometimes as educators, we assume that because kiddos follow our routines or their home routines, they have also learned how to order events in a story. Unfortunately it’s not always the case! 

Part of the sequencing learning process in reading comprehension, involves visual aid besides the developmental logic behind it. Graphic organizers and transition words are a great help to develop the logical sense of organizing details. Read alouds and retelling a story are also just as important. But what I’ve found and consider even more important, is the way this concept is introduced in the classroom and how hands-on you make it. At first, I started noticing that my students were struggling with sequencing related questions on their standardized and non-standardized assessments; soon I realized that they were trying to order all the events of the story instead of selecting just the important ones. So, I designed an activity to help me explain the concept easier and at the same time help my second graders understand this skill and master it. Since then I’ve improved my results greatly! Below, I suggest a few steps to teach a sequence of events: 

  1. Demonstrate it: Give students multiple examples of the way things happen in a real life situation. For instance, I tell the kids my night routine in the wrong order (first I go to sleep, then I wash my teeth, next I have dinner and last I put on my pajama). I ask the kids if my story makes sense, some kids will say it doesn’t with a this-story-is-absurd face while other kids will say my story makes sense! After that, I choose volunteers to help me order the events correctly and wait until the story makes sense. Finally, we reflect about the sequence of events we just ordered. Remember it is highly important to introduce transition or sequencing words at this moment because they will need to identify them later in comprehension questions.
  2. Do an example with them: Don’t forget that this is a concept that the kids don’t know very well yet, they need to learn it. Reading a story and jump directly to “what happened right after John Smith bought some apples?” isn’t what helps a students understand a sequence of events. It is important to read a story and order the events TOGETHER; this way you can teach them about the strategies you used, what clues helped you order all the events and how to use and read a graphic organizer, etc. Provide them with a copy of what you’re doing in the board and let them follow you doing the same thing you are doing as you demonstrate it in the board. For this purpose, I use my own product [SECUENCIAS], i project it, read the short story with them, then underline the important events and order these event strips. While I do this in the board (with student’s help), they are doing the same in their journals. In this step I kill two birds with one stone because I make sure that my students also learn to find details in a story, which is something they don’t like to do. Doing at least one example with them develops an incomparable comprehension process that is the basis to work on more complex reading exercises. Provide visual support: During the early childhood, it is important to use drawings that show the order in which things happen. It is important to read a story aloud and provide students with pictures related to the story that allow the kids visualize and orally discuss the sequence of events. As they grow up, the pictures are not as necessary; however they still need visual aid related to the story, for example details specifically selected. In this case I’m referring to providing a group of sentences that highlight important details about the story they’ve read and need to be put in order. This will mostly help them transition between the pictures to the independent comprehension of a text.
  3. Independent work: It is important that the kids learn to do what they’ve done with you on their own. Independent practice could be done at the beginning of the lesson, as if letting the kids explore by themselves, provided that you’ll explain the process and strategies right after. The risk however, is that some kids will skip the thinking process and will rely directly on guessing, this could be very difficult to correct afterwards. If, on the contrary you leave the independent practice last, kids will practice the skills that you taught them. Practicing on their own, will help them reinforce the concept until it’s basically automatic.
  4. Assess it: At this moment, it is appropriate to ask comprehension questions. In the activity I have designed, I added task cards with comprehension questions that should be used after the thinking process on sequence of events has been applied. It will give you a good idea on who understood it and who’s struggling.

Once the concept has been demonstrated over and over, it is important to reinforce it and add rigor to it. To reinforce, it’s essential that similar exercises are provided in their learning stations. In my classroom, we try to do a sequence of events every Tuesday, then kids practice this and other comprehension skills in their Read to Someone center. This way, they can not only help each other but also explain each other in their own words.

  • Additionally, once the concept has been mastered completely, it’s important to add difficulty. These are some ways to extend and add rigor: 
  • Introduce additional sequencing words to increase their vocabulary, for example: before, the next day, at the beginning, etc. 
  • Practice on a graphic organizer with one or two missing details they children will have to find in the story. 
  • Order longer sequences of events (5-6 events) or longer stories and different genres such as biographies. 
  • Introduce sequence of events (following the previously explained process) without providing details or visual support where kids find and order all events by themselves. 

Everything in life has an order and lower grades is the best moment to start developing this skill. To obtain better results remember to detect and correct mistakes on time, clarify confusions and avoid misconceptions. 

Please share your experiences, we want to know about how you’re doing teaching sequences!

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