How to Implement the Human Timeline Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


A human timeline activity requires learners to learn about a particular event and then line up with peers according to their events’ chronology. This method uses movement to help learners understand and remember the order of events.


  1. Select the Timeline’s Content: Establish a context for the chronology you want learners to focus on. Sometimes, you also want learners to know what occurred after the focal event. It would be best if you aimed to include enough events on the timeline so that each learner, or pairs of learners, can be given one event.
  2. Prepare Materials: To prepare this learning activity, place each event on an index card, along with the date when it happened. Instead of handing out the timeline slips in a random manner, you may want to give each learner easier or more challenging items, according to their ability level. When learners present their timeline events, it is best if they are sitting or standing so that they can see and hear each other. This activity often works best if learners stand or sit in a U-shaped line rather than in a straight-line formation.
  3. Learners Prepare for Presentations: Assign each learner one event from the period that you are teaching. Every event must be described along with the date it occurred.
  4. Build Your Human Timeline: Invite learners to line up in the order of their events. Then, have learners present their events. After each event is presented, learners can recommend probable causes of the event and can ask questions about what occurred and why. These questions can be placed on the board for learners to answer later.
  5. Assess Learners’ Learning (Optional): After all learners have presented their events, instructors may give learners a timeline with applicable dates but with no accompanying descriptions. Based on the information that they remember from the class timeline activity, learners will then complete this written timeline. They can do this individually or in small groups.
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