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Determining the Sequence of Events or Steps in a Reading Selection

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  • 0:02 Sequential Pattern of…
  • 2:04 Example of Sequential…
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

News articles or other types of informational texts can be structured through a sequence of events or steps. In this lesson, we will examine how that is done and how to identify this structure.

Sequential Pattern of Organization

You're probably familiar with at least one or two fairy tales. These children's stories, along with many others, are written in an organized fashion. They are told in a simplistic way from beginning to end, and they serve as an example for structuring a text using a sequence of events. A sequence of events is when events are listed in the order that they occurred. They go in time order from the beginning to the middle to the end without jumping around in time.

There's another sequential structure that we're going to discuss. This is a sequence of steps, which we all use when cooking dinner or baking cookies. A sequence of steps is when a process is written in the order that tasks were done. Recipes and scientific procedures are written using this organizational structure.

When a sequence of events is used, it creates a chronological pattern of organization, meaning it follows the progression of time, either forward or backward. Historical topics are best organized using this pattern because readers are able to understand a series of related events, when they happened, and what happened before and after them. More complex informational texts often use literary devices, such as flashbacks, to hint at a change in time order by going back in time and then returning to the present time period being discussed. But a more simplistic organizational pattern involving a sequence of events divides events into past, present, and future or before, during, and after segments.

Signal words are used to signal to the reader that the sequence of events or steps structure is being used. They include words such as:

  • Before
  • First
  • Second
  • Third
  • Next
  • Then
  • Later
  • Eventually
  • Finally

By embedding signal words into the article, readers are able to identify the organizational structure used, and that format helps them understand the process and remember its key parts in a clear and concise manner.

Example of Sequential Structure

In a 2007 Businessweek article entitled 'From Homeless to Millionaire,' the millionaire Chris Gardner is interviewed. Before launching into Gardner's responses, writer Carmine Gallo talks about Gardner's success and how his personal story inspired the movie The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. She then includes a paragraph written in the sequence of events structure. As I read it, see if you can identify the signal words used to determine the sequence of events.

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