Good history teachers use chronological storytelling

Image of a chronology

What is a historical chronology? This is a written or visual timeline of a particular historical event. While a chronology can consist of many different formats (as explained below), a really good historical chronology always includes two things: the date- or approximate dates - of an event, and an annotation - a brief 1-3 sentence description of the event. So, in the example above - which is a visual annotated chronology - you can see examples of both. In a written format, the first entry would look like this:

July 4, 1776 - The Founders signed the Declaration of Independence. This announcedf that the British colonies were declaring independence from England and that they intended to form their own independent government .

When an annotated historical chronology is done well, it will tell a story. And just what is the importance of a good historical chronology that tells a story? When we make a chronology of historical events, we create a graphic representation of how we think about time.

Thus, making a chronology allows us to graphically plot the sequence of events, to see possible relationships between those events, and to tell a compelling story.

How to Create an Annotated Chronology
  1. Select a topic that interests you.
  2. Review and select a variety of research resources - both secondary and primary documents.
  3. Begin reading whatever book or article that most interests you about the topic.
  4. As you read this first source, write down dates and brief descriptions for the most important historical events. In other words, annotate your chronology.
  5. When you are finished with your sources - you will have a long chronology of events - edit your chronology by deleting those you no longer think are important and marking places where you still do not have enough information to tell the story.
  6. Find new resources to fill in the blanks in your chronology.
  7. Carefully examine your chronology to find the story that emerged.  This will help you decide how you will focus your lesson plan.