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Timelining Helps Kids Write Factual and Moving Concluding Paragraphs

I attended Beth Moore‘s Session on Social Studies in the Writing Classroom at the March 2009 Saturday Reunion. It was an exceedingly useful session with tips I’ve been using in the past month ever since my class began writing their research-based essays. I realized, even though my kids could mathematically figure out how long ago the Holocaust happened, they really didn’t comprehend just how long ago it was. Therefore, I used Beth’s idea of creating a timeline on a classroom clothesline with my kids last week. Here’s what the entire line looks like:

From 50 States Challenge Bags and Timeline

So, how did this come to be? Well, here’s what we did:

  1. Each student received a blank index card on which s/he wrote his/her name and birthday.  Then, we put their birthdays in order and hung them up at the far right edge (pictured above) of the classroom.
  2. Next, we condensed their birthdays by month.
  3. I wrote my birthday, and my husband’s birthday, which is over 20 years prior to their births, on index cards and hung them an arm’s length away.
  4. Then, we went back in time a little more, putting my parents’ birthdays on index cards (and about 1.5 arms’ lengths to the left of mine and my husband’s).
  5. We placed the end of the Second World War on an index card a bit behind my parents’ birthdays.  Then, we thought about important dates that we knew about/studied as a class.  We wrote a variety of dates down on index cards and then placed them chronologically on the line with clothespins as well (see zoomed-in photo below).
From 50 States Challenge Bags and Timeline

This visual representation really helped my students gain a better working knowledge of just how long ago this was, which helped them as they drafted the concluding paragraphs for their research-based essays.  It was easier for many of them write about why the Holocaust was important and should be studied since they finally realized just how long ago it happened.  I noticed lines like the following creeping into their concluding paragraphs:

  • This is important because if something like the Holocaust happens again you know what cooperation can do to help people escape horrible situations.
  • Other people should care about my topic because there were courageous men and women who respected others and therefore  helped a lot of people get their lives saved.

Some final thoughts:

It’s June.  We have six more school days left.  We’re a couple days away from publishing their essays.  They’ve become better writers this past month.  They’ve become more aware of time and place.  They’ve become more articulate.  I’m so impressed with my students’ work ethic and willingness to work diligently on a project like this in the final weeks of school.  I am amazed.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

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