This time line is another artifact that will be added to the time capsule. I typically do this lesson during the first week of school while we are all trying to get to know each other. This lesson is nice way to ease into narrative writing. It gets students thinking about their lives and organizing their thoughts in a logical way.
To begin, I ask students to make a circle map on a page of their writing notebooks. In the middle, they will write life events. On the outer circle, students will brainstorm all of the important and memorable things that have happened in their lives. I model this process first and make sure to only list events that happened to me prior to age 12 or so. Most of my life changing events (getting married, having kids etc.) are so not relevant to my students, but thinking from their perspective helps them generate ideas.
After I model, I give them some quiet time to think and write. After about 5 minutes, I let them discuss their circle maps with their groups. This also helps them generate ideas. They see events on a friends map and think, "Oh yeah, that happened to me too." So, we've accomplished the dual purpose of generating writing ideas and getting to know other people in the class. It's a beautiful thing!
Sometimes students do need to go home and chat with parents about important life events, so I typically would do this portion of the lesson the day before I want them to pre-write and make the timeline. I help them generate as many ideas as possible, and then have them take the circle map home and add things that they talk about with their parents.
Once the students have a full circle map, I ask them to highlight the most important 8-10 events on the map. Then, look though them and number them in approximate chronological order. They will then make a flee map in their writing notebook for each event. In the box, they will write the title of the event and on the lines below they will elaborate and add some details. This process takes awhile for some students, so I often have to give them a couple of days to finish this part. Students may also want to take this portion home and discuss it with their parents.
Now it is time to create the actual timeline! I usually use sentence strips for the timeline. I've thought about using receipt tape too, but it is expensive! Most kids will need 2 strips to fit in all of their events.
Their task is to list each event on the timeline with the title of the event and approximate date or year in which it occurred. Underneath that they will write 2 or 3 sentences giving some detail about the event. They will also include a picture or graphic for each event. In the past, I have allowed students to bring in photos from home, but this year I decided that they would all draw the pictures.
The students really enjoy doing this activity, and almost always want to share the timeline with the entire class. That takes forever, so I usually have them place their timelines on their desks and give students the opportunity to walk around and see the what the other students have created.
When they are finished, I add the time line to the time capsule and patiently wait until we can open them in May!
See an example below.