Adult Ed
Time Lines: Connecting Your Life to History



History can be a tough subject for beginning readers and writers. There are some basic concepts that are necessary to understand history. The difference between a million years, a millenium, a century, and a decade may be common knowledge for some people. But if you are not used to seeing and using big numbers in print, it can be hard to understand them. It's hard to explain the difference between a thousand and a million years in everyday terms. It's not a comparison some people have ever had to consider.

There are other history-related concepts that may be new to some adult education students. Try explaining to someone who can't read a map that the city you live in is that little dot or star in the atlas. It's a difficult and abstract concept if you don't already "get" it. In fact, most teachers understand things like that so well, that we take their understanding for granted.

This unit uses time lines to help students relate their own lives to history. The first time lines students make are time lines of their own experience. Then they move on to time lines of other times, places, and topics.

Note: When students are asked to write about their own lives, they need to be aware of what they are disclosing. I always tell students that I am not interested in getting in their business. I just want them to write about something they know. It's a good idea to remind students that they are in control. They shouldn't write about anything that they don't want to share with me and other students.


Subject Matter
  • History
  • Math and Number Sense
  • Autobiography
  • Writing


Students will be able to:
  • Create time lines
  • Understand increments of time in history
  • Write about history
  • Write autobiographically
  • Write a compare-and-contrast essay

National Reporting Systems

Media Components

If you have Internet access in your classroom or in a computer lab, you can use examples of time lines on the Web. If you don't have access in your classroom, you can print out pages to show your class or offer these sites as options for further research. Check them out for yourself, too. They will show you how useful time lines can be in furthering the understanding of history.

The URL below is the best starting point I found for time lines. It will take you to a list of over fifty time lines. The many topics covered include fashion, video games, Czarist Russia, movies, music, the Internet, the U.S. Flag, and the career of Tiger Woods. Something for everyone!

Here are a few other online time lines Here are some sites with useful history information and activities. You will find time lines in many of these sites


Pencils, unlined paper, and paper for writing are all that you really need. Larger sheets of paper (11 x 17) make for nicer time lines. Colored pens and pencils are nice too. You can also have your students cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers to illustrate time lines. If you do that, you will need scissors and glue as well. The more materials you can supply, the fancier the time lines can be.

Prep for Teachers

Preview Web sites if possible. Make a time line of your own life before you demonstrate for the class.

Optional: Create blank time lines for your students.

Year I was born Overview Today