Constructing a Timeline


Elementary, Middle School


Students will construct a pictorial timeline covering highlights of the Jamestown venture from 1606 – 1624.

Standards of Learning:

VA SOLs: VS 1b, f
National Standards for History: Chronological Thinking

Materials Needed for Activity:

Life at Jamestown – Essay
A Jamestown Timeline

Teacher Background:

Researching and examining key historical events in Jamestown’s early history is a valuable way for students to develop their skills in chronological thinking and understand cause and effect. Students will construct a timeline for Jamestown, based on class study and their own research. A Jamestown Timeline and Life at Jamestown background essay are provided background for the teacher.


Step 1: Explain to students that it is necessary for them to understand how key events during the early history of Jamestown are related and affected each other. A timeline will help them work through some of these important dates and events and be a reference as they study this early period of American history.

Step 2: Divide the class into three groups. Tell them that they will be focusing on the time from 1607 to 1624. One group will complete the timeline for the years 1606 – 1610. The second group will complete the timeline from 1611 – 1618. The third group will complete the timeline for the years 1619 – 1624.

Step 3: Students will need to research key events in the history of their particular time span. This research can be on-going during the study of Jamestown with a time for completion set at the end of the unit. Students should select only those events they believe are most important, including key successes and difficulties. Students should be encouraged to draw symbols and pictures, use graphics from web sites, and write short descriptions to illustrate events on their timeline. The class should agree on a uniform size for paper if anything other than regular printing paper size is to be used, so the timeline can be clipped or taped together upon completion and displayed around the classroom. Butcher block paper or attachments to a clothesline may also be used for the timeline.

Step 4: Upon completion of their research and creation of their timelines, groups should present their timelines to the class and be able to explain why the events they chose for their time period were so important to the history of Jamestown. They may do this by having one or two presenters from each group standing next to the area they researched so the timeline becomes a “living history timeline”. Discussion should also include examining cause and effect relationships between events. Did one time period seem to be more active than other time periods in terms of notable events?Summary Activity: After the class has discussed the events on the timeline, ask students why it is important to study these events. Why are these events important for the entire country, as well as the state of Virginia? A useful discussion might also include exploring certain key points on the timeline to ask “what if” questions. What if the Powhatan Indians had killed John Smith at their first encounter? What if the settlers had abandoned Jamestown, as they had begun to do in 1610? What if John Rolfe had not wed Pocahontas? Ask students for their own “what if” questions.

Lesson plans made possible by Archibald Andrews Marks.