This week marks the last week of school for many states.  In talking to my nephew about his summer plans today, I was a little taken aback by the very busy summer he’ll have (summer job, summer reading, college visits, family vacation, and activities with friends).  I couldn’t help but have him walk me through how he will do all of this.  Then, it occurred to me, that he just made a summer vacation timeline!

So, here’s an idea for something to do with your students during this last week of class – Creating Summer Vacation Timelines:

1) Ask them to detail their summer plans — each activity, how long the activity will take, what the corresponding dates will be for each (these are the “events” in the timeline)

2) Add details about each summer activity:  post pictures or videos of places they’ll visit, or create a video of them talking about what they hope to get out of their summer job or trip

3) Consider not just due dates for homework/summer assignments, but also create an event on when it needs to start in order to complete it by the due date.  For example, summer reading book reports are due on the first day of school, but when do you need to start reading those five books to get this done before school starts?

It’s never too early to start teaching time management.

In the countless writing assignments I’ve ever had in school, one very useful tool my instructors never used or taught me is a timeline.   Here are some ideas on how to use timelines in your writing assignments:

–         Create a timeline of the major events and turning points in the story

–         Brainstorm ideas and just throw them into a random sequence to see if that jogs any new ideas

–         Use your own life as an example – create a timeline of your life

I came across a couple of great blog posts about the value of using timelines in writing, one by Steven Savage and the other by Second Wind Publishing.  Savage actually uses the term “timeline-based writing.”  Second Wind’s post offers some important reminders:

“Timelines are also crucial because you don’t want a  “scantily-clad woman” in December…at least not in Chicago…anymore than a snowstorm in August.

Also, keep your timeline handy for comments in the story. If something happened a week ago, you don’t want to say a few days…even more important the other way around.”

Here is also a specific lesson plan idea for writing:

Happy writing!

When it comes to timelines, the most natural use is for studying or understanding history. For any teachers out there that may be looking for ideas on how to incorporate timelines into their assignments, here are some lesson plans that might help:

Build a Black History Database/Timeline
(Note: xtimeline African American History Month Group contains a list of timelines of African American leaders and influencers)

Cyberspace Explorer: Getting to Know Christopher Columbus

Using Timeline Games and Mexican History to Improve Comprehension

The First American Party System:  Events, Issues, and Positions (Note: Timelines of Democratic Party history and Republican Party history might be helpful)

History of Automobiles (Note: we have a pretty good Automobile timeline)

If you have timeline lessons for your history classes that you’d like to share, please let us know!

Study finds digital timelines help students engage and enjoy learning history more

I came across a very interesting study today about the use of digital timelines in the classroom.  The report, “The Impact of Using Digital Timelines in the Social Studies Classroom,” was published in the Social Studies Research and Practice Journal.  The study itself was focused on two U.S. History Grade 10 classes in a southwestern school in the U.S., with about 60 students total. Given the large number of educators and students who use xtimeline in their classrooms, we’ve already known anecdotally that digital timelines are a fun way to study history, map out a book, or learn about various people.  I’m not in high school, and I still always learn a lot going through the timelines we have on xtimeline.   That’s why the findings of this study didn’t surprise me:

“Most of the students participating in this digital timeline activity were more engaged and enjoyed studying history (Saye & Brush, 2002; Tally & Goldenberg, 2005; Van Scoter, 2004) more than during previous history units. Although it was not our intent to examine differences of students at the different class levels (advanced and non-advanced), results revealed that this project especially motivated the students in the non-advanced class and apparently provided confidence to them in terms of learning historical content as evidenced by student attempts to respond to essay questions on later tests.”

This also brings to mind an article in New York Times today about a librarian who’s integrating the latest web technology into her work with students.  Amongst other things, she’s teaching them how to make Powerpoint presentations and online videos.  Just goes to show that students today live and breathe technology, and in order to engage them, we have to keep up with the times and use tools that they find interesting and relevant.

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