Organizing Instructions Into a Proper Sequence

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  • 0:04 Sequencing as a Text Structure
  • 0:35 Chronology vs Sequence
  • 2:13 Sample Passage
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

One of the text structures that authors often choose when giving instructions is sequential order. In this lesson, we will examine this text structure and discuss strategies for putting sentences in the proper sequence.

Sequencing as a Text Structure

Think about the steps involved in baking a cake. What would happen if you changed the order? There's a reason the recipe says to preheat the oven before mixing the batter. Sequence matters, and sequencing is putting the steps in a process in order from beginning to end. It's an important skill, not only for reading comprehension, but is also used in other content areas, such as math, science, and social studies. Let's examine some sequence structures that will help you organize instructions in a passage.

Chronology vs Sequence

A common error with putting things in sequential order is assuming that it's the same as putting things in chronological order. Chronology has to do with the time that something happens. For example, on the Titanic's maiden voyage, this is the chronology:

Chronology of the Sinking of the Titanic

  • April 14, 11:40 PM, the Titanic strikes an iceberg.
  • April 15, 12:05 AM, Captain Smith orders the crew to prepare the lifeboats.
  • April 15, 12:45 AM, the first lifeboat is launched.
  • April 15, 2:20 AM, the Titanic sinks.
  • April 15, 4:10 AM, the Carpathia picks up the first lifeboat.

The chronology describes the order of events at a particular time and setting. Baking a cake is a sequence of events because it doesn't matter when or where you start; the order of the process will remain the same. For example, here is the sequence of making a cake:

Sequence of Baking a Cake

  1. Preheat the oven.
  2. Lightly grease the pan.
  3. Mix the ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Pour the batter in the pan.
  5. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

Whether you make the cake now or wait until your birthday, the sequence is consistent. Sequencing is the text structure that is generally used when the author is giving instructions. Signal words that you will often see when things are put in sequential order include: first, next, before, lastly, finally, and then.

Sample Passage

To illustrate the importance of sequence, let's read the following passage.

How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Then, you'll use a butter knife to spread approximately 2 tablespoons of peanut butter evenly across the top of one of the slices of bread. The next step will be to spread approximately 1 tablespoon of jelly evenly across the top of the other slice of bread. The first step to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to go to the store to purchase bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Next, you'll remove two pieces of bread and place them side-by-side on a plate. Finally, you'll place the slice of bread that's covered with peanut butter upside-down on top of the slice of bread that's covered with jelly so that the peanut butter and jelly are facing each other.

While all of the steps are in place, this passage doesn't make a lot of sense. To put it back in the proper order, let's look for some transition words. The first sentence will be the one that begins with 'The first step…'

1. The first step to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to go to the store to purchase bread, peanut butter, and jelly.

It's also pretty easy to find the final sentence in the sequence because it begins with the transition word 'Finally.'

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