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Lesson Plan

Creating Family Timelines: Graphing Family Memories and Significant Events

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Creating Family Timelines: Graphing Family Memories and Significant Events

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Renee Goularte

Renee Goularte

Magalia, California


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



The one area that students are the best authorities on is their own memories and experiences. In this lesson, students participate in read-alouds and discussions about memories and family. After this exploration, students brainstorm questions to ask family members in order to learn more about important and/or memorable family events. Once students determine a list of questions, they interview family members, taking notes on the events and giving each a positive or negative rating. Using their interview notes, students create a graphic family timeline which includes illustrations or photographs.

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Graphic Map: This online tool allows students to graphically map the high and low points related to a particular item or group of items, such as family events.

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In Chapter 2 of Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers, Kathy Short and Jerome Harste remind us that children "must begin any learning experience with what they currently know, perceive, and feel." Gathering information and writing about their families can create a meaningful bridge from students' personal, concrete experiences to the wider, historical experiences of their families. Diana Mitchell found just such a bridge during an end-of-year project involving families stories. She describes the project:  "We need some kind of center to pull them in; some compelling reason for them to continue reading, writing, speaking, and reflecting. Focusing on projects and activities that relate to the family seems to meet this need because all students come to our classrooms with family histories and stories." By having students but those family stories on a timeline, this lesson also makes a meaningful connection of literacy to mathematics and history.

Further Reading

Short, Kathy G., and Harste, Jerome E. 1996. Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Mitchell, Diana. "Tapping into Family Stories and Themes to Heighten End-of-Year Engagement." English Journal 87.4 (April 1998): 65-69.

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