Lesson plan

Timelines and Nonfiction Text

Teach your students how to use timelines to organize information from nonfiction texts.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Personal Timeline pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Personal Timeline pre-lesson.

Students will be able to create a timeline using information from a nonfiction text.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Tell students that today they are going to learn how to make timelines to organize information from nonfiction texts.
  • Explain that a timeline is like a number line, but instead of just showing numbers, it shows important events in the order in which they occurred. The events are ordered by date, so a timeline is a good visual way to compare two or more events in a period of time.
(10 minutes)
  • Show students the timeline video.
  • Discuss key points from the video:
    • Events on a timeline are ordered in chronological order (earliest to latest).
    • The earliest and latest event dates determine the period of time that the timeline covers.
    • A timeline should be divided into equal parts, or segments, like a number line. Each segment represents a specific amount of time, like a day, a month, a year, or even 100 years.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out a copy of the History of Baseball worksheet. (Note: students will also need access to scissors and glue.)
  • Read the short article aloud. Then, guide students through the process of making a timeline, using the key events provided on the worksheet.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the History of Photography worksheet to each student and instruct students to read and complete the worksheet independently.
  • Circulate and offer support as needed.


  • Provide additional examples during guided practice (i.e., make another timeline with the class using a topic studied in social studies, like the life of Sacagawea).
  • Have students make a timeline about important dates in their own lives (i.e., birth, a sibling’s birth, a special family vacation). The personal nature of this support activity will help struggling students buy into the skills learned in the lesson.


  • Have students apply the skills learned to make a timeline about a topic of their choice. Instruct students to use books or the internet to research their topic.
  • Use the timeline process to help students better understand a specific period of time while studying history (i.e., the California Gold Rush).
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out prepared cards with dates and events from the school year (i.e., a special field trip, an assembly, a class project) or a nonfiction topic previously studied in class (i.e., the Lewis & Clark expedition).
  • Make sure there are enough cards for each student to have one (or split students into smaller groups with each group making a separate timeline, still ensuring that each student has a card).
  • Instruct students to line up so that their cards are in order, thus making a human timeline. Have students read their date and event aloud, in order.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask and discuss:
    • What events have we studied in class that would be well illustrated by a timeline? (i.e., the American Civil War)
    • How can a timeline help us see things that are hard to see when we read? (i.e., a timeline can help us organize the dates in an article so that we can more easily tell how close or far apart things happened)

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