Adult Ed
Time Lines: Connecting Your Life to History


OverviewActivities


Activity One: A Time Line of Today
Activity Two: A Time Line of Your Own Life:
Activity Three: Time Line of Historical Events in Our Lifetime
Activity Four: Then Versus Now


Activity One: A Time Line of Today
This activity introduces students to the concept of a time line, how to read one, and how to create one. Use "today" as the time period because it's easy to think about. The concept is new, so it helps to start with something that is fresh in the students' minds. This should be something that doesn't require a lot of searching of the memory banks. Students can feel some confidence doing it because they are writing about something they know.

Step 1Draw a blank time line on the board.

Step 1Fill in the time line using your own day. Talk out loud as you fill in your time line in order to demonstrate process to the class. "Let's see, I woke up at 7:00 in the morning. I woke my kids up at 7:15. I left the house about an hour later and drove them to school. Then I went to work. Then what happened? I started the day with a meeting with my boss." Don't always say the exact time of day. That shows students they can write down events even if they don't know the exact time they happened.

Step 1Give each student a blank time line.

Step 1Have students fill in their day using words, pictures, numbers or any other symbol they want.

Step 1Break the class into pairs and have them explain their time lines to each other.

Step 1Come together as a whole group and see if anyone wants to share their time line with the whole class.


Extensions
More advanced students can write narratives about their day or a part of it: the funniest, most important, most annoying, or most surprising thing that happened today.


Note
When you ask students to write about their day, be sensitive to the fact that this might be a bad idea for some students. If it was a particularly bad day, it might upset a student to write about it. If a student seems really resistant to writing about their day or comes out and tells you today was a really rough one, tell them they can write about another day, maybe yesterday, or last Saturday.


Activity Two: A Time Line of Your Own Life

A great way to help students connect with history is to make a direct connection to their own lives. Using their own lives can be a good way to introduce time lines, a useful tool in understanding history.

Step 1Draw a blank time line on the blackboard.

Step 1Fill in the time line using your own life. Talk out loud as you fill in your time line in order to demonstrate process to the class. "Let's see, I was born in 1960 in Cincinnati, Ohio. My sister Diane was born when I was almost three. My sister Stephanie was born two years later. Hmmm, what else? Well, I went to school when I was five. I got my first job at McDonald's when I was sixteen."

Note: You can even model self-censorship "Hmmm, I don't want to talk about what happened when I first moved to New York City."

Step 1After you finish, review it quickly, adding an event or two to model revision. "Oh I forgot about my relationship with Joe. That should go in here"

Step 1Give students a blank time line to fill in for themselves using words, phrases, sentences, pictures, numbers, and symbols.

Step 1Break the class into pairs and have them explain their time lines to each other.

Step 1Come together as a whole group and see if anyone wants to share their time line with the whole class.

Extension
Write about your own time line. Ask students to pick an event or a section of their time line and write about it. Students can use the time line to write a whole autobiography if they want.


Activity Three: Time Line of Historical Events in Our Lifetime

Step 1Draw a blank time line on the blackboard and give each student a blank time line.

Step 1Pick a date that most of the class can remember as the starting point (ten, twenty, twenty-five years ago). Put that date at the start of the time line on the board and ask the students to put that date at the start of the time lines they have in front of them.

Step 1Place the current year at the end of the time line on the board and ask the students to put that at the end of the time lines in front of them.

Step 1Demonstrate how to fill in a few historical events and developments that you remember. "Let's see here. Clinton was President in the nineties. People started to use the Internet a lot around 1995. Desert Storm, when was that? I think in the late eighties. I am going to put it hear but, I think I have to check"

Step 1Put the class in small groups and tell them they have to come up with six things that happened during recent history and try to place them on the time line. It's okay if they aren't sure of the date.

Step 1Ask each group to share their events. Have one person, yourself or a student, put them in the big time line on the board.

Step 1Ask students to revise their individual time lines given the big time line on the board.

Step 1Ask students to do a piece of writing based on the time line. Students could write about the entire period covered in the time line, or just one or two events.

Activity Four: Then Versus Now

The class will create a time line of the last twenty-five years. Then they brainstorm the differences between now and twenty-five years ago. They will write essays comparing and contrasting then versus now. Sharing, revising, editing, and publishing are among the ways to complete this unit.

Step 1Create a time line for the past twenty-five years on the blackboard. It may be helpful to suggest a focus such as "inventions that have changed our lives" or "what was going on in our city."

Step 1Draw a blank "Then versus Now" chart on the blackboard:

Then (1977) and Now (2002)

Step 1Ask students for items to fill in the chart. Give prompts if necessary:
  • What was it like to be a parent then versus now?
  • What was music like then versus now?
  • What were cars like then versus now?
Step 1After you have a full chart, read it to the class (or ask a student to read it to the class).

Step 1Ask students which time they think was the better time. Ask them why they think this.

Step 1Have students write an opinion paper stating which time period they think was the better time. Ask them to support their opinion with specific examples from the chart, from their own lives, or from other sources.

Step 1After students complete their essays, share in pairs or in groups. Ask for volunteers to read their essays to the whole group.


Extensions

More advanced students should revise and edit their essays. Essays can be put into a collection of student writing on this topic or combined with other writing they have done.

Topic Time Lines:

Time lines can be focused on a theme or subject area. In this activity students create time lines based on areas of interest.

Step 1Provide students with a list of broad subject areas such as these:
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Fashion
  • Food
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Video Games
Step 1Break students up into groups based on their interest in each broad area

Step 1Ask the groups to create lists of subcategories. For example, Fashion could be broken up into Men's Fashion, Women's Fashion, Teen fashion, Shoes, Hair styles, etc. Sports could be Baseball, Football, the WNBA, Derek Jeter's career, etc.

Step 1Each person in the group creates a time line of the subcategory they are most interested in.

Step 1Individuals present their time lines to each other.

Step 1Use the Internet or the library to fill in gaps or resolve disagreements about time lines.

Step 1Students write something that describes their time line or someone else's.

Another Extension: You can spend lots and lots of time on creating time lines. Small, sketchy, pencil-and-paper time lines can be developed into big posters, complete with pictures cut out from magazines, photographs, mementos, drawings, quotes, glitter, stickers, and newspaper clippings.