Creating a Timeline
Note: this activity should take several days to complete.
Before students actually begin, they must collect their facts. For young students, providing them with a collection of children's books on the subject of the unit is one of the best ways to begin teaching research techniques. Some current books on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement are:
For ages 4-8 years:
Moore, Johnny Ray, The Story of Martin Luther King, Ideals Publications, 2002
McNamara, Margaret, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Simon Spotlight, 2007
Marzolo, Jean, Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholastic Paperbacks, 2006
Rappaport, Doreen, Martin's Big Words: the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hyperion Book, 2007
Rappaport, Doreen, The School Is Not White!, Hyperion Book, 2005
For ages 9-12 years:
Pastan, Amy, Martin Luther King, Jr., DK Children, 2004
Tate, Eleanora, Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Yearling, 1997
Young Shelton, Paula, Child of the Civil Rights Movement, Schwartz and Wade, 2009
Boston Weatherford, Carole, Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-ins, Puffin Publishing, 2007
Turck, Mary C., The Civil Rights Movement for Kids, Chicago Review Press, 2000
Ask the children to read the books. Give them paper to copy out facts to put on the timeline. Create an interactive bulletin board for the students to post their facts. For younger students, teachers or volunteers can read the books aloud to the students. After the book is read, the class can brainstorm about events from the book to include on the timeline.
Create a master list of all the events suggested by the students (The teacher may want to limit suggestions to two per student or three per team of students.) Next, discuss the events on the list and number them in order of occurrence. If it is known, the actual date could be placed beside the event for further clarity.
During this discussion, some events may be discarded as repetitious, while others might be grouped together. For instance, the listing "the march on Montgomery" and another listing, "marching through the South," could be combined.
Once the list of events is complete, there are several ways to complete the timeline. Suggestions are:
- An adult can make cards about the various events. These can be given to the students to place in order around the room or along a hallway of the school.
- Students can choose an event or events can be distributed to small groups of students along with the materials for them to create a card or poster of each event. When these are complete, the students can take turns presenting the cards or posters to others in the order that they occurred, thus becoming a living timeline.
- Events can be placed on cards that have a hanger of string or yarn so the students can put them around their necks.
- Cards can either be dated or numbered. The cards are randomly passed out to the students. The students must put themselves in order. Once this is done, an adult can read the cards and discussion can follow.
Classroom teachers may want to share the timeline with other classrooms or have the students give a presentation to the school. The point is to give students an opportunity to learn history, find connections and create a foundation for understanding the civil rights movement.