Sequencing refers to the ability to understand and talk about a story as an ordered series of events. This lesson is designed to introduce this skill to primary students using the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. In this lesson, students discuss events at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and then sequence the events. This lesson is the first in a set of sequencing lessons designed for primary grades.
For students to be able to successfully sequence events in a text, they should have some understanding of time sequence within a larger context of the beginning, middle, and end of a story. They should be able to determine the order of events in a story and thereby understand the author's purpose.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
A chalkboard, white board, or chart paper to record information from the text
Blank paper, pencils, and crayons or markers.
Tell students that they will learn about the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Have them identify the beginning, middle, and end of common things, such as:
A school day
How a caterpillar becomes a butterfly
Sounds in words such as: cat
A field trip
Songs during a favorite cartoon episode, such as Sponge Bob Squarepants
A baseball game
For example, students might explain that at the beginning of the day the lunch count is taken, at the middle of the day, students eat lunch, and then at the end of the day students pack their backpacks. Have students draw pictures that illustrate events from the beginning, middle, and end of their day. Discuss how there may be more than one event that can be classified as the beginning, middle, or end, and how some endings are really the beginning of a new process. You might also talk about how certain words and phrases in a story give clues about whether it is at the beginning, middle, or end. You could give students this list and ask them to tell where these words and phrases would be found—at the beginning, middle, or end. (A clue: if it's not clearly the beginning or the end, it's probably the middle.)
Word or Phrase Where in the Story Once upon a time... beginning The End They lived happily ever after. The next day... After several months... Finally...
Another version of a table could look like this:
Beginning Middle End Once upon a time... The next day... They lived happily ever after. Henry was born... After several months... In the end...
Caterpillar-the larva of a butterfly or moth
Explain to students that they will be discussing what happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. At the end of the lesson, you will ask them to tell what happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story so that you will know whether they have learned what you want to teach them.
Introduce the book by asking students to consider the title. Ask, "What do you think a very hungry caterpillar eats?" and allow students an opportunity to share their ideas. Begin reading the book to your class. As you read, pause to identify the parts of the text. For instance, before reading the first page say, "Let's see what happens at the beginning of the book." When you get to the part where the caterpillar begins to eat you might say, "Here comes the middle of the story." Finally, as the caterpillar builds his cocoon you might wonder aloud, "I think this is the ending of the book." After you have read the book, draw a three-column chart on the board or chart paper, with the column labels, "Beginning," "Middle," and "End." Since you are modeling this for students, think aloud and go back through the book to do a picture walk while you say something such as,
"What happened at the beginning of The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Well, in the beginning, there was an egg. The caterpillar was born in the beginning of the story. Let's see. I'll look back at the book to find out what else happened at the beginning of the story. At the beginning of the story, it was Sunday."
Record these ideas in the "Beginning" column of your chart.
There was an egg.
The caterpillar was born.
It was Sunday.
Complete the next part of the chart with students, asking the question, "What happened in the middle of the story? What happened at the end of the story?" If a student offers an idea that fits better in another section of the chart, you might reply with a comment such as, "Oh, I remember that part, too. Let's find that illustration in the story. Here it is, near the end of the book. I think it would be great to add that to the 'end' section of our chart." By the end of the discussion, your chart should include some of the following ideas:
Beginning Middle End The caterpillar was born and was hungry. Each day the caterpillar ate a little more than the day before. The caterpillar changed into a butterfly.
Be sure to review the sequence of the days of the week and review which days are at the beginning, middle, and end of the week, understanding this is somewhat arbitrary.
For independent practice, have students identify events in the beginning, middle, and end of the story, writing a sentence and drawing a picture for each section. An extension activity is to create a collaborative book, The Very Hungry Animal. Students can choose another animal to write about, and decide what the animal eats each day of the week, and explain what might happen when the animal is full. The class can be separated into three groups to form "Beginning," "Middle," and "End" groups. Be specific about where the groups will start and stop their portions of the story. For instance, the "Beginning" group could start the story with the raccoon being born or appearing at the edge of the forest. The "Middle" group could write about what the raccoon ate on each day of one week. The "End" group could write about the raccoon falling asleep and then waking up larger than it was a week before.
One way to assess student understanding of the sequence of a story is to choose a different, familiar book and ask students to identify the beginning, middle, and end of that story. You can strengthen students' understanding of these ideas by focusing on the beginning, middle, and end of a familiar event, such as the school day, and ask students to describe it using these terms.
Reflection and Planning
Use examples from the school day to help students understand sequencing. As you go through the school day, stop to have students draw what they are doing at that time of the day. Note the time of day and have them write a few words about what they are doing below their illustrations. Do this twice each day at different times over three days. At the end of the three days, have students sequence their illustrations to create a book of their day, progressing through events from the beginning to the end of the school day.
To continue working on sequencing, you may use the two additional lessons on this topic. Each lesson explores the topic in a bit more depth, expanding students' understanding of the concept. You may also choose to reinforce the ideas in this lesson with another book by Eric Carle, Rooster's Off to See the World.If students are struggling with the skill of sequencing, review the skills taught in the previous lesson, using different texts during small group instruction.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.3With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.7With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.5Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.