The time has come to review the United States history that's been learned up to this point in the school year (Native Americans through U.S. Government.) I'm thorough with social studies teaching, and the kids are open to hearing the old information again.
To begin, they read pre-selected review sections from their textbooks and structure the informational text onto Timelines of their creation. This is the first year I've done this activity, and it was fun to see how much information they'd retained.
After general discussion on each of the four chapters, the kids open their social studies textbooks to the chapter timeline pages within each unit. Timelines are structured informational text that highlight the most important aspects of that unit's time period. They read the timelines, a skill they've practiced previously. In our book the timelines are conveniently constructed plastic dividers between the chapters. They're instructed NOT to copy each idea listed, they're making decisions about what to include with omissions and additions depending on their preference. The criteria is to select at least three events each unit in their rough draft. The timelines will be unique due to the enormous amount of informational text available.
We brainstorm timeline formats and ideas, and Creating a Rough Draft. In my class, some kids used the basic line down the middle of the page, while others created boxes for each designation (Vertical or Horizontal- Whatever is Comfortable). From the beginning they were aware that the end result would be on a long register tape, but this didn't stop them from making very nice rough drafts.
My intent was to use this as a warm up only- then go directly into their finished product, but it was more involved than expected. We ran out of time during Reading period before all rough drafts were completed, so the activity was tabled until later in the day. I actually think it was a good thing because they took their time with rough drafts and the final product equally.
Now that we've reviewed the history that's been learned up to the second semester, the students are eager to get out of their seats and do something different. A few weeks ago, I was lucky to come across a nearly unused package of register receipt paper rolls, Office Max brand, at my local Goodwill! It cost $2.99 and although I didn't have an immediate plan, I knew the rolls would fit in somewhere. (As a side note, it's amazing when you go to a place like Goodwill or Savers and just look at the random things people have donated. Quite a few interesting lesson ideas have formed after accidentally coming across bizarre things.) As I thought about different ways to express timelines and sequencing, I remembered my receipt rolls and knew the kids would enjoy the activity.
It's important for them to create a rough draft of the information they intend to include first. Our main units from the beginning of the year: Native Americans, Exploration and Discovery, Colonizing, and Revolutionary War. We are just now beginning U.S. Government, so I like them to include the Constitution or election of George Washington at the end. Within each unit, they are to decide on about three separate events to represent that time. Some kids asked to do more, and that's great- I love when they request to go further. There is plenty of register tape, after all! Here are some students diligently working. Timelines are critical for textbooks because they're an informational snapshot signifying the most important information. Sometimes the amount of data in the chapters of the text can be overwhelming, but with timelines, students have an instant way to absorb learned information.
As rough drafts are completed, the kids come up to me either solo or in groups of no more than three. I like giving choice in these kind of assignments because some kids love the social interaction, while others want complete control of their product. Students deciding how to go about the timeline Many liked making their own timeline, but working socially with others. It's fun for them to find a place to "set up shop." I had a number of kids tape to the floor while a few decided to tape to the desk and slide the register roll across as needed. When a group asked to go outside into the cove, I agreed. We had register tape in all kinds of awkward places in the classroom, (Oops- it twists and tears easily) and were running out of room. What happened next was a surprise. The group that went outside taped their rolls to the columns, and made vertical timelines. It wasn't that I didn't expect any- some made vertical rough drafts, but when working on the floor it seemed that most kids were going horizontally, despite their rough drafts. The columns were convenient and easy to manage. Another group went outside- saw the idea in motion- and followed suit.
A good timeline will be organized chronologically with the date of each event; have specific, but summarized information; and is neatly prepared/easy to read. On the flipside, a poor timeline is missing any of the forementioned components, displays information out of chronological order, barely gives information; and is difficult to read.
Time to show them to the class, of course. Here is a student describing his timeline. They can't wait to explain their U.S. Timelines and I hang them on the Smart Board. It is fun to look at the timelines after presentations as a way to compare them easily. They are explaining the relationship between many events based on the specific information they've read in the text, and the students get to hear many accounts. I also appreciate the speaking and listening opportunities afforded everyone. SL.5.4. After everyone's had a chance to finished their presentations, I transfer the timelines to a back bulletin board so the kids can look at them at their leisure. I can't accurately assess their proficiency with the timelines during their presentation, but once the long strips are located on the bulletin board, Displayed, I evaluate for completeness and the students' understanding of the informational text presented.
In the future, I will have the kids select one or two items from their timeline and discuss the event with some detail. The Timelines were all different, but not SO different that they warranted the amount of time spent reading them, which became redundant. I ended up shortening the amount of events they could mention, but will really change it next time. By having the kids retell an event or two there will be reinforcement of learning taking place, or misinformation corrected if inaccurate. It shocks me that I didn't think of it beforehand.