Guest post by Robert Duvall of Lens of History
The student who understands chronology and masters timelines will perform better in high school and college.
What Is ChronologyAt its core, history is the study of events from the beginning to end. That’s what chronology is. It is the traditional method of teaching the subject, because history is a series of cause and effect interactions. Some curricular experts advise a topical approach or even a reverse chronological method, but neither does justice to the essence of history, which is chronology.
Teaching TimelinesStudents should be exposed to timelines at an early age. In Kindergarten students can learn the components of a timeline using basic, picture oriented examples. From there more complexity should be added so by the third grade students are constructing their own timelines. By sixth grader they are capable of creating complex, “study ready” timelines that show not only when events happened but offer summary descriptions of events, illustrate cause and effect relationships, and exhibit classification skills.
The Four Components of Timeline Construction
- A Title—Ensure every timeline has an appropriate title.
- A Continuum—That’s the line itself. It might be a simple line drawn horizontally across the page, or it could take other forms and directions.
- Interval Hashes—This can be a tricky component for younger students. They have to decide when the first and last events happened and then decide on the number of interval hashes. Let’s say 48 years separates the earliest and latest events. It’s advisable to round, so make a continuum that covers 50 years. Label the beginning of your continuum line with a year on or before the first event. It is unwise and a visual mess to label all 50 years so break it down to something manageable, maybe five or ten year increments.
- Event Labels—Write out event labels with arrows identifying the correct year or date. “What if I have many events crammed together?” Good question. Just use angled or cornered arrows. There is no rule that the event has to be placed right over the appropriate year, and you DO NOT want a timeline that looks cluttered.
Going Beyond the Basic TimelineTimelines do more than simply show when events happened. Some ideas:
- A descriptive timeline includes a short description or paragraph about each event.
- A timeline can also show cause and effect by using arrowed lines (rays) that connect a causal event to its effect.
- Images from clipart or drawn freehand can be included to spark visual memory.
- Finally events can be classified into groups using border colors. Such classifications might be the traditional “political, social, economic” or timeline specific. A timeline about World War Two might classify events as European Theater, Pacific Theater or Other. (Remember to include a “key” when doing this.)
Comments: Feel free to comment, especially about how you have used timelines as a teaching tool.
Robert W. Duvall is a history teacher with over 24 years of experience and now an avid blogger on history topics. Robert wants to “feed the Student of History in you.” His blog is Lens of History, and he can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on G+ and Twitter.
Original Photo: JayLopez