Create a Class Timeline

Just as you can make a classroom map and add all the places you learn about, you can also make a classroom timeline and add all the events you learn about. One option is to use Timeglider, which describes itself as “like Google Maps, but for time.”

We started a timeline in honor of Thanksgiving, and you can see it below. Play with the arrows to see the Thanksgiving events as well as other things happening at the same time around the world.

One way in which Timeglider is like Google Maps is that you can keep your timeline in the cloud and add to it whenever you learn a new date, just as you can keep your classroom map in the cloud and add to it whenever you learn about a new place. It organizes your data for you as you add it, so that you just need to capture the information on the fly in order to end up with a good timeline.

Timeglider has a simple interface, shown below, and you just fill out the form. You can add images and links and put in icons to show the type of event, and there’s room for lots of text.

Timeglider

As you add events, Timeglider automatically populates your timeline and organizes the data chronologically.The size of the text for each event is determined by the importance you assign to the event, between 1 and 100. We decided that, since our timeline is for Thanksgiving, we would give the official Thanksgiving proclaimed on November 29, 1623 a score of 100. The first Thanksgiving in the previous year seemed just slightly less important. If you’re doing a general classroom timeline, you’d have some interesting discussions about how important each event might be.

Thanksgiving timeline

When you look at your timeline (and you can play with ours above), you can look in close, seeing the events of a single day shown hour by hour, or you can look at an entire century or as much as 600 years at once. When we look at Thanksgiving in a whole century, as you can see below, we get a different perspective.

Thanksgiving century

Michelangelo was born just before that century begins, and shortly after the first Thanksgiving one of his great works, St. Peter’s Basilica, was completed. Meanwhile, Shakespeare, Galileo, and Rembrandt were born.

How often, when you study Thanksgiving, do you consider that it took place during the Renaissance?

This, to us, is one of the important benefits of using a classroom timeline: you keep events in historical perspective. As you add to your timeline, you enrich your understanding of events. When, later in the year, you study probability, you can add another date to the timeline: it was in 1654 that Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat developed the theory of probability. You’ll see that it settles in between the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving and George Washington’s Thanksgiving.

Timeglider allows users to create five timelines for free, and their paid version (allowing unlimited timelines and collaboration within and among groups) is a reasonable investment. It’s the best and friendliest that we’ve found, but there are other options:

You can also make a timeline by hand in your physical space. This can be a very good project involving lots of math as you determine how long a time you want to work with, how much space you have and thus how much space you can give each year or decade in your timeline, and how to mark events. We like a string around the classroom wall with index cards showing people and events. People cut outs work well to identify important indviduals.

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