Tuesday, February 24, 2015

3 Ways to Help Students Master Sequencing

Hello from Michigan! I’m Kelsea, a former 4th grade general education and PreK-8th grade special education teacher turned full-time momma of three (3 yrs and under)! J I blog over at Teacher Gems. I am eager to share some fun ideas with you today to help students master sequencing!


Sequencing is understanding how a series of objects, events, and time occur in a specific and logical order. Because of it’s abstract nature, sequencing can be a difficult skill to master. Yet it is an important skill used in many areas of life. In our daily lives we sequence events such as getting dressed, eating breakfast and going to school. Sequencing is also used across subject areas. We sequence numbers in math, order events in history, sequence steps in a science process, etc. Perhaps the most well-known concept of sequencing occurs in reading when retelling the events of a story.

There are many ways to teach sequencing. Below are three simple methods that will help your students master the skill. Ideally these methods are taught in progression moving through the steps as students become more proficient. However, they can also be taught simultaneously depending on students' prior knowledge and comprehension level.


We naturally sequence in our daily living. A great way to sneak in some extra practice is to intentionally expose students to sequencing without necessarily teaching it. For example, you can use picture schedules (like these free ones) to help students begin to think about sequencing. When giving directions for an activity use simple picture cue cards to illustrate each step (i.e. first color the picture, next cut out the shape and last paste it into your booklet). Put the picture cue cards on a whiteboard in sequential order for students to follow.

Use task analysis to practice sequencing. Task analysis involves taking a simple task like brushing your teeth and breaking it down into step by step instructions. A fun activity to practice this is to have students create posters. Students might make a poster that shows a toothbrush, another poster that shows toothpaste being put on a toothbrush and a third poster that shows the toothbrush brushing teeth. Once students have made their posters talk about them as a class. Can anyone think of any other steps that might be needed for brushing teeth? Try to get students to really think about the details involved such as twisting the lid off the toothpaste, squeezing the tub of toothpaste, turning the sink on, rinsing the toothbrush afterwards, etc. Create a bulletin board with students' completed posters.

Creating an environment of sequencing will give students a jump start to learning this important skill. After introducing students to sequencing through their environment it's time to move on to intentionally teaching the skill.


Helping students master the skill of sequencing will increase their reading comprehension and, depending on how you teach it, will strengthen their writing skills. As a special educator I found that often students who struggled with reading comprehension also struggled with sequencing. When practicing sequencing of a story these students would easily get frustrated with the task and give up. Once students have given up on a task it is much harder to motivate them to try it again. This can be detrimental to learning since mastery of a task takes practice.

Instead of burdening students to come up with a correct answer, I found that students were much more encouraged to try an open-ended task. For example, instead of having my students cut and paste sentences with the main events of the story in order (where if they were incorrect they were stuck!), I created a sequencing sort skill center with picture cards to order. This center allowed students to work on mastering the skill in isolation from reading. So instead of having the picture cards related to a story we read, I came up with picture card sets of three things that went together and let the students write their own story after they sequenced the pictures. This takes the pressure off the student to get a correct answer. While the three picture cards in a set have a seemingly obvious logical order, students can come up with a different order that works for them.


Having students write about the order will give insight into whether or not they are thinking logically about the sequence of events. For example, the picture set below is meant to be sequenced as follows: First you mix together all the ingredients, next you put the pie in the oven to bake and last you take the pie out of the oven and eat it. A child may, however, put the picture of the oven first and in their explanation say, “First you preheat the oven, next you mix together all of the ingredients and last you take the pie out of the oven.” Some might even argue that this explanation is superior to the former (as most recipes call for preheating the oven prior to mixing together the ingredients).


Using picture cards allows students to easily rearrange the images if they think of a better way to sequence them. Having students write their own stories to go along with the picture cards gives the teacher a better understanding of students' thought processes. This in turn will help the teacher to plan more individualized instruction.


Once students have mastered the skill of sequencing in isolation it is time to add the element of reading. Start with three simple pictures that summarize the story and work toward adding more pictures with more details as students become gain proficiency. Practice sequencing as a whole class by placing the picture cards in sequential order in a pocket chart.

Assign students events from a story to illustrate. Have them cut out their pictures and paste them onto popsicle sticks. Then have students come up to the front of the room and arrange themselves (with their popsicle stick) in order of how the events occurred in the story.

Another fun way for students to independently practice sequencing after reading is by using these free story apps. Students listen to a story that is read to them and then sequence four picture cards. Once they have sequenced the pictures they can record themselves retelling the main events of the story.


I hope you have enjoyed reading these ways to help students master sequencing! If you have more tips for teaching sequencing please share in the comments below. If you're interested in using my sequencing sort skill center with your students you can find it by clicking on the image above. Thanks for reading! 


Be sure to stop by my blog and say hello!




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