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Physical Timelines

Who’s going to be Anne Boleyn and who’ll be Jane Seymour?

Imagine six students, each wearing a tabard with the name of one of Henry VIII’s wives. Across the front of your room is a timeline – 1509 on that side of the room, 1547 on the far side.

Now – can the students place themselves in the right sequence on the line – the sequence in which they had the great misfortune to marry Henry VIII? You may need help sorting them out into the correct sequence but when that’s done it’s time for the really good bit of the activity – ask them to stand on the line at the date when they think they married Henry.

This is the best bit because the pattern that emerges (you really will have to help them with this) shows that Catherine of Aragon is the only queen he’s married to in the first 24 years of the reign, the other five wives squeeze into the last 14 years. Creating a physical timeline in this way, sequence first, then duration, has a remarkable impact on understanding – even when I’ve done it with teachers who aren’t wholly familiar with the reign. Students assume Henry’s wives were much more evenly spread out across the reign until they do this activity and even knowing the dates in your head or seeing them written down doesn’t create the powerful sense that the physical timeline does – of a long marriage followed by a rapid sequence of brief ones.

(If you want to add more information, give the appropriate wives teddy bears labelled Mary, Elizabeth and Edward – it does help to cement in the memory which queen gave birth to which child).

This activity is also a really good example of an activity that can work with all ages – from KS2 to A level and with adult learners.

For more details see Henry VIII – which queen lasted longest? HERE …

Physical Timelines: The Full Article

In addition to the example of the Henry VIII's wives I've described this technique in more detail in a PDF, which also covers:

• The advantages of physical timelines

• Using physical timelines to target studentsí misunderstandings and problems

• Concluding thoughts on living graphs

Download the PDF HERE …

 

Some Examples of Physical Timelines Activities on this Website

Examples of physical timelines include:

Henry VIII & his Wives – which Queen lasted longest? HERE …

 

Making sense of BC and AD HERE …

 

Timelines for Understanding Duration HERE …

 

Using family generations to link back to past events HERE …

 

Is Granny really ‘well old’? HERE …

 

How long were the Romans here for? HERE …

 

The Big Human Timeline HERE …

 

Wine Gums, Timelines and Really Big Overviews HERE …

Physical timelines also make a major contribution to the development of chronological knowledge and understanding:

So also see that website section HERE …

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This Technique

Download the Full Article

Example Activities