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Scrambled Events


This activity helps students to understand a series of events while they read or listen to a presentation, and to remember these events in order afterwards.  As students listen or read, they look for important events printed on cards, and they put these cards in order as they identify them.  After students are done reading or listening, they will have created a timeline of the most important events in order.    

Learning Strategies 

  • Synthesizing
Cause and Effect, Listening Comprehension, Sequencing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline


  • Identify the text that students will read or listen to.
  • Identify the most important events from the text; write each on a piece of paper, Post-it note, or note card. Each student should have a complete set.
  • Consider creating a blank timeline that students can use to further organize the events. 
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher introduces the general topic of presentation or reading, and distributes event cards. If using one, teacher distributes a timeline.
    The events should be labeled or described very briefly on the cards, since you don’t want students to spend a lot of time reading the cards as they go. 
    Timelines can be particularly useful for historical texts, when the date of each event is known. You can provide dates for a timeline, or ask students to fill these in.
    You could also structure a timeline around an individual’s life, particularly in the context of a novel, and label it with “infancy, childhood, teen years,” etc., even if dates aren’t known. 
  2. Students briefly read the cards so that they are prepared for what to look for. They organize the cards in whatever way they want.

    This stage should take only a few minutes.

  3. Students begin reading or listening to the text. If they are reading, they can work alone or in pairs.

    Remind students to look for the events before they start.

  4. As they work, students look for the target events. Whenever they identify one, they place the cards in order either on their desk, or on their timeline.

    Circulate as students are working, gauging their comprehension and recall, and asking them about their understanding of the content and order of the events.  Ask them questions that prompt them to think about cause-and-effect relationships among events.

  5. When they are done, students get into pairs, and compare their event sequences or timelines. They note commonalities and resolve any potential differences. They discuss why events happened in this order, considering cause-and-effect relationships.
    As students are talking, you can sit with each group for several minutes and listen to their conversation.  Ask them about their process and what they are noticing, and help guide them towards recognition of causality.
    If students disagree about the order of events, encourage them to look back at the text to resolve disagreements.
  6. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.
    Students respond to questions including:
    How did this activity affect your understanding of the text?
    How will this activity affect your ability to remember these events and their order?
    How can sequencing affect your understanding of cause-and-effect?
    In what other context might you use this strategy?
Downloadable Resources 
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