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Make a Timeline

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(Adapted from Education Uncensored, by Laurie Block Spigel)

Sample Timeline A timeline is a way of displaying a list of events in chronological order. My kids made their first timeline when they were kindergarten age. In my initial example I drew a line segment and put a dot at either end, marking one end with the date of my birth and the other with the current date. Using a ruler, I marked ten-year increments to help me place events. Then I wrote in the major events of my life, starting with the most important date, the birth date of the child who was watching me do this. I added all of the other important dates: his brotherís birth, my wedding, when we moved into our current residence, and anything else that we considered a major life event such as our trip to Disney World. When I finished I had completed a timeline of my life, a shortened version adapted for my child. Then my son proceeded to make his first timeline, one that celebrated his life. Using a ruler he marked off each year, then put in all of the events that he thought were important, with little pictures or words to help tell the story.

My children learned how to read timelines by making them. They became comfortable with this version of explaining chronological events, ubiquitous in newspapers, magazines, books, and museum exhibits. Years later, my kids continued to use timelines to illustrate history and literature reports. My younger son chose to make a lengthy timeline of musical composers (mini-biographies in chronological order) for a seventh grade project, combining his love of music with writing and history. While in tenth grade, my older son wrote about the book One Hundred Years of Solitude , by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and illustrated his ideas with three timelines that showed the three different time realities of the Buendia family, the city of Macondo, and the outside world.

A young child can begin with a personal time-line that tells the story of his or her own life. Then the student can progress to show a timeline of a chosen subject, perhaps a personal interest or biography of an intriguing figure, an animalís average life span, the history of a building or place, a crime or disaster, an environmental issue, a culture in ancient history, a personal genealogy (perhaps a grandparentís life), the evolution of a law, religion, philosophy, science (such as technology), key points in any historical event or any a period in history.

You do not have to draw a straight line, or contain the timeline on a single sheet of paper. You can use post-its along a wall, or create a fold-out accordion made of sheets of paper; the line can zigzag or curve or look like a graph. Selected dates and key moments can be explained in words or illustrated with drawings, photos, magazine clippings, or other images. This makes a great project for any trip or vacation, or to honor a family memory. You and your child can make a timeline of your childís or familyís growth by selecting photographs taken over a period of time and putting them in chronological order. Make a family timeline scrapbook or arrange the photos in a timeline hallway.

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