Learning and Using Temporal Transitional Words

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SWBAT use temporal transitional words such as first, next, last, finally to retell the story

Big Idea

Using temporal transitional words makes the story make sense


Common Core Connection:

The focus for this lesson continues to be RL1.2: retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.  Combining the tasks involved in this lesson, I realized that it was a great opportunity to engage with the temporal aspects of W.1.3, too, so we did a little work on retelling and using time order words.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson my students reviewed the terms beginning, middle, and end. They were also introduced to the terms first, next, then, and last.  After reading the anthology they worked collaboratively to sequence a project and wrote about it in their journal using the temporal words first, next, then, and last.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 1: All Together Now, The Cat Sat, by Lynn Munsinger
  • Apple Sequence Cards (one set per student pair, cut in half length wise) (Teacher’s Friend, a Scholastic Company)
  • 6 sheets of display paper  (9 x 12 construction paper cut in half 4 ½ x 12)
  • Crayons, scissors, glue


5 minutes

Today was our first day reading of from our reading individual anthology text (Sequencing a story).  I have found that teaching sequencing with simple stories at the beginning of the year sets students up well for more complex reading comprehension activities.

Before we began I gave my students a few moments to explore their books.  I then directed their attention to the first story, The Cat Sat.  I told them that today we were going to read this story and think about what happens in the first, next, and last part of the story.

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

At this point I had all my students stand up and take a stretch.  Once they were settled I displayed the Apple Sequence Cards and explained they would work with their table partner and would get two cards.  I continued by telling them:

  • First you need to color the two apples you have. 
  • Next you need to cut them out. 
  • Then you need to work with your partner to put them order.
  • After that you and your partner need glue them to the display paper.
  • Finally you need to describe the apples using the words: first, then, after that, and finally.

Wanting my students to make the connection to sequence and directions, I asked them:

  • What am I doing?
  • What kind of words am I using?

Without waiting, my students called out ‘giving directions’ and ‘using words from the beginning’.  That’s right, I replied, noting that it is important to use sequence words to give or understand directions.

Before passing out the student activity sheets and display papers, I checked student understanding of the directions by giving my students a moment to think about what they were going to do.  I then used the magic cup to select a student to restate the directions to the class.  Once satisfied that my students knew what they were to do I passed out their Apple Sequence Cards and work materials.  When all my students began working I monitored their progress and collaboration by walking around and meeting with each student pair.

At the end of 15 minutes I pulled the group back together and used the magic cup to select three partner pairs to share and display their work on the doc-u-cam.  Knowing that all my students would want to show me their work I had all students hold their completed projects up so I could see them.  I then collected them and later displayed them on the ‘Fantastic Work Wall’.

To close this lesson I reminded students that it was important to use the words first, next, last, and finally when re-telling a story or giving directions so they makes sense.

From this juncture my students transitioned into their leveled reading groups during the independent part of the lesson block.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

Because this is our first time reading in a large group from individual books, I modeled how to Point to the Words with their fingers, look at the words with their eyes, listen to the words with their ears, and think about the words with their brains. We then choral read The Cat Sat together.  While we were reading, I circled around my students desks to make sure they were pointing to the words and following along.

When we finished I modeled how it should sound when I retold the story using the temporal words first, next, then, and last.  “In the story The Cat Sat, First….  Next….  Then… Last…”

I wanted my students to make the connection to the words first, next, then, and last, from the previous day’s lessons by asking: ‘Where have you heard these words before, and what do they mean?’  After giving my students a moment to remember, I had them turn to their table partner and discuss the answer to this question with each other. After a short minute I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select a partner pair to share their answer with the class.  These two students were able to tell me they remembered the words from yesterday’s work and that they meant the same as the words beginning, middle, and end of the story.  I agreed and pointed out to sequence a story or retell it, both sets of words could be used.

I then directed my students to think about the beginning of the story and share with their table partner what happened first in this story, using the word “first.”  When they finished partner sharing, to check for understanding, I used the magic cup to choose a partner pair to share their answer with the class.  As these partner pairs were sharing the rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  We continued in this manner for the middle and the end of the story as well.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this time my students are in their leveled differentiated reading groups where every 15 to 20 minutes they usually rotate through four ELA areas.  One of those areas is usually journal writing because I believe that journal writing is a valued way to help students remember, understand, and apply what they have just practiced.  Besides those cognitive areas, I wanted to see how creative my students could be.  Journal writing is also a valued way for me to check my student skill level.

For today’s journal my students were to use the Apple Sequence activity to write a narrative about how this apple went from being whole to a core using the words, first, next, then, and last.

The prompt I put on the board: First ___.  Next ___.  Then ___.  Last ___.

As each reading group rotates from the journal writing area to my differentiated reading group, I check each students journal for completeness, understanding, conventions, and grade appropriate spelling.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students told me two reasons why it was important to use the words first, next, then, and last.