Sequencing, or organising information into a predictable pattern, is a critical tool in a child's cognitive development. Students utilise sequencing in building language and mathematics skills, and in understanding literary structure. Preschoolers, many of whom are still grasping the concept of time as a linear process, benefit greatly from sequencing practice in multiple forms.
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Beginning, Middle and End
Utilise picture cards that display a sequence of events, and have students place them in order. An example may be a series of three cards depicting the process of blowing up a balloon. One card shows a deflated balloon. The next depicts a person with the partially-inflated balloon in her mouth. The final card shows the inflated balloon. Students demonstrate an understanding of the predictable pattern of how the balloon was inflated by placing the cards in an order that shows beginning, middle and end. Beginning, middle and end picture cards that correspond to stories told in the classroom can also be utilised.
Identifying pattern sequences can be demonstrated during any lesson and beyond. Snack time is a great opportunity to review sequences. Have students model a snack of crackers and fruit slices by modelling a simple line pattern on a tray. If necessary, start with the most basic "xy" model: one cracker, one orange slice, one cracker, one orange slice. For students who master the concept, challenge their skills by incorporating another food element or by changing the pattern. Additional sequencing can be completed by sorting food items into distinct groups. Provide students with a few extra pieces of food to eat while working, or the patterns may be compromised.
Sequencing practice may come in the form of discussing life cycles, a common theme in preschool classrooms. Use charts, big books, picture cards or puppets to show the sequence of the life of a sunflower, chicken or frog. Have students model the sequence themselves, identifying that there is a predictable pattern in the life cycle of a plant or animal.
Ordering objects by size is a simple and effective way to encourage sequencing in preschoolers. In small groups, display three similar items in noticeably different sizes, such as a ping pong ball, tennis ball and soccer ball. Introduce the students to the idea that these items must be sorted from smallest to largest, or largest to smallest. Ask them to help you place the balls in the correct order as a group, then have students work individually or in teams to demonstrate their grasp of the high/low sequence.
A Day in the Life
Preschoolers will apply their own daily classroom experiences in this activity, which encourages students to identify their typical in-class routines. Use photos of students in various stages of classroom activity such as recreation, snack time, circle and journaling, and ask them to identify the order in which these activities occur each day. Expand upon this by discussing what the sequence of an entire day is, including elements such as waking up, going to school and going to bed. Students can model their knowledge by creating individualised books that show the order of their daily activities.
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