Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Reading Comprehension Strategies that Improve Sequencing

By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

When kids are in primary grades, they can practice important reading comprehension strategies that lead to a love of reading and learning. These strategies also help students achieve Common Core reading standards, such as retelling stories with key details. When students are able to sequence events from the beginning, middle, and end of a leveled reader, they are better equipped for content-area literacy.

Pairing traditional tales with nonfiction books for kids is a great way for you to help students practice sequencing as well as strengthen their ability to make real-world connections. Keep reading to find out how you can use a theme set of leveled guided reading books, which includes a fairy tale and three corresponding informational texts, to help students practice reading comprehension strategies that improve sequencing skills.

Sequencing with a Narrative Text

The Crow and the Rain Barrel is a level I book that is best suited for struggling readers in first or second grade. In this narrative text, which is also available in Spanish , a smart crow helps its friends find water to drink. Here are some steps you can use to help students practice sequencing the beginning, middle, and end of this story.

  1. Introduce the book by asking students about weather patterns related to water. Then encourage students to make inferences about what happens in places that don't get much rain during the year.
  2. Set a purpose for reading: I am going to read The Crow and the Rain Barrel . As I read, listen for important events in the story because we will practice retelling the story with the events sequenced in the correct order.
  3. Read The Crow and the Rain Barrel .
  4. After reading, give students an opportunity to review the book by turning to the illustrations on each page.
  5. Now ask students to retell the story in the correct order. As they list events, be sure to write each one on an index card. You may want to give them the first event as a prompt: Many crows lived in a dry desert with one smart crow who loved helping others.
  6. Mix up the index cards and have kids help you put the cards in the correct order. You can leave these cards out as a center activity that students can return to throughout the week.
  7. Make a craft for each student to practice retelling the story by cutting brown barrels out of brown construction paper. Then cut horizontal lines into the brown paper with enough room between each line to adhere the top portions of each brown section to a white sheet of paper. Have students write each event in the correct order on the white sheet of paper under each piece of brown paper, which represents the slats of a barrel.

Sequencing with Paired Nonfiction Books for Kids

Who Needs Water? is a level I informational text that pairs with The Crow and the Rain Barrel . This leveled book allows students to make real-world connections with the topic of water presented in the fairy tale. You can try the following steps to engage students in sequencing as well as comparing and contrasting how animals and people use water.

  1. Ask students about the problem that the crows faced in The Crow and the Rain Barrel : Why did the crows need water? How was the problem solved?
  2. Ask students why water is important. Have students brainstorm a list of ways they use water.
  3. Set a purpose for reading: I am going to read Who Needs Water? As I read, listen for ways that water is important for humans. After reading we will compare and contrast how water is important to animals and humans.
  4. Read Who Needs Water?
  5. Discuss why animals and people need water and ask students to use examples from the fairy tale and informational book to support their answers. Create a Venn diagram that compares and contrasts ways that water is important for humans and animals. Encourage students to add facts they know that aren't included in either book. If this is difficult for students, you may want to create a list of facts and sort them as a class.

  1. Use a writing prompt as a follow-up activity for the Venn diagram: Is water important in you? How do you and your family use water in your home?

Smart Crows is a level J informational text that also corresponds with The Crow and the Rain Barrel . In this leveled reader, the author provides many details to support the main idea that crows are intelligent. Use the following steps to help activate prior knowledge, which can increase your students' ability to sequence main events and ideas.

  1. Activate prior knowledge by asking students questions about crows. What does a crow look like? Where did you see one? What was it doing?
  2. Show a picture of a crow. Ask students to give their opinions about whether or not crows are smart by asking them to use the following sentence stem: I think crows are (or aren’t) smart because ___.
  3. Set a purpose for reading: Today we are going to read a book called Smart Crows . Listen for important details about crows, especially why the author thinks they are smart.
  4. Read Smart Crows .
  5. To help students practice retelling, write each chapter heading from the table of contents on chart paper. Ask students to give details from each section and write each detail below the appropriate column heading.
  6. After students finish retelling details, ask them to help you highlight in yellow the key details that support the main idea of the book.
  7. At the end of the lesson, reevaluate students' opinions about crows. Ask students if they want to change their opinions and why by giving them this sentence stem: I didn’t think crows were smart before we read this book, but now I think they are smart because ___.

The third leveled reader that pairs with The Crow and the Rain Barrel is The Water Cycle . It teaches kids where to find water and uses nonfiction text features to show the sequence of the water cycle. Try the following steps to use this level K book as a resource for science and to practice sequencing skills:

  1. Encourage kids to make real-world connections by asking students questions about where they have seen water.
  2. Assess background knowledge of water by asking students what they know about the water cycle.
  3. Set a purpose for reading: Today we are going to read The Water Cycle . As I read, listen for the steps of the water cycle.
  4. Read The Water Cycle .
  5. Discuss the steps of the water cycle as a class. You may want to refer to page 14. You can proceed with either of the following activities to practice sequencing:
    • Put students in pairs. Give each pair a set of four pictures and four labels for each step of the water cycle. Tell each pair to put the pictures in order and match the correct label for each picture.
    • Use movement to review the water cycle with your kinesthetic learners.
  1. After reviewing the water cycle for a few days, encourage students to illustrate and label their own depictions of the water cycle.

There are many reading skills that can help students improve their ability to retell and sequence. Paired texts are extremely helpful resources that you can use for language arts and other content-area lessons. Come back to our blog soon for more ideas and teaching tips!


Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog .