What is a Timeline?

Timeline Layout - Timeline maker graphic organizer

A timeline is a type of graphic organizer that shows specific events in sequence, usually with dates, in a linear fashion. Timelines are particularly useful for studying or reviewing history, because the timeline will visually display major events over a period of time. Storyboard That adds another dimension beyond dates and descriptions, by making it easy to illustrate important events!

Timelines help you:

  • Put Events in Chronological Order
  • Show Progress or Change
  • Chronicle Historical Events

Using Timelines in the Classroom

Many people believe timelines are simply for historical events, but they can be used for more! Graphic organizers can be used for multiple purposes, and the same is true for the timeline, including timelines for reading.

HistoryEnglish Language ArtsClassroom ManagementOther Ideas
  • Timeline of Historical Period
  • Progression of a Topic Through the Ages (i.e. history of baseball)
  • Events Leading up to the Climax of a Story
  • Biography of a Person’s Life
  • A Typical Day’s Schedule
  • Sequence of Steps
  • Scientific Observations Over Time
  • Project Schedule

Take a look at some of the possibilities!

English Language Arts

Non-fiction and historical fiction can especially benefit from timelines. When reading a story that takes place in a historical setting or learning about authors, it is necessary to understand the context. A timeline can help establish important events and attitudes during a specific era.

Example ELA Timeline Activities

  • Events Leading up to the Climax of a Story
  • Biography of a Person’s Life
  • Historical Context of Setting


Timelines were, quite literally, made for history! Not only can timelines show a person's life, or events leading up to a war or piece of legislation, but a timeline can also delve further into the development of scientific thinking or architecture.

Example History Timeline Activities

  • Timeline of Historical Period
  • Progression of a Topic Through the Ages (i.e. history of baseball)
  • Evolution of styles (music, fashion, furniture design, painting etc.)

Applications for Special Education

A timeline can be a great tool for students with special education! Many students benefit from visual representations as reminders, particularly for schedules and step-by-step processes. The timeline layout on Storyboard That has a visual component for easy recognition and progression in a linear format to show the passage of time or order of steps.

What if I don’t want dates?

The timeline is still a valuable tool for sequencing events, giving directions, making a schedule, and more - even if you do not want to include a date. In order to make a timeline on Storyboard That, you must enter in at least a year value for each cell you want to include. Change the dates at any time by clicking on “Timeline Dates”. If you cover up the dates with Textables, shapes, or even characters, the information you enter for the years can be as simple as 1, 2, 3. Literally! Put Textables over the dates and label as you please (Event 1, 2, 3; First, Next, Then; Step 1, 2, 3, etc.)

For some ideas on using the timeline layout with labels rather than dates, take a look at this graphic organizer that uses the timeline layout:

A timeline like the Specials Schedule above could be projected on a screen, or printed out and laminated as a poster or personal reminder board.

For more ways to integrate Storyboard That with your special needs students, look through some of our special education articles.

Related Activities

Check out these timeline activities from our guides on Vietnam War, 1850s America, and Electromagnetic Spectrum.

How to Use the Timeline Layout


Determine the Purpose

Identify the specific learning objective or activity for which you want to use a timeline. Consider whether it will be used in English Language Arts, history, or special education, and determine the focus of the timeline, such as events leading up to a climax, a biography, or the progression of a topic.


Choose the Timeline Layout

Access the Storyboard That platform and select the timeline layout option. The timeline layout is designed to visually display events in chronological order, allowing you to create a linear representation of the sequence of events.


Enter Dates and Descriptions

In each cell of the timeline, enter the relevant dates and descriptions for the events you want to depict. If you don't want to include specific dates, you can use alternative labels or identifiers to represent the sequence, such as numbers, steps, or labels like "Event 1, 2, 3" or "First, Next, Then."


Customize the Timeline

Personalize your timeline by adding visuals, such as images, characters, or icons, to each cell. You can also use Textables or shapes to provide additional information or labels for each event. Make sure to arrange the cells in the correct order to reflect the chronological sequence.


Enhance with Details and Context

To provide more context and depth to the timeline, consider adding additional elements like captions, speech bubbles, or arrows to highlight key information or indicate relationships between events. These details can help students understand the significance and connections of each event within the timeline.


Review and Share

Take a moment to review your completed timeline to ensure accuracy and clarity. Once you're satisfied, share the timeline with your students by printing it out, presenting it digitally, or assigning it as a digital activity on Storyboard That. Encourage students to analyze and discuss the timeline to reinforce their understanding of the chronological sequence and the specific learning objectives tied to the activity.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Timeline Graphic Organizer

What are some creative ways to incorporate timelines into lesson plans?

In addition to creating timelines for historical events, timelines can be used to visualize the progression of a story or the stages of a project. In subjects like social studies, timelines can be created for current events or political movements. Students can even create personal timelines that help them to understand the concept of time, the stages of life, and the impact of personal experiences on their lives. They can also be used as a tool for students to track their own progress or as a way to showcase their learning.

How can timelines be used to enhance critical thinking skills in students?

Timelines can be used to help students develop critical thinking skills by encouraging them to analyze and evaluate information, make connections between events and ideas, and identify patterns and trends. Timeline activities also improve their ability to identify cause and effect, synthesize information and identify bias.

What are some tips for creating an effective timeline?

To create an effective timeline, it is important to choose a clear and consistent format, include relevant information, and use visual elements such as images and colors to enhance understanding. Before creating a timeline, determine its purpose, such as to illustrate the chronology of events, to show the development of a concept, or to explain a process.

Image Attributions
Find more storyboard activities like these in our Special Education Category!
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