Are you looking for an interesting way to teach American history? You need to take a look at The Giant American History Timeline. It’s such a fun way to learn about history!
I received The Giant American History Timeline for free and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. For more details, read my disclosure policy.
Teaching American History with a Timeline
American history is filled with exciting events. You would think learning about those events would be interesting but we’ve probably all been subjected to a boring textbook that reduces those events to dry facts and figures.
There is a better way to teach American history!
Instead of searching through history textbooks to find something that looks interesting, why not try something completely different? Open up the world of history with a timeline.
Timelines help history come alive and, at the same time, they are such a simple thing to create and use in a variety of different ways. You can create long wall timelines, or keep a notebook, or create a smaller one just for one short period of time. And the benefits that come with this simple teaching tool are worth the time it takes to create one.
Related: How to Create a History Timeline
Here are just a few reasons for teaching history with a timeline:
Timelines show us the 'big picture'
It's so easy to learn about history as a series of unrelated events and stories. We can spend a few weeks studying the American Revolution and then awhile later spend a week learning about the French Revolution - two events that might appear unrelated but are actually connected. When you study them as separate topics it's harder to understand how they fit together.
But when you see these events in a timeline, you begin to understand how they fit together in the flow of history. Instead of looking at history as a disconnected selection of stories, events, and people, a timeline helps us connect the dots and see the bigger picture.
Timelines reveal historical significance
A well-constructed timeline can also show us the historical significance of specific events and people. While reading about a person or incident can teach us plenty, sometimes we don't understand the significance of that event until we see the bigger picture. A small event might not seem that important until we look at those things that happened because of that seemingly insignificant moment in history.
While Rosa Parks' act of defiance seems like a small moment, the impact of that event had a great effect on history. We can better understand why that seemingly small moment is so important when it's viewed alongside the other things that were happening at the time.
Timelines help us understand historical context
Historical context is such an important aspect of understanding history. It's easy to look at historical events through our modern understanding and worldview, but it's more important to understand how people thought and why they acted or reacted in the ways they did. Looking through the lens of that historical context will give us a greater understanding of the people and the events of the day.
A detailed timeline gives us a glimpse of that worldview and can help us relate to the people of the time and understand their motivations and feelings. This is such an important part of understanding history and the people who lived during those times.
Now that you know WHY you should introduce a timeline to your history studies - let's take a look at one of my favorite timeline resources!
The Giant American History Timeline
The Giant American History Timeline is a 2-book set that covers the span of American history from pre-colonization to present events (for grades 4+). You’ll learn about a variety of important historical events, inventions, and people while working on each unit.
Within each unit, students complete a variety of worksheets and activity pages and, when those are complete, they are used to create timelines. That’s what really sets this program apart. Instead of a few lined pieces of paper taped to the wall or a book filled with dates and pictures, you use the completed history worksheets and activity pages to create your history timeline.
And, while you can create a simple chronological timeline, there are also options for creating timelines that show the relationship between various historical events, people, and inventions.
In my opinion, this is one of the strongest aspects of the program. Learning how events are related and connected is an important part of understanding history.
A Closer Look at The Giant American History Timeline
Now that you understand how the program works, let’s take a deeper look.
There are two books (both available as physical books or digital downloads) in the series - with 8 units in each book.
Book one (Pre-Colonization to Reconstruction) focuses on:
Discovery & Exploration
The Revolutionary Period
Creating the Constitution
Expanding the Country
An Age of Advancements
The Civil War & Reconstruction
Book two (the 1870s to the Present) focuses on:
Industrial Growth & Technological Advancement
Big Business & Social Reform
America & the World
World War I
The Roaring Twenties & the Great Depression
World War II
The Cold War
The Civil Rights Movement, Technology & Terrorism
Every unit includes a section of teaching notes that provide ideas and structure for the teacher to use as they see fit. This section includes:
Unit Overview - an overview of the major historical developments of the period
Focus Activities - three activities that focus students’ attention on the period being studied
Constructing the Timeline - instructions for assembling completed activity sheets to form timelines
Critical Thinking Skills - a description of the critical thinking skills reinforced in the unit
Individual Activity Sheet Notes - specific instructions on guiding students through the completion and extension of each activity sheet
The main part of the program is the variety of activity sheets (15+ per unit) that students use to learn about that unit topic. There are maps, charts, writing assignments, research and fact sheets, and primary source material to discuss. You can see plenty of samples on the product website.
Once students have completed the activity sheets, they are used to create timelines with the addition of the Timeline Components (arrows, dates, and subheadings). You can create a sequential timeline, putting events in chronological order. You can use the arrows to connect events and people to the main idea. Another option is to use the Timeline Components and completed Activity Sheets to show the cause and effect of various events.
Creating and discussing the various ways we can create timelines is our favorite part of the program. It shows students how events are related and connected (the historical context in action!). It’s such a great resource for really understanding history.
Each unit also includes a Unit Assessment - a 2-page worksheet that reinforces what was learned in the unit. Students will identify the main ideas and details, number events to put them in proper sequence, write a paragraph relating a cause and effect relationship, and write a paragraph expressing their opinion about a specific event.
How we're using The Giant American History Timeline
We are studying the modern era of world history - which is filled with war after war (at least according to my daughter). But there are also plenty of technological and historical advancements and interesting people to learn about.
We’ve been able to connect all those interesting people and events with The Giant American History Timeline.
We've used the activity pages to construct a variety of timelines - making history lessons more interesting and learning to connect all these people and events.
For example, when we worked on the first unit, as we constructed the timeline, my daughter started to understand how steam power, railroads, and steel changed the landscape of United States history. Something as simple as a few activity pages and arrows (and a bit of discussion!) helped her understand and make those important connections - and made those historical events come alive for her in a new way.
I love how The Giant American History Timeline teaches these things - because it’s just not about seeing the events in a time-related manner. These books help students understand the historical context, the significance of various events, and gain a greater understanding of the story of America.
Related: Creating your own history curriculum
Are you teaching American history?
How are you making your American history lessons more interesting and engaging?
If you need a way to make those lessons a little more interesting, take a look at The Giant American History Timeline.