Can you remember dates in history? A time line is a simple tip for memorizing dates in history for elementary students.
I'm not a big proponent of memorizing dates in history simply for the sake of memorizing dates. But I am a huge believer in being able to remember certain milestones in history, knowing the order in which they occur, but especially knowing the approximate dates so that other events can be placed in the proper relationship.
I was reminded of this today during science when we were discussing the moon landing in 1969. I wanted the kids to see how many (or how few) years had elapsed between the Wright brothers and that first lunar landing, so I asked them when the flight at Kittyhawk happened.
They looked at me dumbfounded and then started throwing out random (and erroneous) dates from multiple centuries.
And so I stopped our astronomy lesson, told each of them to pull out a fresh sheet of paper, and I proceeded to give them a timeline of American history that I wanted them to memorize. Sometime in the next week I'll be making out practice worksheets, similar to math drills, that should help them learn all of it. I know it will take some time, but I think this timeline will prove invaluable in their future studies of American and world history.
This isn't the complete list I want them to learn; I do want to add some inventions like steam engines/trains, telephone, camera, light bulb, car, and the internet. I don't really want them to memorize exact dates for the inventions, but I do want them to be able to place them in between the correct events for which they have memorized dates. For example, knowing that photographs were taken of Lincoln and the Civil War will help them remember that the camera was invented prior to the 1860's.
Here are the major dates/events that I want them to cement into their minds…eventually.
- 1492 — Columbus "discovered" America
- 1500's — The time of the conquistadors and exploration of the Americas
- 1607 — Jamestown
- 1620 — Pilgrims at Plymouth
- 1776 — The signing of the Declaration of Independence (and the end of "Colonial America")
- Last half of 1770's…and a bit into 1780's (1775–1783) — The Revolutionary War (emphasizing the the signing of the Declaration happened after the war started)
- 1789 — Washington became America's first president (and the French Revolution begins, lasting about 10 years)
- 1803 — The Louisiana Purchase, and Jefferson is president. Preparations for the Lewis & Clark expedition begins; the expedition ends in 1806.
- 1861-1865 — The Civil War, and Lincoln is president
- 1903 — The Wright brothers' flight at Kittyhawk (notice that this is exactly 100 years after the Louisiana Purchase, making it easier to remember).
- Last half of the 1910's (1914-1918) — World War I, and Woodrow Wilson was president. (For memory's sake, it helps to notice the "WWI" and "WW" in Woodrow Wilson.) 1917 — America joins World War I
- 1929 — The stock market crash and basically the beginning of the Great Depression, which lasted about 10 years (or until WWII).
- First half of 1940's (1939–1945) — World War II, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. Harry S Truman took over after FDR died and was the one who authorized the bombing of Japan. 1941 — Pearl Harbor bombing and America joins the war.
- First part of 1950's (1950-1953) — Korean War, and Harry S Truman was president.
- Mid-1950's to mid-1970's (1955–1975) — Vietnam War, and Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, and Ford were presidents during the war.
- 1969 — First landing on the moon.
- First half of 1990's (1990-1995) — First Gulf War/Persian Gulf War, and George H.W. Bush and Clinton were presidents during the war.
- 2001 — September 11th
- 2003 to present — War in Iraq and George W. Bush and Obama were/are presidents during the war.
Is there an important event in American history that you think would be good to add to my timeline (or do you spot an error)? Leave a comment and let me know!