Sequencing Goal Ideas
- After being read a familiar picture book out loud, NAME will correctly sequence 3+ picture scenes from the story across 4 consecutive sessions.
- After being read a short text, NAME will correctly sequence 3-5 pictures to show the information in order given a familiar visual in 2 out of 3 opportunities across 2 sessions.
- Given sequential pictures from a story read out loud, NAME will sequence the pictures and retell the story verbally in 2 out of 3 opportunities across 2 sessions.
Read more about my goals here.
Teaching Sequencing Skills in Speech Therapy
Sequencing can be thought of as the first step towards story retell, story summarizing, and understanding more complex narrative structures (like cause/effect). Sequencing skills are also one of the building blocks necessary for storytelling. In other words, sequencing skills help build a solid foundation for later narrative skill development.
While language skills also build an important foundation for narrative development, they do not fully predict narrative skills. Sequencing skills are thought to be another separate influence on narrative skills. This means that explicitly targeting them, in addition to language skills, can be an effective way to increase overall narrative abilities in our students.
Another reason to target sequencing with students is to increase their understanding and use of temporal language concepts such as “before”, “first”, “after”, “next”, and “last”. Children with language difficulties show relative weaknesses in their use of this type of language when describing sequences of events (Barton-Hulsey, 2017).
Depending on the individual student, you can sequence a lot of things including the parts of a story, the steps to do a task, or the sequence of an event they’ve experienced. To scaffold for success, simply adjust how many pictures you are asking the child to sequence and the supports you’re providing. I usually start with 3 (to show a story’s beginning, middle, and end) and increase based on each student’s language level.
There’s two very important things I want to note about sequencing skills:
- Sequencing is generally considered a low level language skill. It can be appropriate to teach and target with younger students, or those with lower language skills. But, moving onto more complex tasks (that more closely predict reading comprehension skills) as soon as a student is ready for them is supported by research (Dempsey, 2021).
- Sequencing assesses conceptual understanding of the story or topic and a student’s attention and memory skills. For example, many students can sequence picture cards or stories they’ve never been exposed to (through inferential knowledge and knowledge on the topic overall). This means that it might not be an appropriate goal/target area for many students. I’ve found sequencing to be an easy to measure skill, especially for young students or those with limited expressive language. It is a way to measure that a student understands the story or taught sequence, however it is not required for narrative performance overall and is not an isolated skill.
To summarize, sequencing or telling temporally linked stories, is an important developmental stage of storytelling skills. I would recommend that you target sequencing when working on skills like the use of temporal words (first, next, last), improved story organization, story retell, and to demonstrate comprehension of a topic or story. You should move on from sequencing to those more robust and meaningful skills as soon as possible. Below are some ideas for how to incorporate sequencing into a contextualized unit.
Sequencing Skills in Context
Sequencing is a great skill to practice as part of a larger, contextualized unit. Instead of sequencing several different sets of picture cards back to back, it can be helpful to see sequencing as part of a bigger lesson sequence.
Here’s an example of steps (adapted from Dodd, 2012) that you could follow to improve the narrative skills of students of nearly any language level:
- Read a simplified story out loud to the student. Show the picture cards as you read and encourage students to imitate some of the story’s language as you go.
- Ask questions about the story, looking through the pictures to locate the answers.
- Have the student sequence the picture cards.
- Support the student in retelling the story using the pictures.
- Remove all supports and have the student retell the story independently.
A lesson sequence like this provides multiple opportunities to hear the language of the story and multiple opportunities to imitate and express language as well.
You can easily scaffold the activity for increased challenge by adding more picture scenes (making the story longer) or removing some (down to as few as 3) to reduce the language and cognitive demands.
For an easy way to target sequencing skills within a contextualized narrative-based unit, check out my story units! Each one includes an original wordless picture book that you can use to target any language therapy goal!Shop Story Units