How to Teach History Time Lines

History has little impact on students if they don’t see the “sense” of it.  For that reason, an overview of how to teach with timelines is presented below. Make your classroom a visual “walk through history” as you study different events and eras. When students actively participate in hands-on learning, they remember their lessons a lot longer.

Dates-and-data timelines –

These are simple, quick to assemble and give an overview of the facts.  Include data you will use for assignments, review sessions and tests.  You will divide the information or trivia into 20+ sections, depending on how many students you have.  Each student receives one section and copies it on an index card.

The cards will be shuffled and passed back to students as a group for review.  Challenge students to find classmates who hold the date or event card that goes on either side of theirs time-wise.  It will be a crazy shuffle for awhile, but it’s also a fun way to connect and work together.  Once cards are in the proper sequence, students tape them to the wall or a chart, as the teacher indicates.  Be sure to take a picture of them in the process.

You can also get the cards in order the following way:  Have students each read their card aloud and let the class decide where that event belongs in the time line.  The teacher should already have the numbers 1-20 (or however many cards there are) listed on the chalkboard.  As the group decides where that card goes, list the name of the student who read the card is listed beside the proper number. 

It’s not uncommon for mistakes to be made in trying to line events up chronologically.  Allow the students to catch their mistakes as they discuss events and then put them in the proper sequence.  The student’s name on the board is only for reference purposes – if a card  needs to be re-read for clarification and discussion, you can ask the student who is listed beside that card to read it again. 

Draw-an-event timelines –

Have students illustrate various people and/or events for the period you are studying.  Perhaps you are covering the period 1848-1855 and the California Gold Rush.  An overview of the story will provide many ideas for illustrations.  Wikipedia provides enough information in their review for several students to work on this “draw-an-event” time line.  Click here to see what information and events you come up with! 

Once students have their drawings completed, number them according to the dates they occurred or how they best fit in the timeline.  Display these along a wall, either horizontally around the room or vertically if space is limited.  You can also line them up along a window ledge for a brief period of time.  If they are left there too long, the sunlight may fade the drawings. 

Do-the-notebook timelines –

With the students’ permission, duplicate the drawings in the timeline above on a copier.  This lets each child have a full set of the sections in the timeline.  Punch holes and have students place them in their 3-ring binders for review.  If the picture pages have been numbered, there is no danger of getting them out of their proper order.  This is an excellent way to share artwork and review for an upcoming test.

Do-the-frieze timelines –

Roll out a long length of paper and hang it on the wall where it can be reached by even the shortest student in your class.  Assign class members to help with certain sections of the timeline (or ask for volunteers). They will write in dates, bits of trivia and then illustrate the events in that particular section of the frieze.  The teacher will have already marked off (with pencil) timeline sections so each student has room to work.  Allowing them to work in shifts means everyone has elbow room. 

Take photos of their mural as it develops.  Once it’s completed, take another photo with the students on either side of it.  Invite another class and/or the principal to visit your room to see your history frieze.  This is a project your students will enjoy (and brag about) for weeks to come.

When you teach history with timelines, you open up a world of information and intrigue to students.  Whatever timeline method you decide to try in your classroom, lots of good learning is sure to follow!