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Why and How to Teach Sequencing

I had so many questions after reading one of my student’s stories:

“I asked my mom if I could have cake and my sister got mad at me.

Mom said it was ok so we had the cake. My dad got the cake for my mom.”

After questioning, I learned that Dad had bought a birthday cake for Mom and had planned to surprise her after dinner. When the girl asked for cake early, her sister was upset she’d ruined the surprise!

Most kids can sequence things they do on a daily basis, but they have a harder time sequencing events in a story, and an even harder time organizing their thoughts with transition words.

Similarly, when asked to retell stories, kids often leave out key events or tell them out of order. Sometimes, they’ll get so confused they just shut down and say they can’t remember.

If kids don’t learn how to sequence in a meaningful way, it will hinder their reading comprehension.

So we need to teach sequencing in an explicit way, giving opportunities for lots of practice. Here are a few tips on how to break down this concept to make it easy to teach in kindergarten and first grade.

How to Teach Sequencing

Of course, there are many ways to teach your students how to sequence, but here are some key things to include in your instruction:

  • Relate sequencing to everyday life- brainstorm things that follow a sequence: the alphabet, numbers, dates, and tasks like brushing teeth (how silly would it be to brush first, then put toothpaste on the brush!)
  • Explain the importance of sequencing (and consequences of things being out of order)
  • Teach how to pull out important events when sequencing stories
  • Provide transitional words to use
  • Practice with simple text! Choose texts that have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

To grab my students’ attention, I often start my lessons with something funny or silly!

I made this PowerPoint presentation (part of my Sequencing Bundle) to help break down this concept into easy-to-follow steps. It starts with a fun and silly introduction (see picture below).

To relate it to everyday tasks, the PowerPoint asks students to sequence by building an ice cream sundae. This is pretty simple for most kids, not to mention fun!

2 slides from my Sequencing PowerPoint

Since our goal is to help them sequence when reading, we need to bring it back to texts. I use Cinderella since it’s a story students are familiar with. I use this text again when I teach comparing and contrasting. Using the same text to teach multiple concepts helps kids see that you can think of a text in many ways. That’s why I’m a big fan of using mentor texts to teach many mini-lessons.

In this PowerPoint lesson, students identify important events using pictures. As they choose the pictures in order, the story is told in sequence.

If they choose a picture out of order, they get a TRY AGAIN message.

At the end, I have students retell the story to a friend, using their fingers to tell the important events in order.

Teach Key Sequencing Vocabulary

Of course, it’s important to teach the vocabulary needed for sequencing. I like to make an anchor chart with 3 parts. On the first day I introduce this concept, I keep it simple and only add the words:

First, Next, Then, Last

As we progress through the unit, we add more words to our chart. Learning different vocabulary for the beginning, middle, and end of a story will help them retell with more elaboration and precision. This will also help with writing, especially during a how-to unit!

Opportunities for Practice

Practice with a few more familiar stories to help kids understand. Students can practice retelling to a partner. Grab this free pack of fairy tales to help!

Then, have students sequence with simple text they read.

My Sequencing Squirrel Bundle has differentiated reading passages. I added a little bonus game at the bottom of each page. If students sequence the story correctly, they’ll get the answer to a mystery question!

Here are some more practice activities included in my Sequencing Squirrel pack.

Match and Sequence Cards: 3-step sequencing cards kids can use in different ways:

  • Simply pick 3 and sequence
  • Place a few sets on a pocket chart face-down and kids can turn 3 over. If they match, they get to sequence them
  • Take 3 cards to sequence, then write in a notebook

Sequence & Write: Incorporating writing with reading always helps to cement a skill and these pages are perfect for this!

Using graphic organizers can help students organize their thoughts. I love that these can be used with any text!

More Bundle Components

In keeping with my Decoding Strategy resources, and because associating the fun characters with the skills helps kids remember them better, I created animal mascots for each skill. However, these are optional and you can certainly use the resource without relying on the characters. But Sequencing Squirrel is awfully cute, especially if you find a squirrel plushy to use during your lesson!

I love incorporating movement in my instruction to engage and aid in learning. Here is the little Squirrel Sequencer we unfold as we sequence and retell a story.

You’ll also find posters and bookmarks, as well as a detailed lesson plan and sequence!

Plus, digital activities are included so you can use virtually or- my favorite- on your whiteboard to practice the activities whole-group.

Comprehension Strategy Bundle

This Sequencing bundle is part of a larger Comprehension Strategy Bundle, which includes all of the above components for the following 4 strategies and skills:

Finally, here’s a little FREEBIE for you-Story Sequencing Pop-ups!

These are NEW and are not part of the Sequencing bundle. They’re one-page sequence & retell activities based on popular picture books, and also include color story cards for use on a pocket chart.

Sign up below and get a free set delivered right to your inbox! 

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