Helping students learn to recall the facts of a story in the proper order is a skill that aids comprehension. Sequencing is an important part of problem solving across subjects.
Why teach story sequence?
- It assists with comprehension.
- Sequence structures help students of varying abilities organize information and ideas efficiently.
|When to use:||Before reading||During reading||After reading|
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
Story maps provide one way to help students organize the events from a story.
Helping students learn transition or signal words that indicate a sequence (first, second, last) will also help them learn about sequence.
Sequence sticks, story chains, and a story sequence craft all help students practice ordering events within a story. See these ideas from Suite 101.com.
Most math curricula include worksheets on ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc). Patterns are also a form of sequencing my encouraging the use of vocabulary words such as "What bead goes first? Then which bead? Which bead is third?" Encouraging students to write out the steps for solving addition and subtraction problems that include regrouping is an excellent way to have them think through the steps in order. Teachers can use a simple sheet of paper folded into four squares. Ask students to write the steps in order in the squares.
Helping children sequence also develops their scientific inquiry skills. In order to study or observe changes in something, students must follow along and record changes. The changes happen in a particular order, which kids can document by writing or drawing pictures.
Timelines are a great way to teach sequence in social studies. Kids may enjoy making a timeline of their own life, and include important milestones such as when they learned to walk, talk, ride a bike and go to school. Once students understand the process of charting important milestones on a timeline, topics from the social studies curricula can be used.
This simple example of an explorers timeline illustrates how the spacing between dates indicates the passage of time.
Other Ideas for School or Home
- Create a sequence page for a simple activity around the house or at school. Use any blank sheet of paper. Fold the paper into squares. Start with 4 large squares, for older students create more squares. Ask kids to draw the steps they know in the order in which the steps occur. For example, draw each step it takes to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or to brush their teeth.
- Cut or tear out the pages from an old calendar. Mix up the months and hand out the stack of pages. Ask the kids to order the months from January to December by laying the pages out on the floor. Which month goes first? Then which one? Which month is last?
Children's books to use with this strategy
The Keeping Quilt
A quilt started by the author's great grandmother is passed on through the generations to chronicle and recall the family's history.
Nabeel's New Pants
Nabeel's new garment is accidentally shortened too much in this humorous tale told in the style of a folktale.
Younger children (or perhaps ELLs) can sequence a hen's walk around the farm in this nearly wordless tale. Only illustration reveals that Rosie is followed by a fox (who does get his comeuppance).
A quilt connects an African American family as it is passed on throughout a changing country, from slave times to contemporary.
What does Benny buy with each of his 5 pennies? Patterned language provides a predictable story just right to sequence.
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab Big Book: A Counting by Feet Book
Sets and counting are introduced on a beach with creatures' feet.
Great Migrations: Whales
Information is provided through full color photographs and easier to read text.
Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
The story of the baby hippo separated from his pod during the 2004 tsunami is documented in photographs and engaging text. Animals, sanctuaries, friendship, and natural disasters potentially link this book to additional topics.
Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories
A unique format tells the story of a child new to America, its customs, and language. Immigration, communication, and school & teachers are among the possible links to this book.
Other ideas for sequencing
- Arts & crafts activities. It may be desirable to consider quilt-making and/or other arts & crafts activities with children. This and other arts and craft activities may reinforce the idea of sequencing and may introduce math concepts (measurement, addition & subtraction and basic computation, etc). Alex Henderson's Kids Start Quilting with Alex Anderson: 7 Fun & Easy Projects Quilts for Kids by Kids, Tips for Quilting with Children provides easy instructions for adults quilting with children.
- Cooking with kids. Cookbooks for children can reinforce stories read, math concepts (measurement, etc), as well as sequencing. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara Walker (HarperCollins; 0064460908) presents recipes for foods mentioned in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
- Wordless books. There are many wordless books that can be used with younger children and with English language learners (or students who may have limited English proficiency). For younger children, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola humorously details a woman making pancakes from scratch or the wordless adventures of Mark Newgarden's a small dog named Bow-Wow (e.g., Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug). For older or more sophisticated readers, books by Barbara Lehmann and David Weisner may be considered.
For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners
- Scaffold your instruction by providing prompts for each section on your map. For example, in the "Beginning" box of your map, write in prompts such as: Who are the main characters? Where does the story take place?
- Differentiate which sequence chart to give to which students. The beginning-middle-end format is the simplest; other more complex maps can be used with more advanced students.
- Model this strategy using a book with very clear components to help students understand each component.
- Students can extend their understanding of sequencing into their own writing. Students can use sequence charts to plan, summarize, and write their own main ideas, characters, setting, and plot for a story.
See the research that supports this strategy
Moss, B. (2005). Making a case and a place for effective content area literacy instruction in the elementary grades. Reading Teacher, 59, 46-55.
Reutzel, R. (1985). Story maps improve comprehension. Reading Teacher, 38, 400-404.