Sequencing is natural in our daily lives from the structure of a regular day to the order in which we complete tasks. It's a skill that makes a lot of sense to kids. Just making sense, however, isn't enough. They need exposure to situations that challenge their sequencing skills in order to improve.
We start in a basic way. I ask the kids what kind of things can be sequenced. One of the kids mentions sequencing people by their height. I go with it and say, "Ok, I want you all to sequence yourselves in order from shortest to tallest within your group." They immediately jumped up and started talking and moving around and getting in order. When the four groups were organized in order of shortest to tallest, we discussed how easy it was to see that the orders were correct. Next, I ask them to think of ordering themselves in a way that can't be determined outwardly. This leads to the kids organizing themselves by birthdate. Once they're ordered, we compare both sequences. Each child in the group announces their birthday to verify that they're in the right sequence.
None of the above was intended in my original plan, but it's a great example of why it's fine to go off the rails from time to time. The kids really enjoyed the activity and we had some quality conversation about sequencing because of it!
Here is a Kizoa video of my kids lining up in different sequences. Unmute by dragging mouse over bottom left. If you click on the video, it takes you to kizoa.
To capitalize on their thinking about sequencing things, the students work in their table groups of four or five. I've prepared six scenarios and placed them in a box. I randomly pull a scenario from the box for each of the groups. It can also be done by sending representatives from each group to the front to do the picking, however, I've found in the past that sometimes it's more trouble for them to decide on the kid who gets to pull from the box than it's worth!
Once the group has their sequencing scenerio, they work at creating a list of five steps to complete their task. This shouldn't be too difficult, although they may have different ideas about which steps are crucial in order to meet the number five. Here is an example: Trying out "5 steps to finding a website topic." On one piece of paper, they write their steps in the correct order.
Another way to do this is to actually give them the steps and have them put steps into the right order. Although they don't have to think as hard, this method is much faster. I've done it, but again, only with a time crunch. Once everyone has finished, the groups take turns reading their steps in the correct order.
Sequencing Snenarios are easy to create, as noted below. These are just suggested responses in case the teacher would rather give out the steps. The kids answers can be much more creative: Sequencing Scenarios Slips and student work.
Feeding a pet- 5 steps: Get the food, bowl, and spoon; open the can; dump the food into the bowl; mix it around; put the bowl down.
Washing dishes- 5 steps: Fill the sink with water and soap; immerse the dishes; scrub a dish with a sponge; rinse the dish; put it in the rack to dry.
Setting a Table- 5 steps: Put plates, silverware, napkins on the table; distribute plates around the table; put napkins on the left side of the plates; place forks onto the napkins; put knives on the right side of the plate and spoons next to the knives.
Looking up a website topic- 5 steps: decide on a topic; put cursor in the address bar; type in your favorite search engine (google, yahoo, bing); type your website topic in the search engine bar; hit enter.
Wrapping a gift- 5 steps: Get out tape, scissors, paper; unroll an appropriate amount of wrapping paper; set the gift onto the wrapping paper; fold the paper around the gift; tape the edges to enclose gift.
Raking the Yard- 5 steps: Take the rake to the backyard; rake up a pile of leaves; put the leaves into a trashcan/bag; take the trashcan/bag to the curb; put the rake away.
The groups have a chance to read each of their scenarios aloud to the class. Have any discussion necessary, and prepare to move into the main activity.
I put a Biography/Autobiography Timeline on the Smart Board and model sequencing a simplified biography. I like this particular resource, and will probably use it in my lesson on Memory Maps the next time I teach it. It is in the form of a staircase, and the students start from the bottom listing events/date or age/details for two informational texts.
This work will be done independently. The first text is about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and is a typical biography. The second is less of a biography and more of an event: John Wesley Powell discovering the Grand Canyon. I chose these to help the students learn the skill of sequencing through informational narratives. There is plenty of interesting content to organize. They read these informational texts and sequence the main events in each. Once completed, the class discussion focuses on the differences between the two types of texts and how they determined which details in each text they should use. Here is a Student reading his paper.
The consensus is that the biography was an easier text to use in this activity (see this student example), despite the level of content, which is a fifth grade level. The event of discovering the Grand Canyon student example was easier to read- fourth grade level, but more difficult to separate into the seven events on the organizer. On the Smart Board, the kids fill out the timeline with their contributions.
The kids review their biography and event informational texts and discuss why they chose different information to include. While I anticipated that they'd hit most of the same points within the text, some students omitted life events, while others felt compelled to add. For example, the date of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't included in the biography text, but everyone knows it happened. I applaud this effort and allow it as the final "step" on the staircase biography organizer even though students did not use textual evidence from this text.