​Teaching with Timelines During Black History Month


Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, celebrates the many accomplishments of black Americans and also provides a great opportunity to reinforce how to effectively use timelines. See below for suggestions on how to teach black history using timelines while developing your students’ critical-thinking and creativity skills.

Develop a Foundation First
Timelines are more than just a visual tool to organize dates; they also allow students to understand the sequence of events and how they are connected. So, prior to creating a timeline, it’s important that students develop a deep understanding of the information they are presenting.

If you teach younger students, go to PBS Kids and explore interactive resources to learn more about the contributions that have been made by African-Americans in US History. Another place to find age-appropriate books, videos, and websites can be found at Reading Rockets.

As students begin to grasp some of the meaningful events and people that have shaped black history, they will be ready to put their information into a timeline. Depending on what you are studying, you may want to ask students to focus their timeline on a specific set of years or on a set topic.

Timeline Overview
If you need a starting point to show students what a timeline is and how it can be used in a historical context, visit Time for Kids and check out their interactive African-American history timeline. This can be used to discuss the basics of a timeline or as a starting point for students to research various aspects of black history.

Timeline Creation
Visit ReadWriteThink.org to download a free timeline template and to explore unique ways to use timelines in your classroom. As students develop their timelines, it’s important to teach them that not every single event throughout black history can make its way onto a timeline. Students will need to find a focus for their timeline in order to narrow it down. For example, a timeline can focus on one person, one or a series of events, a decade, or a movement.

Putting the “Creative” in Timeline Creation
Timelines can be presented through illustrations, photographs, texts, or online interactive formats. Aside from ensuring that they are organized in chronological order, there is no right or wrong way to create timelines. Allowing students to choose how they will present their information is a great way to engage them.

Once students have determined the foci of their timelines, they will need to choose a medium (e.g., poster board and photography collage, online interactive format) and plan how they will present their findings to the class.

Students can:

  • Present a straightforward report on the events
  • Draw illustrations to showcase the events
  • Write and present a poem or song to summarize the events
  • Create a video compilation of clips and soundbites to bring their events to life

The options are endless! Allow students to own their learning throughout this timeline project and the information they learn will stick with them long past the month of February.

Other Ideas
There are so many accomplishments and incredible people to celebrate during Black History Month and timelines are just one way to do it. If you want to learn more about historical perspectives and how to teach students to use historical analysis, check out our course Read Between the Lines: Developing a Critical Historical Perspective.

About the Author:

Karen Mercado is an Advancement Courses facilitator and a veteran teacher of 10 years in the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She has a Bachelors in Childhood Education and a Masters in Professional Studies. Karen’s specific passions are history and special education. She currently resides with her son and husband in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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