Over the course of this summer I’m going to be posting a long series looking at communicative classroom reading strategies. I’ll start each post with this little bit of blurb explaining my thinking behind the series, as well as what you can expect to find in each post. As this is the fourth post of the series, please feel free to read on although you should probably skip this section if you’ve read my previous entries in the series.
As far as I’m concerned, when implementing strategy training of this kind in your classes teacher demonstration, modeling, and follow-up independent practice are all critical factors for success. I’d also say that learner discussion following strategy instruction is also helpful. For more on what I consider to be fundamental considerations in using reading strategies, please take a look at the opening paragraphs in the first post in this series.
Each strategy in this series of posts will include most if not all of the following:
- Advice on how to implement the strategy in your classes
- Putting it into practice with second language learners
- The supporting research / recommended further reading
- Downloadable templates will also be available for most of the strategies we’ll look at here on the blog.
Does this sound OK to you? Right then, let’s get down to business…
4. Developing comprehension: Story sequencing
When to use: I’d suggest this can be used before, during or after reading
How to use: Individually, with small groups or in a whole class setting
In a nutshell, ‘story sequencing’ is the name given to the identification of the components of a story; the beginning, middle, and end. It also refers to the ability to retell the events within a given text in the order in which they occurred. The ability to sequence events in a text is an important comprehension strategy, especially for narrative texts. Furthermore, sequencing is an important component of problem-solving across subjects.
So, why use story sequencing?
- Story sequencing assists with comprehension, especially for narrative texts.
- Sequence structures are helpful in enabling learners of varying abilities to organize information and ideas efficiently.
- Sequencing is also an important component of problem-solving across a v ariety of subjects.
Here’s what a story sequence template looks like:
How can we use possible sentences?
Here’s a basic guide for implementing this strategy in your language class.
- Teach learners that, in a narrative text, the plot is all the events that happen in the story. Events in a story occur in a certain order: the ‘sequence’ is the order in which things happen or are described. It’s good to start by reading a short book together and analyzing both the plot and the sequence of events. What happens first? What happens next? What happens last?
- Brainstorm transitions together, such as first, second, third, then, next, finally, lastly, before, after, while, and meanwhile. You may want to describe a process or read aloud a ‘how-to’ essay and get learners to describe the order of events. After this, get learners to explain how to do something by using time order words. You may also want to tell a story, using the transitions before, after, or meanwhile to show how sometimes events can be told in a different order than they actually happen.
- Encourage learners to look for signal words as they read and take notes on the sequence of events. They may want to use a graphic organizer, such as a sequence chart or a flowchart to help them take notes. When reading nonfiction, learners may want to take special note of details such as important dates, as sometimes events might be presented out of order in a piece of nonfiction writing; therefore, the dates are signals about the sequence. They could create a timeline to help them keep track of important events.
- Require learners to ask questions as they read and take notes about their thoughts, ideas, inferences, and predictions. They may want to stop occasionally to think and reflect on what has happened. Encourage them to read actively and make connections.
For those of you who want a bit more of a demonstration, these video clips do the trick!
Considerations: Putting it into practice with second language learners
- Scaffold your teaching by providing prompts for each section on a 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 learners. The beginning-middle-end format is the simplest; other more complex maps can be used with more advanced learners.
- Model this strategy using a book with very clear components to help learners understand each component.
- Learners can extend their understanding of sequencing by displaying it their own writing. Learners can use sequence charts to plan, summarize, and write their own main ideas, characters, setting, and plot for a story.
Further reading: The research that supports this strategy
- Moss, 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.