Story SequenceHelping students learn to recall the facts of a story in the proper order is a skill that aids comprehension. Sequencing is an important part of problem solving across subjects. Share your examples! Why teach story sequence?
It assists with comprehension.
Sequence structures help students of varying abilities organize information and ideas efficiently.
When to use:Before readingDuring readingAfter reading How to use:IndividuallyWith small groupsWhole class setting ExamplesLanguage ArtsStory maps provide one way to help students organize the events from a story. Helping students learn transition or signal words that indicate a sequence (first, second, last) will also help them learn about sequence. Sequence sticks, story chains, and a story sequence craft all help students practice ordering events within a story. See these ideas from Suite 101.com. MathMost math curricula include worksheets on ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc). Patterns are also a form of sequencing my encouraging the use of vocabulary words such as "What bead goes first? Then which bead? Which bead is third?" Encouraging students to write out the steps for solving addition and subtraction problems that include regrouping is an excellent way to have them think through the steps in order. Teachers can use a simple sheet of paper folded into four squares. Ask students to write the steps in order in the squares. ScienceHelping children sequence also develops their scientific inquiry skills. In order to study or observe changes in something, students must follow along and record changes. The changes happen in a particular order, which kids can document by writing or drawing pictures. Social StudiesTimelines are a great way to teach sequence in social studies. Kids may enjoy making a timeline of their own life, and include important milestones such as when they learned to walk, talk, ride a bike and go to school. Once students understand the process of charting important milestones on a timeline, topics from the social studies curricula can be used. This simple example of an explorers timeline illustrates how the spacing between dates indicates the passage of time. Other Ideas for School or Home
Create a sequence page for a simple activity around the house or at school. Use any blank sheet of paper. Fold the paper into squares. Start with 4 large squares, for older students create more squares. Ask kids to draw the steps they know in the order in which the steps occur. For example, draw each step it takes to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or to brush their teeth.
Cut or tear out the pages from an old calendar. Mix up the months and hand out the stack of pages. Ask the kids to order the months from January to December by laying the pages out on the floor. Which month goes first? Then which one? Which month is last?
Children's books to use with this strategyLanguage Arts
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster) A quilt started by the author's great grandmother is passed on through the generations to chronicle and recall the family's history.
Nabeel's New Pants by Fawzia Gilari-Williams (Marshall Cavendish) Nabeel's new garment is accidentally shortened too much in this humorous tale told in the style of a folktale.
Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins (Aladdin) Younger children (or perhaps ELLs) can sequence a hen's walk around the farm in this nearly wordless tale. Only illustration reveals that Rosie is followed by a fox (who does get his comeuppance).
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam) A quilt connects an African American family as it is passed on throughout a changing country, from slave times to contemporary.
Quilt of States by Adrienne Yorinks (National Geographic) Slightly more sophisticated readers will enjoy how the United States was pieced together as individual states were added. This informative book is illustrated with handsome yet informative quilts. Math
Benny's Pennies Pat Brisson (Harcourt) What does Benny buy with each of his 5 pennies? Patterned language provides a predictable story just right to sequence.
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab Big Book: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre (Candlewick) Sets and counting are introduced on a beach with creatures' feet.
The Penny Pot by Stuart Murphy (HarperCollins) Jessie counts her coins in order to have her face painted at the school fair. Coins, counting, art activities, and story combine in one book. Science
Great Migrations: Whales by Laura Marsh (National Geographic Kids) Information is provided through full color photographs and easier to read text.
Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig Hatkoff et al (Scholastic) The story of the baby hippo separated from his pod during the 2004 tsunami is documented in photographs and engaging text. Animals, sanctuaries, friendship, and natural disasters potentially link this book to additional topics.
Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen (Putnam) Slightly more sophisticated readers will enjoy how the United States was pieced together as individual states were added. This informative book is illustrated with handsome yet informative quilts. Social Studies
Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories by Aliki (Greenwillow) A unique format tells the story of a child new to America, its customs, and language. Immigration, communication, and school & teachers are among the possible links to this book.
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney (Dragonfly) Maps and mapmaking are expansively explored beginning in a child's room.
Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye (Aladdin) An American child initially has trouble communicating with her Palestinian grandmother. Families, family stories, immigration, and communication are among the possible build-outs related to this book. Other ideas for sequencing
Arts & crafts activities.It may be desirable to consider quilt-making and/or other arts & crafts activities with children. This and other arts and craft activities may reinforce the idea of sequencing and may introduce math concepts (measurement, addition & subtraction and basic computation, etc). Alex Henderson's Kids Start Quilting with Alex Anderson: 7 Fun & Easy Projects Quilts for Kids by Kids, Tips for Quilting with Children provides easy instructions for adults quilting with children.
Cooking with kids.Cookbooks for children can reinforce stories read, math concepts (measurement, etc), as well as sequencing. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara Walker (HarperCollins; 0064460908) presents recipes for foods mentioned in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Wordless books. There are many wordless books that can be used with younger children and with English language learners (or students who may have limited English proficiency). For younger children, Pancakes for Breakfastby Tomie dePaola humorously details a woman making pancakes from scratch or the wordless adventures of Mark Newgarden's a small dog named Bow-Wow (e.g., Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug). For older or more sophisticated readers, books by Barbara Lehmann and David Weisner may be considered.
Differentiated instructionFor second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners
Scaffold your instruction by providing prompts for each section on your map. For example, in the "Beginning" box of your map, write in prompts such as: Who are the main characters? Where does the story take place?
Differentiate which sequence chart to give to which students. The beginning-middle-end format is the simplest; other more complex maps can be used with more advanced students.
Model this strategy using a book with very clear components to help students understand each component.
Students can extend their understanding of sequencing into their own writing. Students can use sequence charts to plan, summarize, and write their own main ideas, characters, setting, and plot for a story.
See the research that supports this strategyMoss, B. (2005). Making a case and a place for effective content area literacy instruction in the elementary grades. Reading Teacher, 59, 46-55. Reutzel, R. (1985). Story maps improve comprehension. Reading Teacher, 38, 400-404
Increasing Academic Language Knowledge for English Language Learner SuccessBy: Kristina Robertson (2006)"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
In college I enrolled at a university in Spain — all courses were taught in Spanish. My comprehension of my courses went something like this… (translated into English and the accompanying gibberish I heard.) "So it is obvious from the way qyuekfksno , that the Greco style was qyueuoammo . If you look closely you noticexawoeirje and it reminds you of woieysksdufe ." The only clue I had to aid my comprehension was a slide of the famous painting. I struggled to make meaning of the language, but I could not comprehend the professor's points. I was able to correctly answer in Spanish when asked a question such as, "What is a characteristic of the Greco style?" I would answer, "It is qyueuoammo ." I knew this because I had "qyueuoammo " written in my notes, but I still had no idea what the word meant. I believe many ELL students have a similar experience in their classes, and that many of them are able to manipulate the English language to supply a correct answer, but still not understand the content. This does not become apparent until the student fails the unit test. The teacher may think the student wasn't listening or didn't try, when actually the student needed more explicit instruction in the academic language connected to the content. When teachers introduce and reinforce academic language they can see some amazing changes in ELL student learning. There are three things to keep in mind when teaching academic language.
Academic language must be introduced and then reinforced.
Academic language can be more than content area vocabulary.
It is important to create assessments that measure knowledge in a meaningful way.
Introduce and reinforce academic languageWhat to do
Preview the text or topic and identify vocabulary or sentence structures that might be new for the students.
Write these words and phrases on the board and have students write them in their notebooks or on index cards.
Use visuals, acting, translation or synonyms to relay the meaning of the word to the students.
Reinforce the newly learned language by asking the students to draw it, act it out, or use it in an appropriate sentence. You can also ask for a translation if you speak the student's first language.
How to do itHere are the steps demonstrated in a science lesson on the life cycle of a frog:
Preview the lesson and identify academic language vocabulary such as:life yolk cycle growth tadpole tail fertilize next split or divide developing first second third fourth Write the words on the board and/or ask students to write them in their notebooks or on index cards.
Teach the academic vocabulary.Science lends itself easily to visuals and hands on learning, so many words would be easily taught through labeling parts and identifying terms by examining frogs. In addition to teaching the vocabulary by labeling items, make sure students understand vocabulary concepts such as "cycle." A visual such as a bike tire that goes around is useful. The stages of the frog's life cycle can be taped to the wheel while explicitly using the vocabulary first, second, third and fourth to describe the life cycle.
Have students demonstrate the vocabulary concepts by using them in explanations, or drawing pictures in their journals.It is important that students be given the opportunity and guidance to use the academic language to answer discussion questions or complete group work. Listen for the use of vocabulary words and praise students who attempt to use it. Follow up with the class by sharing examples, "I heard some really good discussion in the groups. I heard someone correctly describe a step in the life cycle by saying, 'The eggs get fertilized." Reinforce vocabulary not heard by fishing for "other ways" to say it. For example, "Who can tell me another way to say, 'The tadpole turns into a frog?" Encourage students to look at the academic vocabulary on the board, and say, "A tadpole develops into a frog."
Go beyond vocabularyWhat to doIn the example above, there were many vocabulary words. Some of them were directly related to visual clues, but some were more abstract such as "cycle" and "developing." Words such as these may be overlooked by teachers because content lessons tend to focus on the "new vocabulary," that is, the specialized vocabulary related to that particular lesson, while assuming knowledge of what I call "functional" vocabulary. Functional vocabulary is the language needed to use the new words meaningfully. The teacher must model the correct use of content and functional vocabulary. ELL students may not feel comfortable using new language phrases in the classroom and benefit from more support and structured opportunities to begin using and fully comprehending academic language and phrases. Guide students by asking them to repeat a phrase and complete the sentence. "In the life cycle…" Students fill in the blank, and have an opportunity to use the academic sentence structure verbally. It may also be useful to guide students in the use of appropriate academic discussion phrases. If a student says to another, "That's not right," ask them if they can think of another way to say it (using more academic language - maybe referring the student to the word wall or notebook). The student may then offer, "I don't agree with you." Or, "Could you show me evidence of that?" Measure knowledge in a meaningful wayWhat to doAssessments that let students "show what they know" may take some time and practice to develop and teachers may want to start with just one unit in order to practice this new skill. Many textbook series include unit tests that may have a number of multiple choice and fill in the blank questions that may or may not allow the student to demonstrate his/her understanding of the content. A teacher may have observed a student who was very engaged in the lessons and seemed to understand it, yet didn't do well on the test. This is frustrating to the teacher and the student. A meaningful assessment directly addresses the objectives of the lesson and will also measure the student's use of appropriate academic language. Here are a few suggested ways to do this. How to do it
Students write a response to a question following rubric guidelines telling them what will be evaluated. Students tell the teacher in their own words what they learned in the unit regarding the concepts and the language. In the science example above the rubric may be as simple as:
include all the steps in the life cycle
use five of the vocabulary words we studied
correctly explain why the life cycle is important in our environment
If students' verbal skills are stronger than their literacy skills, a teacher may have the students do a presentation - again using the rubric to evaluate their work. The rubric may include a guideline that each person in the group must speak and use a key vocabulary word.
Students can work in small groups and respond to some true and false sentences such as, "A frog lays eggs and then they hatch into baby frogs." The students need to explain why that is not true (using the academic vocabulary they learned). For example, a student might say, "That's not true because first a frog lays eggs, then they are fertilized, and then the cells begin to divide until a tadpole develops." Once again, a rubric would be used and students get credit for correct answers and the use of academic vocabulary.
In summary, explicitly instructing students in the academic language needed to be successful in the lesson will be rewarded with engaged students who are able to interact meaningfully with the content taught. If the lesson content is a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, then the academic language is the plate and silverware needed to digest it. When teachers increase students' academic language knowledge, they are giving them the tools they need to digest a lifetime of learning and continue to expand the limits of their world.
ESL/Bilingual Resource Guide for Mainstream TeachersFor a quick guide to working with ELL students, check out this resource from the Portland Public Schools (OR). You'll find useful, practical information in an accessible format that you'll return to again and again, including an excellent language acquisition chart and a glossary of ELL terms.
Catherine Snow: Word GenerationCatherine Snow's new website provides information and resources for educators who would like to learn more about Word Generation and how it is implemented. Includes links to comprehensive academic word list that students need to master to comprehend academic content.
Benefits of Using Sentence FramesSentence frames are one easy way to focus on a language structure, provide scaffolded support for ELLs and explicitly teach English language structures.
Best Evidence Encyclopedia: ELLsThe English-language Learners section of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia summarizes the impact of a few online reading programs for English-language learners and other language minority students in the elementary grades.
Building Academic VocabularyThis site by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) offers lots of information about how to help students build academic vocabulary. Although designed to promote instructional materials sold by ASCD, the site has information that any teacher could use to enhance vocabulary instruction.
Academic Vocabulary GamesThis website from Jefferson County Schools in Tennesse offers academic vocabulary lists for grades K-12. In addition to lists of vocabulary for specific content areas, there are lots of games, with downloads for the game boards and content word cards.
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