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Analyzing Sequence of Events in an Informational Text

Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

In this lesson, you will learn how to identify the different types of sequencing of events from non-fiction, informational text. You will learn how to use context clues and make inferences about the ordering of events in a text.

Sequence of Events

Imagine you are baking a batch of cookies. To do that, you need a recipe, which tells you the exact order in which you must put together the ingredients. This order is called a sequence of events. Much like baking cookies, you cannot understand what you are reading without understanding the sequence of events. However, different types of reading material present that sequence differently, and it is sometimes hard to spot. This lesson will explore how to find the sequence of events in informational texts.

Informational Text

Informational text is any body of nonfiction writing that provides facts, or information, to a reader. So then, it should be easy to find the sequence of events, right? In many ways, yes. It should be easy. We read from left to right, from top to bottom. So, we expect information to follow that same order; beginning, middle, then end. In most informational texts, this is the case, but not always. That's because informational text does not always follow a story-like pattern. Think of a science textbook. This is an informational text, but it does not teach you about science as if you are reading a story. Instead, the book gives you information in an order based on how you understand different scientific topics. For example, a biology textbook might not start with life from beginning of the world and work up to today.

Types of Sequence of Events

Let's take a look at the different forms sequence of events can take.

Chronological Sequence

Many informational texts that involve history or other such related topics that deal with time often present information chronologically, or in the order in which they happened. Texts that provide information in a chronological sequence are generally easy to follow as they are similar to stories. Within the text you will find phrases like 'first this happens, and then...' or 'these events were followed by...' Especially if it is a historical text, the author will often provide years and dates, which can also help you know when in the sequence something is happening. This is especially helpful when the author is describing events that happened at around the same time.

Instructional Sequence

Like our previous example about baking cookies, information such as recipes and instruction manuals present their information in an instructional sequence. Instructional sequence tells the reader the exact order in which the information being presented should be performed. Authors of this type of informational text usually indicate this sequence by numbering each instruction so that the reader does not miss any of the instructions.

Foundational Sequence

Much of how you are learning here is presented in a foundational sequence. In other words, as you read informational text in this pattern, your author assumes you learned and remembered information from previous texts or chapters as the foundation of what you have learned. This sequencing is found in informational texts involving math or science. You cannot learn multiplication without first learning addition. The easiest way to spot this sequencing is to look at the first and last paragraph of a chapter. In those, you will find phrases like 'In the previous chapter, you learned' or 'In our next topic, you will learn how to...' These phrases will tell you the order the author assumes you need to learn this information.

Other Ways to Identify Sequencing

With each type of sequencing, you learned the most common ways to identify the order in which the text is presenting you information. However, not all authors present it so easily with 'first this, then that.' There are some other ways to find the sequencing of informational texts.

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