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.

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