Sequencing is one of the things I most commonly set targets on. It’s also one of the speech therapy words that we use that I think makes the least sense to people! Therefore, sequencing is the topic of today’s post!
What is sequencing?
Sequencing refers to the order of things. With children with speech sound difficulties, we sometimes talk about sound sequencing. This refers to being able to say a series of sounds rather than just one single sound. In this post though, I am going to talk about language sequencing. This refers to being able to tell a story in the right order or explain an idea in a logical sequence.
Sequencing is also an important aspect in the development of early play skills. When children first begin pretend play, they might pretend to drink from a cup. Later on, they might add more to the pretend play. For example, they might pretend to pour the drink out, stir it and then drink it. This is sequencing. Sequencing in play is an important precursor to being able to sequence your ideas logically later on.
How will I know if my child has difficulties with sequencing?
Younger children who have difficulty with sequencing often struggle with sequences of pretend play, as I described above. They might also say sentences in a muddled order or say things that seem unrelated to the topic.
Older or more verbal children who struggle with sequencing often find it hard to tell a story or a piece of news as they jump backwards and forwards and miss important bits out. They might not answer the question they were asked or else they might waffle and fail to come to the point.
A word of caution here. Telling back a story or explaining something is a complex task and there are a huge number of skills involved. Memory, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar and social skills all play a part as well. Many of the activities I use for sequencing also work on other skills, which is why I use them so often. However, because of this, improvement may take some time. Also, if your child finds these tasks very difficult, think about some of these other areas and see if you need to do some work to support some of those as well.
How can I work on sequencing?
- Sit on the floor with your child and play pretend games with them. Use whatever toys your child is interested in. For example, if your child plays with cars and enjoys pushing them up and down, do that with your child. Then get your car to park or to go through a tunnel. See if your child will copy. This sort of thing takes a lot of repetition. If your child is not engaged, try again another day or use a different toy. You can do this sort of sequencing with any toys you happen to have, but some things that work particularly well are toy animals, a doll’s house or Playmobil.
- Use sets of pictures and see if your child can put them in order to tell a logical story. You can start with pictures showing simple everyday tasks and move on later to more complex stories. I always find that I need more sequencing pictures. Here are some sets that I use and like:-
- Black Sheep do lovely sets of sequencing pictures that you can find here, here and here– I use these all the time.
- The app isequences has 100 sets of 3 or 4 pictures for just a few pounds!
- This set of sequencing photo cards are also nice.
- The app Sequencing also has some nice sets of photo sequencing cards.
- You can also make your own sets of sequencing pictures. Take photos of your own child doing an everyday task at different stages e.g. putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, then brushing their teeth, then wiping their face afterwards. Often children respond very well to pictures of themselves or people they know well.
3. Take a few pictures throughout an activity or day out. Flick through them on your phone with your child and see if they can tell the story of what happened using a short sentence for each picture. This is even better if you print the pictures and see if your child can put them back into order again, though obviously that does take a little more effort!
1. Use story planners to help children to plan out their stories and keep the order correct. Black Sheep have some lovely ones in their narrative packs.
2. You can extend the idea above about taking a few pictures throughout a day out. You could use lots more pictures with older children. Alternatively let the child take their own pictures throughout the day and then use them to sequence a story when they get back. You could use these for an imaginative story or just to retell what they have done.
3. Mind mapping can be really useful with older children to help them plan and sequence their ideas. This book is really good for teaching children to use this strategy. I also use a lovely app for drawing them on my iPad with a child, which you can find here.