Teaching with Timelines

Posted by Amy Pak on

Anyone who’s studied history for more than a few seconds knows that there’s a lot going on.
Between the countless names of famous people and places and the various dates and eras throughout which things happened, there’s quite a bit to keep track of!
When you’re overwhelmed by the pure quantity of information being thrown at you, it can be really helpful for teacher and students alike to try teaching with timelines to help restore some order to the insanity and keep your history studies light and fun rather than sluggish and boring.

What are timelines?

Simply put, timelines are tools that help us visualize something that has happened or is going to happen over a period of, well, time, taking the information and organizing it in chronological order.

Timelines can come in the form of visual images, text descriptions, videos, or a combination of them all! They can be presented in countless formats from websites to classroom chalkboards, to physical, printed timelines cut out and pasted onto a wall or into a timeline book! For example, here’s a timeline that is digital and utilizes both text and pictures to tell the story of NASA’s history!

Why use a timeline in your schooling?

While timelines can be useful in a variety of ways, one of the most important of those is using a history timeline. When we study history in our school it can be very difficult to teach any of the deeper lessons present when all we see is a barrage of facts and information.
Creating a timeline allows the students to take all of those names and dates and “set them aside” on a timeline in order to get a sense of the bigger picture without forgetting everything.
The truth is, no one can wrap their head around every single little factoid of history, but if we don’t have something like a timeline to allow us to “put a pin” in everything we’re learning, it’s hard to remember any of it! (That’s why finding timeline figures with definitions on them can be a huge bonus!)
On the other hand, the satisfying feeling of stepping back and looking at a giant wall timeline or leafing through a properly assembled timeline notebook is a moment to treasure. It gives you a sense of victory and accomplishment over the whole subject. It reveals the larger picture of who came first and who followed after, how one event leads to the next, and what things were happening around the world in different places at the same time.

How to get a timeline that fits your own schooling needs

While understanding the greater good of using timelines in education can be helpful, it also can be a bit frustrating. After all, there are a lot of different timelines out there. How do you know how to find a timeline that works for your students’ needs?
Fortunately, Home School in the Woods has been at this for a long time, and we’ve got quite a bit of experience in seeing just how diverse the timeline requirements of different families can be! Whether you need something sweet and simple like a basic history timeline for kids of a more tender age or something more comprehensive like a world history timeline chart or binder that comprehensively spans the centuries, there is almost always something out there.

Gauge your needs

First things first, what kind of timeline do you need at this point in your schooling? Now, this can be an easier question to ask than to answer, but pondering over a few questions can help at least narrow things down.

How old are your students and what are their preferred learning styles?
There’s no age that’s too old or young for a timeline. However, the age and learning styles of your students can greatly impact how you incorporate the timeline into your schooling. A timeline notebook on American history might be a good option for a high schooler, while placing the timeline figures on a wall or creating a world history timeline poster for a larger visual can be very helpful for an elementary student or middle schooler to get the “big picture.”
Where in time are you?
What era(s) of history will you be studying in the foreseeable future? Are you at the beginning? Are you studying U.S. history? The Middle Ages? World War II? Even if you’re studying something specific like famous composers, it’s worth checking to see if there’s a timeline to help keep all of those names and dates in order!

How fast will you be moving through your studies?
Are you making a mad dash through all of history? If you’re going to try to touch on everything quickly, you might want more of a simple world history timeline that will keep up with your pace. If, on the other hand, you’re going to start at the beginning and take your time with it, look for an ancient world history timeline that goes into more detail on the era you might be studying for the time being.
The important takeaway here is to know what you’ll be studying.

Making your own timeline

While it can be a bit intensive, pulling together your own timeline is a great way to help keep costs down, and we’re big believers in the idea that any timeline is better than no timeline!
That’s why we’ve pulled together this free resource on Teaching with Timelines. It goes into detail on things like wall timelines versus portable timelines and notebook timelines.
Even more helpful, though, is the list of dates halfway down the pdf. These are dates that are broken down in increments that help you easily fit everything into a single timeline notebook.
With a little direction and vision and a big side helping of research and elbow grease you can get your own homemade timeline up and running in no time!

Our official predesigned timeline recommendation

Of course, if pulling together hundreds of images online sounds like something you’d rather not do, we understand that, too. If that’s the case, our official recommendation for the best, most comprehensive timeline experience that we have available is our Printable “Essential Timeline Library.”

This set comes with our 
Collection of Historical Timeline Figures (with 1250+ figures from throughout history!), three Add-On Paks, our printable Record of Time Notebook that is designed to hold each 1,444 figures in the collection, and a printable Suggested Placement Guide to help with where everything goes and how to find each figure. It’s a one-time purchase that will give you everything you need. And the figures are reproducible within a family, too!
If the full library is too much to begin with for you, we also have several smaller timeline sets as well as a number of smaller American and world history timeline pdfs that cover more specific eras in history.

Grasping the value of timelines in your schooling

It’s easy to underestimate timelines, relegating them to the position of a “fun flourish” to your textbook reading, but the reality is that they are so much more.
Timelines help to keep your history studies light and lean, giving both you and your students somewhere to “peg” all of that information for later reference and freeing you up to focus on the larger lessons.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on timelines, too. Leave a comment below! And if you’re feeling generous, please consider sharing the post, too, so that we can help spread the word on the amazing benefits of using timelines in our schooling!
Check out our video that shows a step-by-step tutorial on how to navigate our timeline figures!

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →


  • I think my son would love to learn using timelines.

    Melissa Moore on
  • I have been wanting to start timelines but haven’t figured out what style or where to start, especially for multiple aged children. Notebook is definitely the way we’ll need to go.

    Tiffany on
  • I love seeing historical events placed in a timeline so you can see how it all relates to each other.

    Michele Minier on
  • I really love doing time lines with my kids. We don’t have wall space to lay it all out (that would be amazing!), So we use a trip fold board and book time line. It helps my kiddos and ME, see how seperate things we learn about in history come together! I love it!!

    Raya McMann on
  • Love this idea!

    Heather on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.