Can You Help Me Understand?

The sequence in which ideas are presented in a text is one of the first things students must be able to ascertain in order to be able to fully derive meaning from it, and so the notion of Understanding Sequence is a crucial factor in reading comprehension and one of the 12 central reading strategies in CARS & STARS Online.

Texts at a low level might be more inclined to relay information or events in a linear order – this happened, which led to that, which then caused this to happen, etc. This is understandably easier to comprehend than when information or events are laid out in a non-linear fashion – that is, when something is presented first and only later connected to the cause of it, for example. We would generally think that information laid out in a linear A-B sequence requires less concentration than that which occurs nonlinearly and requires further work on the part of the reader to re-order sequentially.

Texts at a lower reading level would be more likely to present information directly, in a sequence in which the order of events is linear and easier to follow. Questions about Understanding Sequence in regard to a text at this level would simply ask students to perhaps identify what happened first or last, with the answer being intelligible because the item that occurred first, for example, clearly happened first in the passage.

As students progress throughout the reading levels, however, the sequence of events may become less directly obvious and something that requires re-ordering in the student’s mind as they read. Questions would still ask the student to choose where an event occurred, but the way the information was presented in the reading passage would mean that this would not be as self-evident, with something that happened second on the page, for example, actually occurring first in the plot of the story.

What this means is that the ability to understand the sequence of events or ideas presented in a text – whether they be straightforward or out of order in this way – is a vital part of reading comprehension and thus an important part of the reading strategies that underpin CARS & STARS Online. A student who cannot accurately piece together the sequence in which events or ideas are relayed in a story or passage would find it difficult to understand that text, because they have not been able to keep track of how the ideas or events within it have related to each other. A student who has followed the passage will have understood this order, and thus have demonstrated an understanding of the text as a whole.