The Importance of Sequencing

The sequencing example used comes from the Skills and Strategies packet I created for the book Friends by Helme Heine. If you like what you see, visit my TpT and Teachers Notebook store to purchase it. 

Sequencing seems like such an easy skill to teach and learn that some may not spend as much time on it as they should. However, it is a skill that crosses over into other curriculum areas and really should be a skill that is mastered. Understanding what sequencing is, the key words used with sequencing, and why it is so important will not only help students academically, but in their everyday life as well.

Simply put, sequencing puts events in order from first to last. This order is what makes a story make sense. It allows the listener/reader to chronologically visualize what is happening in the story.

In math, problems are solved in the correct sequence, or order of operation. In writing, knowing the right words to convey sequential, chronological, or time order makes a better story. In Social Studies, understanding order helps students with timelines. In our daily lives, sequencing helps us follow a recipe so our food tastes good, or follow directions so we can build or put something together. 

When talking about sequencing it is important to look for time order and spatial order words. These words, again, will help in not only our comprehension but also our writing and daily lives as well.

Because sequencing is best visualized, the use of a flow map really helps students see the order and comprehend the information.

Here are a few sites that offer free graphic organizers:

It is important to note that when teaching sequencing, you don’t have to just focus on sequencing the story. For your lower level students it might be beneficial to sequence something with not as many events, like places characters went, the moods of the characters, the things they tried to help solve their problem, etc.  As you can see, this skill makes it easy to differentiate for your students needs.

Some key time order words:
First, next, then, after, after that, soon, soon after, in the _____, last, finally, as _____, before, later, at the end, during, meanwhile, in a while, as soon as, second, in addition, furthermore, final.

Some key spatial order words:
Above, in front, beneath, below, on top, under, next to, to the left, to the right, beside.

When teaching sequencing, it is important to ask sequencing types of questions. These questions make the students have to think about the order of the story to be able to answer. They need to understand where to look or “think” when the question is asking about before, or during, or in addition to. With the help of time order words and their visualization of the story, students should be able to answer these questions. For those visual learners putting this into a flow map is very helpful.

Sequencing is such a fun skill to teach. There are so many ways for your students to practice this skill. Below are just a few:

Using pictures
  • Photocopy or draw pictures from the book.
  • Use big pictures in a pocket chart.
Big pictures in a pocket chart. Students work together to put them in the correct order.
  • Use small pictures for practice at your desk.
Working in pairs, students used the big pictures at their desk to sequence the story.
  • Glue small pictures onto sentence strips or into flow map.
These pictures were printed small so the students could put them into a flow map for the story.

These small pictures were used to just glue onto a sentence strip.


 Using words
  • Before the lesson come up with the key events that can be sequenced. Remember it doesn't have to be the whole story, choose sequencing that fits your different levels.
  • Put these on sentence strips to use in a pocket chart.

As a class we came up with the four places the friends rode their bike. These were later used as a center activity to practice using time order words to retell the events.

These events were printed and used in the same was as the above sentence strips.

  • Make them small for students to cut and paste in order on a piece of paper.
  • Make a flow map with your key events for the students to cut and paste in the correct order.
Sequencing worksheet for the students to cut and paste into the correct order.

The same cut and paste sentences only this time glued on a sentence strip.

  •  Have students match the picture with the sentence.

Matching picture with sentence.

  **In all examples the students verbally retold the story to me or their partner using time order words. 

Using time, order, spatial words

  • Make a circle map of all the time order words used in the story.
  • On the flow map, have the students write the time order words used in the story for that event.
  • When student verbally tell the story with the pictures make sure they use time order words.

These are the time order and spacial words the kids heard as I read the story.

We put the the time order, spacial words into a flow map so they could see how the story flowed.

Questions and answers
  • Make sure there are sequencing questions to go with whatever activity you do.
  • Help students use the correct linguistic pattern when answering questions to get used to time order words.
Sequencing question stems:
What happened ________? What was the _______ thing that happened? What is the ______ thing (character) does? What happened next? What happened before/after _____? When did (event) happen? What were the first (two, three) things that happened? What happened right after? According to the timeline… In order, describe the events that happened… What are three consecutive events that led to the final event? Approximately how much time elapses in this story?

Linguistic patterns to use when answering sequence questions:
First ____. Next _____. Second _____. Then ____. In the beginning ____. First, ____, and then ____. In the middle ____. Then there were _____. Now there are ____. After a long time ____. A long time ago ____. In the end ____. Finally ____.

*Questions asked for sequencing are in the knowledge level of Bloom’s. These questions simply have students recalling facts of the story using time order words.

Do you like teaching sequencing? What book do you use to teach this skill? What is your favorite skill or strategy to teach? Was there anything here that was useful to you?
Let me know! :0)


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