28 October 2013 07:40 AM

How to Help Kids Learn Sequencing Skills

by rbavaria

Sequencing – putting events, ideas, objects, places, and even people in logical order – is an essential skill for children learning to read, compute, write, and think logically.  Everyone sequences.  We organize our busy daily lives with sequencing.  (“First, go to the bank.   Then buy groceries.  Next, pick up dry cleaning.  Finally, come home and relax.”)  We understand our roles and places in groups through sequencing.  (First grade, second grade, and so on, for kids.  For us adults, we understand our workplace routines and hierarchies.)

It’s putting things in order. Systematic.  Not especially creative, but necessary.

Sequencing seems simple, but it’s one of those “higher order thinking skills,” as we teachers say.   For example learners use sequencing as they apply steps to solve a math problem.  (“Add the units column first, then the tens column.”)  It’s necessary for reading comprehension.  (“The first piggy’s twig house fell down.  So did the second piggy’s straw house.  But the third piggy’s brick house was strong.”)  It’s required for good writing.  (“I’ll write an introduction, a three paragraph body, and a short conclusion.”)

Here are a few ideas you can try at home as you help your kids understand sequencing.  Some kids learn it right away; some take a little longer.  I’ve tried these ideas in my various classrooms as well as at home.  Some I’ve thought of on my own, some I’ve borrowed from teachers more creative than I am.

  1. Fiction sequencing. It’s helpful when reading to youngsters to stop occasionally – careful not to overdo it – and talk for a few moments about what you’ve read.  Pretend you’re not too bright and ask questions.  “I forget.  What happened before Cinderella went to the ball?  Afterwards?”
  2. Non-fiction sequencing.  This is especially important for social studies subjects like history.  There’s more brain power involved in knowing the chronological order of the presidents than you’d think.  Sequencing helps kids put history in context.
  3. Kitchen sequencing.  Recipes are nothing more than sequencing steps, although it’s especially nice that they result in something yummy.  Read a recipe together, and then ask your kids to help you create something tasty.  “What should we do next?”
  4. Chores sequencing.  When you’re washing the car together, figure out the best order to accomplish it.  Top to bottom?  Wheels first?  Windows?  What should come first?  Then what?  Why?
  5. Hobby sequencing.  Have your kids explain how they maintain their favorite hobbies.  How do they paint those landscapes?  Build those model spaceships?  Create those online videos?  If you can understand the process, they’re doing a good job of sequencing.
  6. Sports sequencing.  Explaining a sport – not to mention playing it – requires sequencing skills.  Ask about the rules for just about any sport, and you’ll begin a conversation that involves sequencing.
  7. Family history sequencing.  Ancestry is family sequencing, and family trees are the very definition of sequencing in picture form.  Tell your family history, or learn it together, and draw your family’s ancestry tree.  Plus, you’ll learn so many good stories as you talk to your older relatives and hear their stories.
  8. Direction sequencing.  Giving directions is another example of practical sequencing.  Ask your kids to give you directions to their best friend’s house, or how to get from their homeroom to the cafeteria in their school, or where to find a hidden treasure in the back yard.  (“First you go to the big fir tree.  Then you take seven steps to the left.  After that, you turn right and head to the swing set.  Finally, look next to the left rear leg of the swings.”)
  9. Homework sequencing.  Together, figure out the most effective sequence of homework time.  “Math can be difficult, so I’ll start with that.  The book report is due next week; have I read today’s chapter?  Do I have all my supplies nearby?”
  10. Prediction sequencing.  This can be fun when you’re discussing a book you’re reading together, a movie you’re watching, or a TV series the family’s into.  “What’s going to happen next?  Then what?  Why do you think so?”


For some kids I find it helpful for us together to write the steps in a process on flash cards.  The Steps in Long Division.  The Events Leading to the Civil War.  The Adventures of the Finch Children in To Kill A Mockingbird.  How to Make the Best Bacon-Lettuce-and-Tomato Sandwich.  Whatever.  Decorate the flash cards with glitter and markers.  Shuffle them.  Put them in order.  No reason why sequencing can’t be fun, right?


Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview

Dr. Rick In The News

WMARabc2news.com - March 2, 2011
Baltimore Celebrates Read Across America

WMARabc2news.com - March 2, 2011
Read Across America Interview

The Friday Flyer - February 18, 2011
Parents can Nurture the Love of Reading

Multiples and More - July 5, 2010
Expert Post: Dr. Rick of Sylvan Learning

Examiner.com - May 15, 2010
Summer Skill Sharpeners

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.