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Introducing History: Personal Timeline Activity


Becky O’Hearn | Wichita Collegiate School | Wichita, Kansas

Here is one way to introduce young students to the idea of history. Each student creates a timeline of their own life, with help from parents, grandparents, or other family members. The teacher also uses a story about a grandfather telling his grandson about the grandson’s life and strengths.

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Hi, today I want to tell you one way that I introduce history to young students. And I would probably introduce this to maybe five and six-year-olds. I start with explaining that each one of them have their own history, and it’s the important events of their own life. And I often use literature, or books to be a springboard for learning. And so, I have a book that I’m going to show you as well but, I want to point out to you as a celebration of each child’s birth in the classroom at the time of their birthday, together with their parents, they create their own timeline in a format that is pretty open-ended. This particular student started with her infancy and birth photographs up until her sixth birthday. And it’s a very special activity that they do at home with their parents, and their parents then get to retell to them the story of their life. And they get to really feel honored and understand the importance of who they are in their family structure. So, that’s an important part that leads them into curiosity about other people’s history. I would also introduce the way that history is passed from generation to generation, and in their families often from the elders to the youngest. And there’s a particular book that I love a lot called, “Knots on a Counting Rope.” And this particular book may not be historically accurate, and I think it’s all fiction, but it’s a beautiful telling of a tradition. Where the grandfather is telling the story of his grandson’s birth and this particular boy was born blind. So, in this story there’s a lot of unique features that help this child understand how much he’s loved, and how much he is uniquely designed to live his life. Because his grandfather tells him with great passion, an interest, and love, the beautiful story of his life. And how he believes he’s powerful, and he has great courage, and he tells them the things in his life. that he has already overcome in his young life. And so, it’s a nice compliment to the students who have created a timeline of their own life, and they’ve had that time at home talking with their parents and extended family members and maybe also grandparents. And I actually think on this particular poster the grandmother actually helped the granddaughter create this and then created another special bond, but I think that’s the most appropriate way to introduce history to a younger student.

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