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Improve Student Engagement with a Sequencing Activity!

Foldable activities are always a winner with students. This Sequencing Activity is one of my favorite foldable activities to teach! Students begin the lesson confused, and they end up with a much, much better understanding of important events, how the story plot is moved forward, and how to correctly sequence the important events.

Sequencing important events in reading

Sequencing sounds like such an easy concept – just put the events in order, right? Well, what happens when students aren’t sure what events are the most important events? They need direct instruction on how to identify them.

The Sequencing Activity – Identifying Important Events

Pulling out important events must be a complete and full lesson in itself. We reviewed main idea (what the story is mainly, mostly about) and discussed how many main ideas a story could have. Can we have a main idea in each chapter? On each page? What about on a graph, table, or photo?


Sequencing important events helps students find the main idea

We decided to focus on just the highlighted events of our story. The parts that would change the story completely if they did not occur. And we chose to focus on one at the beginning, two in the middle, and one towards the end.

Easy right? Nope, wrong again!

We struggled to separate the details from the main events. When students mistook a detail for a main idea, I continued to ask if the story or plot would change if Snowflake Bentley (in this case) hadn’t given his brother a butterfly. Would that change the story? Would that affect the outcome of the story? If the answer is no, then it wasn’t one of the main events. If the answer is YES, then it qualifies as an important, main event.

The main idea needs to be in the story in order for the story to make sense.

That seemed to work pretty well!

sequencing and retelling are important reading strategies

Sequencing Lessons – What We Did Each Day

The first day, we began by reading the story together in class as a whole group.  I read the story all the way through to the class with only a little discussion. We read about the life of “Snowflake Bentley”. We discussed our overall impressions, who Snowflake Bentley was, and why we remember him and his contributions.

The second day, we read the story all the way through together again, but with lots of discussion. (It’s a pretty long story from our Treasures reader, which is an old reading series). We broke the story down into sections and discussed how one event led to the next event. We discussed causes and effects, although that was not the focus of this lesson; it was merely pointed out.

The third day, we broke into small groups to fill out our organizers by identifying and writing down the main events. Lots of discussions – good discussions – about details versus main events! I allowed them to struggle a bit at first. They were wanting me to swoop in and tell them the answers. It was good practice. I learned a lot about their thinking processes by watching and listening to them try to defend their main events – something we need to do much, much, MUCH more often!

sequencing and retelling for comprehension

The fourth day, we met as a whole group again and discussed our organizers as I wrote on the Smartboard. After discussion, we settled on four main events, and each student worked on paraphrasing and writing the events in their own words. We began transferring our main events from the sequencing organizer to our foldables. We made sure to keep checking that the events were in the correct sequence.

sequencing important events leads to the main idea

On the fifth day, we finished the foldables and read them to partners. Students listened to how other students put the events into their own words. We discussed how the transition words helped us move from one event onto the next event.


sequencing graphic organizer keeps students focused on important events
Now for the fun part!
After identifying the main events and writing them on the graphic organizer, students begin the most fun part – making their foldable booklet! The hardest parts were over and they could focus on some creativity.
sequencing events for reading comprehension
Cover design from a student in my class – Can you tell it’s Snowflake Bentley?

All in all, this was a MUCH needed activity. Some students really struggled to identify the most important events in the story. They confused minor details with main events. Through much discussion about what moved the story forward, we learned!

As a teacher, I learned the areas that need much more focus and training. We WILL do this again!

Check out these foldable activities at Teachers Pay Teachers – click the image below to be taken to my store.

Foldables for elementary students to make in reading class

In addition to the foldable you saw in use above, another second foldable option is also included. See the picture below for the second option!

"I can" statement is right on the foldable to direct student learning

How do you teach sequencing and main idea? I’d love to hear from you!


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