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Order a set of primary sources to demonstrate a sequence or the simultaneous nature of historical events within a time period. Students carefully analyze each randomly ordered document to determine the correct sequence for the documents and understand historical events, actions, and figures in context.

Learning Objectives and Historical Thinking Skills

Activities created with the Finding a Sequence tool encourage students to practice chronological thinking. Create activities using this tool to have your students understand what events occurred — and when they took place — within the time period you choose. After students closely examine each document and sequence them, they will be able to see a progression — to understand why events happened in a particular order and the causal relationships among events. Finding a Sequence activities help students understand historical events in context.…more

Activities created with the Finding a Sequence tool encourage students to practice chronological thinking. Create activities using this tool to have your students understand what events occurred — and when they took place — within the time period you choose. After students closely examine each document and sequence them, they will be able to see a progression — to understand why events happened in a particular order and the causal relationships among events. Finding a Sequence activities help students understand historical events in context.

The Finding a Sequence tool can also be used to help students understand the context or sequence of procedures, historical figures, and concepts that are not events. For instance, use the activity to help students understand the veto process. Students can examine several documents, and then put them in the correct sequence according to how the veto process works.

The tool may also be used to order documents in a non-chronological way. Be sure to specify the correct order of the documents, however, as there must always be a right/wrong outcome. Also make sure, in the instructions to students, to indicate the type of reasoning that they should use to order the documents. One example of a non-chronological order is to ask students to order documents by the amendment number to which they correlate. For instance, a document calling the issue of free speech into question would be first since it relates to thRequeste 1st Amendment; a document relating to search and seizure would go later in the sequence because of its correlation to the 4th Amendment.

Finding a Sequence can also be used to highlight the relative distance in time between events, perhaps showing how much happened between events that seem close together. Choose a pair of documents that you would like to feature. Then choose a set of documents demonstrating other historic events that happened between the pair. This can effectively illustrate the span of time covered between the first and last event.

Students also have the opportunity to learn about the simultaneous nature of events — that though social studies curriculums often separate historical events into separate units based on themes, they really occurred at the same time. Activities designed with this tool can also help students grasp that life was different in different parts of the country or world at the same moment in history.

Use two different Finding a Sequence activities to show how the documents that a historian chooses to look at regarding a particular period or historical event can change one’s view of that era or event. Analyzing differing sets of documents can also help students to see events or issues from different perspectives. For example, see the activities “Reasons for Westward Expansion” and “The Impact of Westward Expansion on Native American Groups”; after completing both activities, ask students to contrast the views that Eastern Americans might have had about the West and the views that Native Americans in the West may have had about expansion west.

Teaching Tips

  • Consider the goals you have for your students before planning your activity. Choose documents and structure your activity based upon those goals.
  • This tool can be adapted for use with different ages and learning levels. Students can perform simple temporal sequencing by using visual cues in photographs or basic textual documents. A set of documents that clearly shows a progression in building a structure such as the Washington Monument, for instance, can teach chronological thinking in the early grades. To practice higher order thinking skills with students in secondary grades, choose documents that require extensive document analysis and contextualization, or even further research, to sequence.…more
  • Consider the goals you have for your students before planning your activity. Choose documents and structure your activity based upon those goals.
  • This tool can be adapted for use with different ages and learning levels. Students can perform simple temporal sequencing by using visual cues in photographs or basic textual documents. A set of documents that clearly shows a progression in building a structure such as the Washington Monument, for instance, can teach chronological thinking in the early grades. To practice higher order thinking skills with students in secondary grades, choose documents that require extensive document analysis and contextualization, or even further research, to sequence.
  • In most instances it is valuable to ask students to hypothesize about the correct sequence of documents before formally beginning the activity. The exercise can act as a pre-assessment and can help to guide students' thinking. Once students begin to examine documents to determine their content, they have a purpose for viewing them and begin to contextualize them on first encounter.
  • It is important to model careful document analysis for the class with at least one document from the grid before beginning the activity. Open one of the documents. Ask the class to look at the document very generally and ask the type of document. Ask students to notice unique physical characteristics and tell the date, creator(s), and content. Remind students to do the same kind of analysis with each subsequent document before attempting to sequence them. You may wish to create an accompanying activity using the Focusing on Details tool in order to highlight a particular document and model document analysis.
  • Follow Finding a Sequence activities with class discussion or writing assignments to further help students contextualize the documents they saw, as well as the historical events they researched. Ensure that students understood the goals for doing the activity.

Finding a Sequence

Present primary sources and challenge students to sequence them based on document analysis.

Lessons Created Using this Template