Home > Our Design Lab > Learning Activities > Visual Timeline

Visual Timeline


Visual timelines are one tool to help students with sequencing. Theycan be effective for analyzing a piece of text by identifying a storyarc orcharacter development, or for trackingspecific events over the course of time. They can also be helpful to students as a precursor to writing their own stories and sequencing events or character development over time. Visual timelines can be paper or electronic,and can include student drawings or images they pull from online sources.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Visualizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Text-Based Answers


  • When preparing the visual timeline assignment it is important to first decide what the purpose of the timeline is. Is it to analyze a piece of text or as a precursor for student writing? Is it designed to follow the arc of a story with key events or the development of a character over time?
  •  It is also important to decide whether the timeline will be paper-based or digital. Students drawing their own depiction of scenes or characters can create paper-based timelines. There are many different choices for online visual timeline creation if you want a digital timeline. See the options linked here:http://bit.ly/1rM90XI. [JW1]
Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce the purpose of the visual timeline and share samples with students.

    The timeline should be specific to the assignment, rather than a sample timeline found online.

  2. Have studentsbrainstorm a list of important features to include on a timeline.

    This information is dependent on the assignment. For example, if they are following the arc of astory, students canbrainstorm a list of the key events in chronological order. If it is a historical text, you may want them to list key people, events, and dates.

  3. Have students decide how they will represent their information visually. You may skip this step if you have chosen the medium for them[JW1] .

    Students candraw their own depictions using an online drawing tool, or they can search for images online that represent their event. If they are creating a paper-based timeline it is important to reinforce that artistic ability is not a key to success with this activity.

  4. Have studentsanswer questions in order to reflect on this assignment. They may answer questions like the following: · How is the timeline useful to you as a reader/writer? · In what other situations or subjects might a visual timeline be useful?

    This short reflection canbe written on the back of a paper-based timeline or as a note on a digital timeline.

Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More