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How to Teach Sequence of Events: Activities and Skills

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

Being able to identify the sequence of events in a story is an essential skill that students needs to master. These sequence activities can help students understand this important skill.

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    Picture Cards

    Students who struggle with reading can still learn about sequencing from sequence activities. To help them understand this concept, you can use picture cards. After reading a story that includes, simply photocopy a miniature version of some of the pictures that portray the most important events in the story. Then cut out these pictures and use them as picture cards.

    Students can work individually or in small groups to put the picture cards in sequential order. After they understand how the cards work, they may wish to make their own cards to tell a story, and then trade the cards with a friend to see if they can figure out what the sequence of the story is supposed to be.

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    Fun With Timelines

    Most people think that timelines belong in history class. Surprisingly, you can use them to teach students about sequence of events in most stories. For example, if you have a story that takes place over the course of a week, you can help students create a timeline with markers for “Sunday,” “Monday,” and the rest of the days of the week. If the class has read a story that takes place throughout the course of a day, or even throughout the course of a year, you can include hour markers or month/season markers.

    Even if the story doesn’t seem to have any specific time markers, you can make up your own. For example, if various events in a story happen before the first key event, between two key events, or after the last key events, you can mark the time line with the key events and insert the minor events around those.

    Timelines can help visual students to “see” the sequence of events in the story more clearly, and it can be a fun way for students to learn the skill of sequencing.

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    Out of Order Events and Signal Words

    Take several sentence strips and write one event on each, either from a story that the students are familiar with, or from an easy to understand sequence of events. For example, you might include the sentences “Juan swung the bat and felt it hit the ball,” “The pitcher threw a curve ball, and Juan wasn’t sure he could hit it,” and “The ball soared over the fence Juan rounded the bases.”

    As a class, work with students to put the sentence strips in the correct order on the board, discussing how you knew that order was correct. Then write several signal words, such as “first,” “then,” “next,” “after,” and “finally” on smaller sentence strips. Discuss which signal words could fit at various points in the story, and move them around on the board until the class agrees that they are in an appropriate place. Emphasize that students can find these words in the books that they read, and that the words can help them understand the sequence of events.

    Some of these sequence activities can be used across different grade levels and with different numbers of students. Use your judgment to choose the sequence activity that best fits your classroom environment.