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Sequencing Steps for Reading

by Kim Renfro

A clear understanding of sequencing enables a driver to park the car before exiting the vehicle. Following the right sequence of events prevents disastrous results, such as an unmanned car rolling down a hill because the drive shaft was left in neutral. The same is true in reading comprehension: Knowing the correct sequence of events enables readers to avoid errors and make sense of what is being read.

Signal Words

Comprehension skills improve when readers understand signal words and their purpose in a reading selection. Also called transition words, they are used to cue readers to the fact that events should occur in a particular order. Chronological order is detailed with ordinal words (first, second, third), and order of importance is emphasized by "above all," "most" and "least." Signal words help the reader understand which important details will be developed in a sequential pattern.

Beginning, Middle and End

Understanding that reading selections have a beginning, middle and end helps a reader to make sense of it. While this may seem obvious to a skilled reader, struggling readers may have difficulty recognizing that events are grouped in a certain order: stories usually begin with what happened first, followed by what happened next. The conclusion -- what happened last -- comes at the end of a story. Selections written out of sequence are especially difficult for readers who have not mastered this comprehension skill.

Story Mapping

Story maps are used to increase comprehension of selections by organizing and sequencing major events and actions of story characters. A "Beginning, Middle, End" story map enables students to better understand the structure in literary selections. Story maps focusing on plot and supporting details help readers comprehend a selection by listing major events in the order they occurred. Readers may use a flow map to organize events from a selection.

Sequencing is a Part of Life

Sequencing is not an isolated reading skill; it plays an important role in multiple life activities. Sequencing in math occurs when counting, recalling ordinal numbers and following the steps in a problem-solving strategy. Scientists rely on sequencing to conduct experiments in a specific order, understanding that an experiment's results may be invalid if steps are completed out of sequence. Following a recipe or directions to put the new lawnmower together also depend on a clear understanding of sequencing skills.

About the Author

Kim Renfro is a native Texan with almost two decades of experience in elementary education. A former publisher/editor/reporter/photographer, Renfro spent seven years in the small market newspaper industry. She holds Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Education degrees from Texas Christian University.

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