Designing a History Curriculum Pt 2 – An evolving timeline

My thoughts, ramblings and useful tidbits I’ve found in designing our History Curriculum

We know chronology is central to understanding history and so one of the key things we wanted was a timeline. You might think there are a lot of timelines out there – why not just pick one? Well, as my wonderful colleague Hollie was pointed out: they usually have a LOT of information on them (cognitive overload, anyone?); they cover time periods that we don’t study and miss some we do; and they are static documents, often put up on a display for occasional reference rather than having the central role they should.

It was this conversation with Hollie that really sparked the curriculum design phase (as I said in my first post about our History curriculum, “colleagues are the best!”) so she must get a lot of credit for what we created.

Creating a timeline

Timeline GIF showing changes between Yr 1 and Yr 6
Our timeline develops during a child’s time in the school, helping them to gain a coherent knowledge of the past.

I believe this concept, which when seen in action, is very powerful: a timeline that will grow over the years, with children through the school. Icons and key dates are used to dual code and the hexagons are perfect for use later in retrieval and solo taxonomy (as well as a nod to my favourite Sid Meier game series based on History).

It goes back to the timeline

This timeline concept gives us not only the opportunity to “zoom in” and look closely at events but a clear grounding of any event/time period that we are looking at in school. Teachers talked about not only having the previous year group’s timeline in the books (then adding new periods as they moved through the year) but also having as a wall display (which could have added any historical event – e.g. a class story set in the Victorian times could have a picture added to show the time period). It’s this evolution and usage that really make the timeline a framework for anchoring historical understanding and underpinning chronological knowledge.

Is it perfect?

A great question, I would suspect not! We love it, but we also need to get it into the classroom and test it, “in the wild”. I am sure it will do some evolving before being finalised and I’m looking forward to getting feedback on it from the children who use it and the adults teaching from it.

This is also just a starting point. Having the big picture now in mind we are going through each of the units and identifying the key information that we want children to take away from each unit so we have a clear progression through each topic, year group and across the school.

A few practical bits

For those interested, no fancy graphic design software was used to create the timeline (nor has it been for any element of our History Curriculum).

Having sketched a rough outline of what we wanted on paper, the timeline was created in PowerPoint (with an A3 page size). I made a table with many columns (to keep time periods in check) and then used drawing shapes to create the line, date labels and blocks for time periods. I purchased a subscription for the Noun Project (best £15 of my history budget ever!) for the icons and suddenly we had a clear visual to help ground children.

I made it in reverse, starting with the whole timeline and then going back and creating the year group versions after.

The other benefit of using PowerPoint was easy sharing with colleagues. Not only can you have a shared, collaborative document space in the cloud, but exporting to PDF, GIF and JPG with ease helped too.

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