State History Illustrated Timeline Project

As you all know, time for teaching the content areas keeps getting squeezed more and more as the push for deeper literacy and math instruction intensifies.  I don't think any of us will argue as to how important reading, writing, and math are--but I truly believe that we must not lose sight of the tremendous importance of the content areas as well.  Students LOVE to learn about the world around them, and I really believe we are being grossly naive if we believe our students will be able to read and comprehend informational texts at the level of the Common Core if we do not provide them with a rich and diverse amount of content area instruction and experiences.  There!  Off my soap box!  So, what we DO need to do is to get smarter about how we teach the content.  I'm sure you've all been told to integrate whenever possible--but let's be realistic. . .  it just can't always happen.  I am constantly on the lookout for ways to infuse literacy into my content--and content into my literacy (Remember the old "Hey, your peanut butter got on my chocolate!  No, your chocolate got in my peanut butter!" ads for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups?  Perhaps I am dating myself!)

One of my favorite projects after our studies of our state history (getting more and more compacted, by the way!) is for students to practice their summarizing skills and their "determining importance" skills as we take the history of our state from Ice Age to statehood and create a bullet pointed list of key events.  Some years we do this together, some years I have teams do it, and some years I create the list . . . it all depends on what is happening.  This is a great way to review what we've learned about history, to practice using our transition words ("Several years later," or "As time passed,"), and to decide what images would best represent those key elements on the list.

Our project unfolds like this . . .

First we generate the list of key events in history.  I type them up and put them in "captions" so that each student in the class will get one to represent.
I'm a stickler for having my projects look professional and to encourage my students to take great pride in what we do.  We mount these on 9x12 sheets of black paper.
The students use their textbooks and other informational text resources to review the information about their event.  They then talk with members of their desk team to decide what illustration would best represent their event and to make sure it is historically accurate.  There were no cars during the Revolutionary War!
Working ever so carefully!

After they draw, they outline their drawing with an extra fine point permanent marker.  I talk to them about "setting" and how to place the people and objects in an appropriate setting.  We talk about what a quality illustration would have . . . No people floating in mid air!  No blue clouds!  No trees that look like lollipops!  No smiling suns!  No stick people!
When the have finished outlining, it is time to paint.  I first do a minilesson on how to best use watercolors . . .  how to let the paint dry in an area before going back to prevent bleeding, how to add colors onto wet paint to make a more realistic effect, and to review how to cover large areas so they don't look blotchy.

When they are finished, we let them dry and I gently iron any that wrinkled up (I do use a decent piece of cardstock for this) and glue them onto the black background.  The students are having a grand time at this point coaching each other on color choices, reminding them about historical details they could add to their drawings, and so on.  It truly feels like an artists' studio.  They are all working toward completing this visual timeline that will be hanging outside our room--so they want it to be fantastic.  

When they are finished, I hang them up in chronological order, and we take a gallery walk past them to oooh and aaaah!
Sorry this one is blurry. . .  I will try to update it tomorrow.

It is so fun to watch students and teachers alike stop to read our timeline and admire our artwork.  We got this all done in 2 class periods, and I know the students learned so much . . . about history, about working as a team, about doing quality work, and more.  Here are a few of the finished pieces as they are displayed--the line of 22 of them is pretty impressive!  Thanks for stopping by the blog today--I hope everyone had a great Tuesday.

1 comment

  1. Awesome! I am SO going to do this next term when we study Meso-American civilizations! We have the Aztecs again - my co-teachers have the Mayans and Incas :) Maybe an overlapping timeline of all three civilizations down the whole corridor... Such a cool idea!