• The order in which things are done or events happen is called sequence.  The steps for completing a set of directions often follow a sequence.



    • Clue words such as first, next, then, last, finally, before, and after often tell you when things are done or events happen.
    • Clues such as the time of the day, the day of the week, the month, the season, and the year tell when things happen.
    • In a story without clue words, think about the beginning, the middle, and the ending to help you figure out a sequence.  In an article without clue words, think about the order in which things happen or how things are done.

     Sometimes, a passage is told in order, or sequence.  Different things happen at the beginning, middle, and ending of a passage.  Questions about sequence ask you to remember and put events or details in order.  Questions about sequence often contain key words such as first, then, last, after, or before.

    Please note:   Many times a question will phrase a sequence question this way:  What happened right after……or what happened right before…..  This is a very tricky question because of the word “right”.

    In other words, there could be several choices for events taking place after the event in question, but by including that word “right” in the question; it means the event that occurred “immediately” after or before the said event.

    Here is a simple example:

    Instructions for Making Breakfast

    First, I take the cereal bowl out of the cabinet.  Next, I get the box of Cheerios off the shelf.  I put some cereal in the bowl.  I get the milk out of the refrigerator.  Then I pour it all over my cereal.  Finally, I get my spoon out of the drawer and enjoy my breakfast.

    A question could be:

    What happened “right after” I put some cereal in the bowl?

    1.  I got my spoon out of the drawer
    2.  I get the milk out of the refrigerator.
    3.  I enjoy my breakfast.
    4.  I take the box of Cheerios off the shelf.

    The correct answer is “b”, I get the milk out of the refrigerator.  However, many times students will incorrectly answer this question because they see that choice “a” and choice “c” also “seem” correct because each of those events happened “after” putting cereal into the bowl.  But, choice “b” is the correct answer because it happened immediately after or right after putting the cereal into the bowl.


    The Troublesome Duo:  Before and After

    Next comes what I call the Troublesome Duo; the two words “before” and “after”.  These seem simple enough, however, look at this example:


    I got up out of bed.  Before I made breakfast, I walked the dog.


    So, now what is the correct sequence of these three events?  First, “I got up out of bed.”  Second, “I walked the dog.”  Third, “I made breakfast.”  This is the correct sequence of events even though “making breakfast” was mentioned second in the paragraph, the word “before” clearly changes the sequence.  Only a careful reader would pick that up.  Students not reading carefully, just look for the events that are mentioned in the order that they appear in the paragraph or story, without paying attention to the word “before”. 


    The same can happen for the word “after”.  Now let’s look at the same paragraph with one small change.


    I got up out of bed.  After I made breakfast, I walked the dog.


    Now the sequence of the three events is very different.  First, “I got up out of bed.”  Second, “I made breakfast.” Third, “I walked the dog.”


    These two paragraphs almost say the same thing, but the sequence is very different with the including of the words “before” and “after”.  Hence, these are the “troublesome duo.”


    Sequence Questions:

    •  He discovered electricity after ______.
    • According to the selection, what happened last?
    • To build a bird house, what do you have to do first?
    •  Which came first?  This type of question is followed by items placed in different sequential order.


    Strategy for Sequence Questions:

    •  Read the question.  You have to read the entire passage to find out the right sequence order.
    •  Ask yourself, “What happened first?  Second?  And Last?
    • Reread the question and answer based upon what you know about the order in which things happened.