Adapted by Linda Burdick from a unit by Maud Anderson, Moultonborough Central School.

This lesson is a good way to start a history unit, and helps students grasp the concepts of past, present, and future.  You can revisit this activity through-out the year, and use it for a culminating activity.

FOCUS QUESTION: This activity is useful for ALL of the focus questions.
ERAS: ALL eras

INSTRUCTIONAL OUTCOMES: Students should be able to locate events in time-past, present and future; construct time lines of significant personal, community and state events; and interpret time lines. Students should demonstrate an understanding that historical artifacts and documents represent historical evidence of the past. Students should understand that they, as individuals, are part of an on-going story of their communities, state, and nation.

1.   What does a timeline represent?

A.  Create a clothesline timeline. Materials needed: lOO footclothesline, 2"  red plastic tape (to mark centuries),  1.5" blue plastic tape ( to mark decades), clothespins (spring type), index cards (to mark dates).

Decide how long a period of time you want your timeline to represent.

Decide on scale. (Our class timeline runs from 14002010 A.D., with one foot representing a decade: 6.1 centuries = 61 feet, with leftover line at either end so we can easily hang the timeline.)

Use the red tape to mark the centuries, the blue tape to mark the in-between decades.

Make date cards to mark the centuries and half-centuries. (Hold the clothespins upside-down so the dates hang down from the top of the pin, otherwise the dates will flip down when you hang them on the clothesline).

Make timeline cards for a few other events you have been discussing in classperhaps Columbus' first voyage to North America, the landing of the Mayflower, or the Declaration of Independence. Students continue to make timeline cards as the year progresses.

B.  Find a large space to unfurl the timeline. We use our cafeteria. The class sits on bleachers on the side of the room so they can see the entire timeline. We tie the timeline to a stool or support at one end of the room, then have a student unfurl the timeline to its full extent. I hang a few mementos on the timeline: a current class photo to represent the current year; a graduation cap tassel to represent the year our class will graduate from high school; a toy baby bottle or a pair of booties to represent the year(s) the students were born. The students determine that this is a timeline and identify what the hanging objects represent.

2.   How are timelines organized?

A.  On the timeline, hang dates or objects that they are familiar withstudent birthdays, holidays, etc. Establish that the one foot intervals represent 10 years or a decade (from the Greek word DEKA, meaning ten, as in decathlon, decahedron). Every 10 feet represents 100 years or a century (from the Latin CENTUM, meaning 100, as in cent, centipede, centimeter).

B.  Call on individuals to hang date cards for the centuries and the half-centuries, for dates you've been discussing in class, etc.

3.   How am I part of a timeline?

A.  Introduce the concept of generations. Have someone stand by the timeline to show when the fourth graders' parents were kids; when their grandparents were kids, etc.

B.  Students interview parents and make timeline cards for significant dates in their parents' lives and in their own lives. If possible, have them interview grandparents or older people in town.

4.   How can historical documents help us find out what happened in the past and when events

A.  Use events you have been discussing in class, and ask, "How many years ago was ____________?" How long ago was this in terms of your lifetime thus far? What other events were taking place at the same time? (For example, when we placed Sarah dark's diary on the timeline-1861 "we discussed how the Civil War was being fought at that time.)

B.  Continue to add timeline cards for events you discuss in class. My class has recently been reading diaries and historical fiction from the nineteenth century. We wondered about when various inventions were developed and became readily available. Pairs of students investigated specific inventions (railroad, telegraph, electric light bulb, etc.) and then prepared cards for our timeline. Students can also attach actual objects to their timeline cards to represent the invention (a tin can for the invention of the canning process, a light bulb, etc.).

1.  Students construct a timeline of significant events in their personal lives, using the concept of intervals.

2.  Students construct a timeline of significant events in their community.

3. Students interpret time lines and explain events in sequence.

4. Students use historical documents and other data and accurately place events on a timeline.

Moyer, Judith. A Timeline of New Hampshire History. Concord, NH: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1996. Accompanying teacher's guide available.

NH STANDARDS: History 16, 17, 18

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