The use of timelines is nothing new in the physical classroom but with the ever growing presence of online synchronous teaching, timelines is something which is not really given much thought. I have not incorporated timelines in an online lesson before but after considering this I would actual use them either with a mini-whiteboard and webcam or integrate them within my PowerPoint for the class. One benefit of the use of timelines during lessons is that it helps students visualise tenses and how they are used in English. It will also raise their awareness of potential differences between their L1 tenses and their L2 (that being English).

In this post, I shall be sharing five ways you can use timelines in your remote or physical lessons. If you are unfamiliar regarding timelines, my video introduction below to them will possibly help.

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1. Match The Timeline

One way you can introduce timelines is by having more than one sentence (it is best to be in different tenses) and their corresponding timelines. Students have to match the sentence to the appropriate timeline. It is best getting learners to work in groups so that they are able to discuss and share their ideas rather than getting them to work individually.

2. Group Timelines

A variation of the matching exercise is getting students to draw the timeline to the corresponding sentence. You could either put students into groups to work on their own tense (Past Simple) and a separate group to work on a different tense (Present Perfect). This would allow students to report back and share their thoughts as well as seek out feedback from other groups of learners in the (virtual) classroom.

3. Draw The Timeline

This is a variation of the task above with students working individually on this and it is probably best to get a class set of mini-whiteboards and board markers. However, if you are working online then perhaps getting students to use a marker and a piece of A4 would suffice. Dictate a sentence to all students and they must write it down. Check that they have the correct sentence written down before continuing. Next, tell students that they must draw their timeline and they have 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, ask all students to reveal their timelines to everyone else and check whether there are any patterns that are emerging. Reveal the appropriate timeline to all students. Once learners have become more confident, they will be able to draw timelines more accurately.

4. Story Planning Timeline

One thing that can be quite challenging for students is writing a story in their L2. However, with suitable support, modelling and inspiration, they will be able to create an engaging story. One way to get students inspired for stories is with the use of Rory’s Story Cubes: I posted about lesson ideas associated with these cubes here. Anyhow, once students have an idea of a story (characters, challenges, solutions) they will be able to time their story before even attempting to write. This give their creative story some process and they will be able to share their ideas if they work in groups. One final thing is that students could present their story to the class for feedback before writing in their groups.

5. Weekly Lesson Timeline

I used to put up the weekly lesson plan in the classroom at the start of the week and give learners a copy. This allowed learners to request any areas that they wished to focus on and for me to respond to such requests. A variation of a weekly lesson plan and a weekly lesson timeline is that students could use the latter to reflect upon what they have studied for the week and what they would like to study for the forthcoming week. This allows learners to develop that much required self-reflection and to express their thoughts with the teacher and one another. Place a large timeline in the classroom (possibly A3 in landscape) and note down achievements during the lesson at the end of the class or you could get learners to complete a personal timeline. This could be used for tutorials and course feedback, as well as a reminder for learners about topics and lexis.

I hope you enjoyed these five lesson activities which involve timelines. Let me know if you have used timelines in a creative and engaging manner with your online or physical classes.