Our 5th and 6th years have embarked on a timeline creation project based on our history shelves. The project began – and continues – with great discussions about how to define history, why and how people record history, and the importance of recognizing the missing parts of the narrative.
Using our history shelves for this project, the students have fully explored them, contemplating and discussing why the items are placed in the order they are, while discovering that the materials could be placed in different ways, too. Recommendations for change, and the reasons for them, are always encouraged and supported. Our history shelves are coming alive as the students create a timeline based on them. This timeline will become a guide for our classroom’s use.
The first goal of this project is to familiarize the older students with the history shelf materials (they were moved from one space to another over the summer and rearranged). The timeline the students are creating is not just a timeline of history; it is a timeline of the history that we have represented on our shelves.
The second goal of this project is to engage the students in the process of being a historian. They have explored issues of missing or singular narratives, how best to represent the information they have, and what they will include vs. what they will leave out-these are all questions that working historians face.
The third goal is to have the students work both with a partner and also as a member of a larger group. Each section of the timeline is given to two or three students, who must work together to make decisions about content and style of their particular section.
Finally, the fourth goal is for the students to share their mastery and their ownership over the historian’s process by acting as teacher-guides for the first through fourth years. Each group will guide a few of these younger students through both the timeline and the history shelves. This not only introduces the works to all members of the class, it also provides another way to foster important leadership skills. Ever growing leadership skills are demonstrated by each of our students in a variety of ways. Leadership opportunities, which are ongoing and supported in our elementary classroom, serve the children in their development as leaders in our classroom, provides them with the necessary experiences and skills they’ll need in our middle year classroom, as well as at their respective high schools and future colleges.
Our students have really taken to the challenge of creating a timeline that spans from the creation of the universe to the present day. They have learned so much from the rise and fall of Rome to the end of the Cold War. They have problem solved intervals, contemporaneous events, and who and what to include. While there is much exciting learning going on, the best aspect of the project is seeing the students develop confidence and joy as historians!