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Remembering Sequencing
Sharon Longert

“Sequential ordering comes into play when a student recounts the steps in a science experiment, thinks through the stages of a planned art project, plays scales on the piano, or tracks the plot of a story.” ( Levine, A Mind at a Time, 2002).  Many students get lost in the sequence of details as sequencing tasks become more complex, especially with the increased complexity of content information in the middle and upper grades.  In much the same way that students need organizational assistance, they also need sequencing skills taught as explicit tasks.  This is evident in preparation for Statewide testing of complex mathematical operations involving problem solving using algebra and geometry; in biology, chemistry and earth science; in world history and American history; in second language study; and in the complexities of writing for English language arts.   These content areas require the utilization of sequential operations, and sequencing of ideas and information for student success.  The explicit tasks may be taught simultaneously with a content area or discretely as a skill that needs to be acquired. Following are some tips on helping your students learn sequencing skills:

  • Break the sequence into small units and allow the student to learn one at a time.
  • Give the student short sequences to remember.  Gradually increase the length of the sequence as the student is successful.
  • Provide environmental cues and resources – lists, schedules, timers, charts, calendar, dictionary, written instructions that don’t rely on short-term memory for all of the steps.
  • Teach associative cues or mnemonic devices to remember sequences.
  • Have the student engage in sequential activities that are purposeful to him/her.
  • Provide opportunities to practice orally to enhance remembering ability.
  • Have the student silently repeat the steps in a sequence to remember important facts.
  • Stop at various points in the presentation to check the students’ understanding.
  • Reinforce the students’ remembering with tangible rewards, such as classroom privileges, free time; give intangible rewards as well, praise, non-verbal acknowledgment for remembering sequences.
  • Evaluate the task to determine if it is too difficult and to determine if the length of time scheduled to complete the task is appropriate.

According to Levine, “Higher sequential thinking fosters step-wisdom, which is simply the much needed realization that in order to accomplish anything substantial or complex, the activity must be broken down into a series of incremental, bite-size, manageable sequential steps.  Some students are devoid of any awareness of the virtues and advantages of step-wisdom.”  By assisting the child in getting started and getting him/her to verbalize the different steps, he/she can get the task done.

Levine, Mel, A Mind at a Time, 2002, Simon & Schuster.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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