Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Chronological Order’

Sequence Words Help Students Put Ideas in Order

Learning how to write sequentially can be tricky for an elementary school student, but it’s a vital skill in our increasingly digital world. A kid who can put events in chronological order and summarize them concisely will be well on his way to mastering not only reading comprehension and history, but also online communication – a life skill akin to doing one’s laundry, driving a car and paying bills. (See sequence words below.)

Of course, a broad vocabulary equips understanding and makes it easier to identify chronological order. That became clear in our family when my oldest daughter came home from elementary school with a paper covered in red ink. She was upset.

The paper was an exercise in recognizing chronological order. While she showed reading prowess, we quickly realized she had three strikes going against her before she ever picked up her pencil on this particular assignment. All three were due to holes in her personal experience.

I picked up the assignment. It read: “How to Make a Bed.” The hair stood up on my arms. “Oh…” I said, as Mommy Guilt gripped my abdomen. You see… our family is embarrassingly lax about making our beds. Unless we have guests coming over, our rooms feature rumpled sheets, pillows akimbo and a cat or two stretched among the linens.

Strike No. 2: We called our beds “our nests.” It was vocabulary that carried over from the pre-school days when our children pretended to be different animals every day. Getting in “your nest” was more fun than “going to bed,” so we retained the term to ease the angst commonly associated with bedtime. (As a matter of justification, a respectable couple I know refer to their bed as “The Burrito.” They don’t know that I know that, but it makes me feel better about the whole “nest” thing.)

The third factor that sunk my daughter’s chances of doing well on her assignment was that she didn’t know what a “bedspread” was. I know, I know. That sounds pathetic, but let me explain. Both of my daughters’ grandmothers were talented quilters, so each of our beds was topped with a hand-stitched work of beauty – not a Bed-in-a-Bag number from Wal-Mart.

…So, when my eldest had a leftover choice on her “How to Make a Bed” worksheet, she made a wild guess, inserting “Put on the bedspread, and smooth out the wrinkles” somewhere after “Stretch the mattress pad over the mattress,” but well before “Finally, put some pretty pillows on top.”

Unfortunately, “Spread the quilt” was not an option. My daughter had all the other steps in order, but had that one step out of order. However, instead of missing one point, the teacher had made six red slashes on her paper after the initial mistake. While generally a good teacher, Mrs. “X” could be a little, well, rigid.

For an instant, little puffs of smoke could be seen coming out of my husband’s ears. His expression said, “Storm the school!”

However, the mood was lightened considerably when my very verbal younger daughter piped up: “I hope I never have to put things in pathological order!”

Of course, the comedic timing was spot-on. We all ended up laughing. Then, we clarified that the term was “chronological order.” Secondly, we explained that most people used bedspreads, but that our family was special. We slept under colorful quilted covers that kept us warm with the love of two talented grandmothers.

 Years have passed. My oldest is now a sophomore in college. She reports that she makes her bed on occasion. I’m pretty sure she does it in chronological order, too.

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Recognizing different organizational structures during conversation and within written text helps with understanding. Components might include context clues such as time-sequence words, mood words, the mention of location changes, cause and effect details, and physical breaks such as chapter and paragraph divisions, poetry stanzas or a pause in conversation.

Chronology Signal Words

First…

Before going…

In the beginning…

In the winter… (or spring, summer or fall)

Years ago…

Before you were born…

Two hours later…

Soon after…

Between…

While I was at the dentist’s office…

Quick as a wink…

In a flash…

Afterward…

After school…

Later that afternoon…

Eventually…

When…

Next Sunday (any day of week)…

Instantly…

Finally…

 For more ideas, check out “Writing: Chronological Order,” a StudyZone.org test-prep tool created by Pat Delia of the Oswego City School District in New York, or read “Mini-Lesson Planning for Sequencing,” a teaching guideline developed by Cassandra Yorke of Florida.

You also can use Big Universe’s Author Tool to practice writing in chronological order.  Use the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why) to help summarize important information. Then, illustrate with any of the thousands of images in the graphics library.

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