In this two-part critical challenge, students learn about the significance of past events in their liveseither in the context of their own family or of their communityby gathering information from adults about significant events and organizing these events on an individual or class time line. To introduce the lesson, review the past several school days, recording on index cards various regular activities (e.g., recess, reading, lunch) and unusual incidents (e.g., assembly, fire drill, report cards). Invite students to rearrange the index cards so that the events are in chronological sequence from earliest to most recent.
You may also want to read aloud a story about significant events in a young person's life (e.g., Alexander, who's Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to move). Discuss the events in the story, recording them on index cards. Invite students to put the events in chronological order. Ask students to work with a partner to think of events in their own lives and put them in order from earliest to most recent. Point out that ordering important events helps to tell a person's (or community's) story.
Introduce the idea that some events or activities are more significant that others by reviewing the timeline of recent school events or events in the story character's life. Through discussion, develop criteria for a significant event (e.g., happens only once or seldom, memorable, other people think it was important, life changed as a result). Ask students to consider which events in their recent school experiences or in the character's life seem more important than the others. You may choose to bring to class a family album and discuss how some of the events pictured in it are significant because they have had a lasting effect (e.g., birth of a sibling, a move, sickness or death in the family, meeting a new friend, learning to ride a bicycle, belonging to a first team or participating in a first extra-curricular activity, a family trip to a faraway place, a traditional family celebration). Ask students to name significant events in their lives and explain what made them significant.
Explain to students that they will be invited to discuss with family members or with neighbours the significant events in their family (or community) during three time periods: their own lives, when their parents were young and when their grandparents were young. Referring to events in your own family over the past 50 or 60 years., introduce the following terms:
- Long ago (when their grandparents were young)
- Some time ago (when their parents were young)
- In the recent past (during students' own lifetime).
Instruct students to ask family or community members to help identify significant events in their family or the community over the past three generations (two or three events in each time periods). You may want to prepare a letter explaining this project. If there is reason to suspect that this may pose a difficulty for some students, arrange for them to focus on another family, on the neighbourhood or to use a fictional story as the basis of research. You may want to adapt the strategies and charts in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess each student's collection of significant events. When students have a selection of events, invite them to choose one or two of the most significant events from each period. Encourage students to illustrate and explain their choices in light of the criteria for a significant event. You may want to adapt the strategies and charts in Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to structure and assess students' choices of significant events.
When students have selected their significant events, invite them to organize them on a timeline that has been divided into the three time periods. You may want students to create individual timelines or to assemble a single class timeline. The latter option may be preferable if some students will be uncomfortable showing their family timeline or if the focus is on the community. Demonstrate a timeline by stapling a length of string to a strip of manila tag board approximately 15 cm x 45 cm and gathering a number of plastic bread closure tags. After reviewing the terms "long ago", "some time ago" and "in the recent past," explain that students are to put their events in the order in which they occurred to help tell their family's (or community's) story. Demonstrate this principle further by referring to events in your own family (including before your were born) and writing them on small squares of paper. Fasten each square of paper naming an event in your family to one of the bread tags and hang it on the string. Explain how placing the events in order tells a story about your family. Ask students to order their significant events from earliest to most recent by gluing their illustrations together to form a timeline or by attaching them to a giant timeline assembled along one of the walls.
Invite students to choose one significant event to share with the class, explaining why it made a significant impact on their family or community. You may also want to display the completed timelines on a family or community night "open house."