Teach Through Games: Timeline

Teach Through Games: Timeline

Age level: Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School

Description: This seemingly simple game gets more challenging as it progresses. In this game, players work together to create a timeline card by card. The game begins with the placement of a starting card, with the year face up. Each player has 4 cards, with the year face down. The first player chooses one of his cards, and decides where it belongs next to the starting card: to the left if it occurred before the starting card, or to the right if it occurred after the starting cards. As play progresses, it becomes more difficult because players may have to place cards between other cards that have already been played. Once a card is placed, you turn it over to see if you placed it correctly on the timeline. If you did not, that card is removed from the timeline, and you must pick up another card from the draw pile. The goal of the game is to run out of cards first.

Below you can see an example of what a timeline looks like. Here, our starting card was “Construction started on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” the first player correctly placed “The discovery of blood circulation,” and the second player correctly placed “The arrival of the Mayflower.” I now have to find the correct spot for “The discovery of Neptune.” I’ll place the card where I think it belongs on the timeline, then I’ll turn it over to see if I was right.


It should be noted that there are many different versions of the game. I have Science and Discoveries. There is also Historical Events, Music & Cinema, Inventions, and a Diversity pack with cards from all topic areas.

Skills & Modifications: As with many games I’ve written about here, one of the biggest modifications I use is implementing a time limit. I’ll set a timer with the rule that we will end the game after the last turn is completed when the timer goes off.

For this game, though, I have another modification. One of the best aspects of this game is that it is very easy to modify based on the child’s skill level, scanning abilities, and understanding of time and/or history. For example, with one learner I played this game with, before we played I went through the whole deck of cards and removed items that I knew she was not aware of. To be clear, I did not remove cards that she didn’t the year for, but cards that were outside her current body of knowledge (such as “the invention of Texas Hold’Em Poker” or  “the appearance of Australopithecus.”) Over time, I will introduce more of these cards, but when initially teaching the game I wanted to be able to focus on the concept of the game itself rather than teaching about  historical points she had never come in contact with.

This game is also designed for learners who are 8 and up. On two occasions, I wanted to play this with a learner’s family in which there was sibling younger than 8. In that situation, I removed some cards so points on the timeline wouldn’t be as close to one another and I intentionally dealt cards that were relevant to the young player (such as “the invention of the teddy bear.”)

  • Scanning – This game requires a high level of scanning skills because learners must scan the timeline, scan their own cards, and make a decision about which card to place and which space on the timeline to place it in. Some learners may need prompting with this skill, but if your learner needs a high level of prompting this is probably not an appropriate or motivating game for him/her
  • Sequencing – This game also requires high level sequencing skills. The learner must be able to mentally organize information about the items on the timeline and simultaneously attempt to place his/her card in the correct sequence within the cards already placed.
  • Conversation – This game does encourage conversation, and I model this when it is my turn. I will choose a card and talk out loud about why I am putting it in a specific place on the timeline. I encourage the learner (and the rest of the family if I’m playing it with them as well) to engage in the conversation with me.
  • Accepting Mistakes/Errors – This game is challenging for both the learner and the adults playing with them. Mistakes are frequent and are a part of the game, which provides great opportunity for teacher modeling how to respond to a mistake, and for the learner to practice accepting a mistake.

Pros: Extremely easy to modify based on your learner’s skill level. I also like that it encourages exploration into further topics. For example, with one learner the card “the discovery of the language of bees” was played. This led the learner to ask further questions and he became involved in his own research project to learn more. I also have one student who is very strong in remembering dates and historical events. This game was highly motivating for her and she was able to engage in appropriate conversation for long periods of time due to that high motivation level.

Cons: This may not be an appropriate game for learners who have difficulty attending to other players’ turns.

Cost: $14.99 You should invest in this game if: you are looking for games for older learners, if you are looking for games that encourage peer interaction, if you are looking for games that increase opportunities for independent inquiry, or if you have a learner who is highly motivated by history, science, or art.

ABLLS: B25, H47, K15, L33

VB-MAPP: Social Behavior 15

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1 Comment

  1. Love timeline. Love how it works my seven year old through technological development. So much if/then, cause/effect thinking going on and prompted discussions around what other developments would have had to have happened for a given tech card to appear in the timeline at a given place. And it’s beautifully illustrated and has easy gameplay and surprisingly replayability.