A sentence strip timeline activity is a great option to review a unit of study with your students in the upper elementary classroom. Many elementary teachers use sentence strips for handwriting and sentence practice, but teachers of older grades can use this handy resource too. The paper Sentence Strips are a great length and width, and they have a straight line printed on them, so they can be adapted for math, science, (and my favorite) history and reading activities.
- Students complete an early explorer timeline. It shows the years the various explorers reached the New World. Our textbook organizes the explorers by country, so students read about Marco Polo (Italy) first. Then, move over to Portugal, followed by lots of Spanish guys, and end with England, France, and the Netherlands. The format of the book makes it seem like Spain did all of this conquering and then other people sailed across the Atlantic to explore the northeast coast of North America and Canada. I had my students create an explorer timeline. We could see that after Marco Polo’s great journey, the explorers of the Americas were all sailing and conquering at about the same time.
- Another type of timeline we made showed the span of events in a story. A few books we read take place over a short amount of time with a lot of action built in. Students used clues in the novel to identify the exact time from the beginning of the story to the the end. It is nice for the students to visualize how quickly or slowly characters are solving a problem. You could use a chart like this NOVEL STUDY TIMELINE page to organize story events and create a timeline for a book.
COVID-19 Sidenote: I recently adapted this activity for distance learning. Students completed the activity using PicCollage instead of sentence strips. They emailed me their finished projects.
- Gather your information in notes or a chart (use this EXPLORER TIMELINE FREEBIE). Identify the first date and the last date that will appear on the timeline. Determine the time span and then add a few years before the first date and after the last date, so there will be space at the beginning and end of the timeline.
- The sentence strips are 24″ in length. The next step is to determine the increments of time along the strip. This is the part that can confuse kids. Their first reaction is to list each event in order on evenly spaced lines. The point of a timeline is to show how close or far apart events happened from each other. Your group will need to add, subtract, divide, and measure to determine the spacing and increments of time on your timeline. Creating the spacing on the timeline is great measuring and counting practice.
- If you note that there is a break in activity for many years, you can jump over years using a dividing line. Create a “broken timeline” by drawing a wavy line indicating a jump over years.
The finished timelines give a great overview of a topic in history or key events in a story. It allows students to make generalizations about a topic and synthesize several pieces of information. It also incorporates math skills. Students need more practice reading charts, tables, and graphs, so they can draw conclusions about data. When students are reviewing big chunks of information at the end of a unit of study, have them create a chart or table of some kind to help visualize similarities, differences, and recall big ideas.
If you need more social studies activity ideas, try this MAP SKILLS longitude and latitude Battleship game.