The idea behind this during (or after) reading activity is to chart specific events that take place – either the events that take place in a piece of historical fiction or actual historical events. For example, an emotional timeline could be created to document what happens in the book Across Five Aprils or the timeline could present actual events that took place during the Civil War.

The strategy is pretty basic. As a student reads through Across Five Aprils (or gathers information from her textbook or during a lecture or while working in groups), she creates a typical timeline in chronological format. These should include important or significant things. An Across Five Aprils timeline might include Jethro’s brother’s decision to join the Confederate forces and his teacher being wounded. A timeline based on actual events could include the Emancipation Proclamation and Battle of Gettysburg.

The difference between an typical timeline and an emotional timeline comes when you ask the student to gauge whether or not the events she has listed are positive or negative.

The idea is that the student must now not only rate the events as being “good” or “bad” but to rank them by how good or bad. This forces student thinking to go beyond low level kinds of thinking.


If you want students to go even further, ask them to color code the rankings based on different perspectives. Was the Battle of Gettysburg positive or negative for the Union? For the Confederacy? Who benefited most from the Emancipation Proclamation? You could even have different kids take different perspectives, post their final projects and have kids discuss similarities and differences between them. There are lots of ways to use this strategy!

Emotional Timelines are great for more than just cause and effect. Use them to stretch your students thinking.

Have fun!