Using Timelines in the Classroom: Helping Learners Make Connections

 In Classroom Practice

Timelines help learners make connections between the present and past in a visually appealing and chronological way. Arranging events along a timeline makes it easier for learners to understand the relationships between them. The format also appeals to visual learners through the rich media that can be embedded in the timeline. It’s very common for history or social studies teachers to use timelines in the classroom, whether to plot events from a battle or highlight milestones from a particular era. However, using timelines isn’t limited to just these subjects. Here are assignment ideas for using timelines in other subjects.

Visual Arts: Guide learners to choose an artist and map out the highlights of their career, focusing on the achievements they made in their particular field of art.

Music: Assign learners a genre of music and a time period, and have them select and justify the most influential songs of each decade.

English Language Arts: Have learners create a chronological timeline of the main events in a book. If it is an independent novel study, learners can learn about new books from their peers’ timeline presentations. If it is a class novel study, learners can present their timelines to each other, defend their main event choices, and discuss how they differ.

Science: Assign learners a topic, like genetics, evolution, or biochemistry, and guide them to identify the advancements that have been made in that field over a particular timeframe.

Technology & Digital Literacy: Create a list of technologies such as social media, digital games, television, radio, the internet, and mobile devices. Have learners choose and justify ten top milestones and plot them on a timeline.

Summative Assessments: In any subject, you can use timelines as a summative assignment by having learners chronologically map out the key events that you covered in the unit. This will help you identify if they met all of the unit’s objectives and provide them with study notes for written assessments, like a test or exam.

While there are various ways to have learners create their own timelines using paper, many free websites provide interactive and easy-to-use timeline tools. Check out the following list to see which tools suit your classroom’s needs.

Interactive Tools


The free version of Tiki-Toki offers one timeline per user. It is browser-based, which means no downloading, and you can create colour-coded categories that provide for further grouping of events. Images, videos, and text can be embedded into each timeline event. For those using Chromebooks, there is also a Tiki-Toki Google Chrome extension.

Timelines in the classroom


This web-based platform offers up to 100 student and educator-created timelines under a free account. The timeline displays large visuals and videos and offers the feature of adding assessment questions. Educators can also browse and embed pre-existing timelines that align with their curriculum.

Hstry Timelines


Timetoast is a free public account that allows you to create and publish timelines online. While it is not as visually appealing as other options, the learning curve is low and easily accessible.

TimeToast Timelines

2D Tools


Canva is a free tool to create poster-style timeline infographics. The learning curve is incredibly low for the beautiful images learners can create with this application. While it is web-based, it also comes as an app for iPads.

Canva Timelines


This free website allows users to create timeline infographics using pre-made templates and drag-and-drop design elements. Users can use the extensive library of images or their own images. Timelines

Using timelines in the classroom, whether they are created digitally or on paper, allows learners to visually depict information and make stronger connections between past, present, and future events.

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