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How To Teach Sequencing In Upper Elementary

I LOVE teaching sequencing in the elementary classroom. There are so many ways to make the skill of sequencing fun, engaging, and meaningful. Sequencing sometimes feels like it should be a natural skill for students. After all, humans are natural storytellers. We love to share information and stories with others. But have you ever been listening to a young child tell a story? It might go something like, “I was playing a video game with my brother when he – well earlier he asked me if I wanted to play with them, but then later I asked him to play.” By the end of the story, everyone is confused about exactly what happened! This is why knowing how to teach sequencing is so important!

Includes anchor chart and centers for how to teach sequencing as the foundation of many key reading skills in upper elementary.

Why Teaching Sequencing Is Important

Children can grasp that one thing happens after another. They understand there is an order of events. They experience this order daily as they perform routine tasks. However, helping students understand the importance of telling stories in sequential order, helping them recognize order in an unfamiliar task, and having them use sequence of events as a comprehension helper is trickier.

By helping our students understand sequencing and sequential order, we are helping them with a wide variety of skills. To begin, it helps students create clearer stories. These may be oral stories or written stories. Sequencing can help students communicate clear thoughts and stories that are easy to follow. 

Second, sequencing aids in comprehension. If a student does not understand that an author is using sequential order in their writing or that the story they are reading follows a specific sequence of events, they can end up confused. 

Lastly, sequencing is a key skill for many content areas. Social studies relies on sequencing to show how people lived and when different events occurred. Science relies on sequencing for recording experiment observations or following lab procedures. Sequencing shows up everywhere!

How To Teach Sequencing

Before you begin using sequencing in your classroom, start by helping students understand what sequencing is and what it looks like. Consider giving students an anchor chart with several sequential order transition words (next, then, finally, before, etc.). I also talk about all the different ways that we use sequencing, in patterns, writing, and more.

how to teach sequencing anchor chart upper elementary

Then, read a mentor text with students and apply the concept of sequencing. Ask students which events came first. Have them complete a “beginning, middle, end” graphic organizer for the text. Try the book There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (Amazon affiliate links).

One year during a fairytales unit, I gave students one page from a fairytale. They had to paraphrase it and illustrate it, and then we worked together to put the pages back into the correct sequence of events. It was a huge hit!

Sequencing Centers for Mastery

 After students have a good understanding of sequencing, begin to practice applying sequencing in various ways. One year, I did a Passport to Sequencing, which was several days of sequencing centers, and students loved that! They moved from center to center and got a stamp as they completed the tasks at each one. In the pictures, you'll see that each activity was labeled as a “land” like “Comedyland” or “Mathland.” This tied into the passport theme, and they LOVED it!

sequencing center activities upper elementary

The following sequencing activities were included in the centers:

Picture Book Break Apart: Begin by having students read a picture book. Then, they have to write six main events on index cards using transition words and keywords to show the order of the story. Then, they traded with a friend who read the index cards first and tried to infer the correct order. Finally, they read the book to check and see if they put them in the correct order. Note: You can also do this by writing a brief summary of events from the current novel you're reading and then have them pull out the 3-5 most important events, write them on sticky notes, and place them in the correct order.

Sequencing Task Cards: You can add sequencing task cards to a station rotation for even more practice.These task cards are my favorite for my students to practice sequencing independently. When we did our passport to learning, I used my holiday sequencing task cards!

Sequencing Paired Passages: As students begin mastering the basics of sequencing, it may be time to extend and challenge their knowledge. For instance, have students compare and contrast two texts that use sequencing. This requires students to layer skills, which adds some complexity.I like using this sequencing paired passage resource. It includes two stories with an annotation guide, comprehension questions, and other sequencing tasks and activities.

Comics: This is a student favorite FOR SURE! Find some student appropriate comics. Print them out (or cut them out of the newspaper) and cut the different sections apart. Have students determine which order they belong in and then have them add captions that help show the sequence of the story.

sequencing center activities upper elementary

Math Problem Sequencing: I LOVE incorporating math into sequencing. For this one, I took my math detectives task cards and broke up the written solutions into parts. Students then had to put them in the correct sequence, not only using their math skills but also their transition word skills!

sequencing center activities upper elementary

Putting Historical Events into Chronological Order: For this station, I took two areas of study and wrote out 5-8 pertinent events and cut them apart. We were reading about Malala Yousafzai and also studying Colorado history at the time, so I did two separate timelines — one for each topic. I focused on the use of transition words, and then students put them back in order.

Using Pictures to Sequence: There were two parts to this section… one was having students do the sequencing page of Using Pictures to Teach and the other was Lunchland! I gave them a picture of something like a hamburger, an ice cream sundae, etc. and they had to write out, using a flow map, the steps they took to assemble whatever was in the picture.

sequencing center activities upper elementary

Picture Book Break Apart: Begin by having students read a picture book. Then, they have to write six main events on index cards using transition words and keywords to show the order of the story. Then, they traded with a friend who read the index cards first and tried to infer the correct order. Finally, they read the book to check and see if they put them in the correct order. Note: You can also do this by writing a brief summary of events from the current novel you're reading and then have them pull out the 3-5 most important events, write them on sticky notes, and place them in the correct order.

Seasonal Sequencing: If it works on your timeline, these seasonal sequencing cards were a lot of fun too.

sequencing center activities upper elementary

Sequencing Extensions

As students grow in their sequencing skills, you can introduce them to more complex reading skills, such as retelling, summarizing, and plot. All of these skills involve knowledge of sequencing, so by having a strong foundation, they can better apply more advanced skills. You can also challenge students with advanced texts that may include items such as flashbacks. By introducing stories and books that follow a more irregular form of storytelling, students are challenged in how to apply their knowledge. 

Want a ready-to-go resource for challenging students sequencing skills? Check out this sequencing project! This pool party sequencing project requires students to apply several reading skills at once, including sequencing.

Our lives are full of routine and order, but that doesn’t make sequencing a natural skill. In order for our students to clearly communicate and have better comprehension, we have to directly teach and practice what sequencing looks like.

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