What is Sequencing?
Sequencing is the skill that we use when we break down an event into simple steps and put those steps in order. We need sequencing skills to talk about something that happened in the past in a logical manner so others can follow the story. We also need sequencing skills to understand how to perform certain tasks that require the steps be done in a specific order.
Let’s go into each step of how to practice sequencing skills. If you’d like to download a free sequencing board and card set that will allow you to practice these skills easily, click the button below:
Step 1: First and Last
The first thing you need to do is help the child understand the when we sequence events, one thing needs to come first and another comes last. We start then by just sequencing two steps together. You can use the pictures from my free downloadable game above or make your own pictures. You’ll need two pictures that represent before and after. This could be things like someone holding an object and then it falling or someone standing and then having fallen on the ground.
Place the two pictures in front of the child in order and show her that one thing happened first and then the other picture happened last. You can also act out this event so they have a real life example. Place the pictures in order and say “First, ____. Last, ____,” while you describe what happened in the pictures and in real life.
Then, ask the student questions like “what happened first” and “what happened last”. When the child can accurately answer those questions when looking at the pictures, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Rearranging Three Steps to Familiar Events
Now, you’ll need pictures that represent three steps to familiar actions or events. These could be activities like building with blocks, pouring a bowl of cereal, or climbing a tree. Click the button above to download my free card set with sequences like this. If you’re using a sequence with more steps (like a 5-step sequence), just take out a few of the steps so you’re left with three.
Place the three steps to the sequence in front of the child in the correct order. Describe the sequence by saying “First, ____. Next, _____. Last, _____,” while describing each picture. Ask the child questions about what happened first, next, and last.
Then, mix up the pictures and place them back in front of the child. Ask the child to pick out which step happened first and place that on a sequencing strip (like in the picture above) or just in front of them on the table. Then, ask them which step happened next. Place that one next to the first picture and finally ask the child what happened last and lay that one in the line.
Keep practicing this until the child can consistently arrange the three pictures into the correct order after you give your demonstration.
Step 3: Ordering Three Steps and Re-Telling the Event
Next, we’ll use the same three-step sequences from above but instead of modeling the sequence first, we’ll just give the child the mixed up pictures right away and ask the child to put them in the correct order. If the child needs help sequencing them, we will help.
Once the pictures are in the correct order, ask the child to describe the sequence by saying “First ____” and describing the first picture. Then, have the child do the same with “Next, ___” and “Last, ____”.
Once the child can correctly put three-step sequences in order and describe the sequence using the pictures, we’ll take the pictures away.
Step 4: Sequencing Three Steps without Pictures
Now, use the same sequences that we just practiced with pictures but ask the child to tell you the steps to the event without showing them the pictures. This could sound like “Tell me all of the steps to brushing your teeth”. We want the child to say “First, I ____. Next, I ___. Last, I ___”.
At first, the child is going to have some trouble with this so we can use the pictures from the previous steps as clues. We can give prompts like “What do you do first?” and if the child isn’t able to come up with the first step, we can show him the picture.
Keep working on this until the child can list three steps to the activity in order without needing to see the pictures. You can also introduce other sequences that you didn’t practice with pictures.
Step 5: Increasing the Number of Steps
Once the child is able to give three steps to a common event, you can start building up to longer sequences. Go back to step two or three from this progression, but try it with a 4-step sequence. Once the child is able to move through these steps with four steps, you can go back and work on 5-step sequences. Again, download my freebie so you will have ready-made picture sequences to use for this:
Step 6: Sequencing Steps from Stories and Past Events
Once the child is able to sequence and re-tell 5-step sequences for familiar events (like brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed), you can work on having the child sequence steps from stories and past events.
I like to start with books because there is a clear visual to help them if they get stuck. Read a book to the child and then put the book away and ask the child to tell you what happened in the book. If the child struggles, say “What happened first?” and if she still doesn’t know, show her the picture from the book. Keep doing this until the child can tell you the main points of the story in order.
Once the child can do this with books, you can start working on past events. Ask the child about what happened during a very recent activity (such as the meal right before you saw her or an activity she did before working on this). As she is better able to recall the steps to those events in order, you can move on to events that happened longer in the past, like her last birthday party.
Download the Free Game:
There you have it! All the steps to teaching a child to learn sequencing. Keep in mind that these steps will take a lot of time to master so don’t expect to move through this progression quickly. Also, don’t forget to download the free game so you have pre-made materials: