Sequencing Skills and Reading Comprehension


Have you ever read a book to your child and heard him retell the story to other kids? Has your kid ever narrated something that happened to him on the way to school, or when he was on vacation? If you understood him, then there must have been a precise sequence or order in his narration.

Take the example of this narration by a five year old after reading The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. (Review for this book is here)

“A man went to the forest to cut the tree. But the animals told him not to cut the tree. Because if he cuts the tree then it is not taking care of the animals. We have to take care of the animals. We can’t cut down the trees. The man didn’t cut it…he went back to his house. The end.”

Do you see the order in the retelling?
There is a clear beginning, middle and end in the child’s retelling:

A man went to the forest to cut a tree;

The animals of the forest told him not to cut the tree (and the reasons why) and finally,

The man went back to his house.

Why do we need sequencing skills?

Every day we follow a specific sequence of events to get ready for school, for work and more. We wake up, brush our teeth, bathe, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack lunch, take book bag…The final goal of getting ready is broken down into these smaller steps as part of our routine. Supposing you miss breakfast? You will be hungry soon, and it will affect your concentration. If you forget your school bag, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.

Sequencing skills in reading comprehension and writing


To be successful in academics children must be able to recognize this order or sequence in their reading and their narrative. Learning to recognize the sequence while reading enables them to understand the text. Learning to present information in sequence while writing or narrating ensures that they communicate in a meaningful manner.

Let’s take a look at how sequencing skills influence academic success.

Consider writing a simple essay. An essay has three parts:
Body, and

The student who does not/cannot organize his ideas in this sequence is going to present an incoherent essay. In senior classes, more detail is needed in the essay with clear cut main topic and subtopics. Without these distinctions, the essay will be a jumbled mass of ideas.

Go over to the chemistry lab. The students have to do a quantitative analysis of a salt. What happens if your student does not know the sequence of steps? It affects the final answer.

How about history? A specific timeline of events led up to the Dandi March. Not knowing the sequence in which events occurred affects our comprehension of history.

Sequencing is a necessary skill to improve reading and listening comprehension. In young children, language plays a big part in learning sequencing skills.

Sequencing skills while reading at home

When reading to your child talk about the events in the different parts of the story: What happened at the beginning, in the middle and at the end? How did the characters or events change as the story progressed?

Use words that cue your child to find information about the order of events:
Where: above, below, near,
When: before after between from, first, next then, last, finally
Numerical order: firstly, secondly, finally,

Create your picture sequences from the stories you read at home. Have your child arrange these in the right order. Alternately, put the pictures in order yourself with one event missing. Ask your child to identify the missing event.


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