Making a Timeline

Posted by Greg MacDonald on

I recently replied to a posting on Montessori elementary teacher's group page.  A teacher wrote asking if anyone knew of a place where she could purchase a Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement.

I thought that what I wrote might be of interest:

I personally don't know of any ready-made timeline that can be purchased, and even if one exists, my advice is that you consider an alternative before you buy.

A great deal more can be gained if you and your children construct your own Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement.  

Depending upon the age of the children, and their previous experience with making their own timelines, you will be personally involved to a greater or lesser extent.  

Older children who have made timelines before won’t need much hands-on guidance.  For younger children (or in the case of an upper elementary class where this is not a tradition of making timelines) you will have to act as “the oldest child”, taking the children through the process from start to finish.  (I have uploaded some notes on major steps and considerations to take into account when making a timeline with children.  You'll find them in the History section under this website's Materials/Publications tab.)

This process will likely take up more of your vaulable time than would the average presentation, and the process also extends over multiple days, but consider it to be an investment.  Once you’ve done this with the children once or twice, “making a timeline” gains its own momentum, and the children will have absorbed the procedure. Then you just dip in from time to time as the children need you, and soon timelines will happen regularly without you “dipping in” at all!

When children make their own timeline, they find a great deal more information than could ever fit onto a timeline.  This in itself is good.  But factor in the need for the children to select what will go onto their timeline, and you have higher order thinking taking place, as well as repetition (because they’ll read and re-read different notes as they weigh the merits of each).

So my advice in cases such as this?  Make the timeline with the children.  This is a living and richer learning experience.

"Making a Timeline" is a tradition that should be introduced early in the life of a Montessori elementary community of children.  Timelines made  by younger children will probably not be sophisticated, and there will probably be more illustrations than text.  That's OK.

Step by step, you can introduce new techniques and more sophisticated approaches to making a timeline.  The elementary Guide can also introduce lettering styles, advanced decorative techniques and many other aesthetic approaches to enhancing a timeline.  As the class and as the children mature, much more elaborate timelines, accompanied by stories for each illustration (etc.), will evolve.

The traditional timelines that are a part of Montessori elementary training suffice as models for the children when they make their own timelines.  These timelines also, of course, critical "keys" to the exploration of major fields of knowledge, all part of Dr. Montessori's Cosmic Education plan for the Second Plane child.  Other than these, it's FAR better to have your elementary timeline basket include timelines that the children have made (which can be sent home periodically) than it being cluttered up with additional manufactured timelines (prepared by an adult), which take away the children's work.  


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