Timelines for planning

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SWBAT use a timeline to organize events for writing a personal narrative.

Big Idea

As students begin to fill in their timelines, they often discover important but small details that they may have forgotten about if they just started draft without planning.


5 minutes

There are many ways for students to plan for writing a narrative. I teach students that they should learn as many ways as possible so they can choose later which one is most efficient and effective for their style of writing. 

Instead of spending a lot of time explaining it to them now, I give them an opportunity to learn through doing it.

I remind them of an event that has recently happened where most if not all students were present. We recently celebrated a birthday although if there was an assembly, a fire drill, a guest coming in, etc. then those events could work as well. 

I tell them if I wanted to write about that event as a personal narrative, I might start my planning by creating a timeline. 

I then ask students to tell what happened. You need to keep a rough timeline in your head so you can place the events in the right order and distance from each other while students are giving you things to add. 

As students respond with moments in that event, I point out how they are not necessarily tell me everything in order and sometimes I need to stop, close my eyes, and think about when that moment occurred. I also point out that sometimes we don't remember certain events until we actually try to relive the moment. 

At some point, when it has gone on long enough I ask the class if this is mostly complete and remind them of the steps of the process.

Students Create Their Own

15 minutes

At this point, I ask students to use their writing journal to plan out a personal narrative. Students may be at different places in the process of brainstorming ideas for a narrative. Sometimes may already have a draft. 

For students who do not have any ideas, I ask them to spend a very short amount of time brainstorming ideas from the strategies that they have already learned then pick one and get to creating a timeline. I make sure to check back in with those students.

For students who have already started a draft, I ask them to practice creating a timeline and they may discover they have forgotten something or that they may want to add something to their story.


10 minutes

The share time for this lesson is a little longer than usual because I want students to reflect on whether or not they are missing parts of their timeline as they share their story with a partner. For instance, as they are sharing, they may be tempted to say something that is not on their timeline, in order to clarify something that has happened. For example, give background information. I suggest that they actually add that to the timeline if that comes up for them.

Sometimes students have a better time thinking about what is missing or what could be added when they have to explain it to someone else.