EL Support Lesson

Personal Timeline

Use this lesson to help your ELs strengthen their vocabulary and learn how to create a personal timeline. Teach this lesson as a standalone lesson or use it as support for the lesson Timelines and Nonfiction Text.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theTimelines and Nonfiction TextLesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theTimelines and Nonfiction TextLesson plan.

Students will be able to create a timeline using information from a nonfiction text.


Students will be able to create and explain a personal timeline with transition words using a table and graphic organizer.

(2 minutes)
Write Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceTeach Background Knowledge TemplatePersonal TimelineGraphic Organizer Template: Vocabulary Instruction ChartVocabulary Cards: Personal TimelineGlossary: Personal Timeline
  • State the language objective and have students repeat it to a partner.
  • Show students a simple timeline from your life (birth, schooling, graduation, important trip, or family event etc.).
  • Explain that today students will create a timeline of their own life. Tell students that personal timelines help us see the important events in a person's life in a visual format. Inform them that timelines can also help us make sense of one aspect of history, such as the history of baseball or the history of photography.
(8 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will complete a vocabulary organizer for the key vocabulary words in today's lesson.
  • Display a copy of the Vocabulary Instruction Chart on the document camera, and distribute copies to the students.
  • Provide an example of how to fill out the organizer, and allow time for students to work in pairs to fill out organizers for all of the lesson's vocabulary words. Encourage students to notice cognates or false cognates, and also invite them to include a synonym in their L1.
  • Review students' work and clarify any misunderstandings.
(8 minutes)
  • On a piece of chart paper, write the title "Transition Words for Timelines/Sequencing" and create three columns below the title.
  • Label the three columns "Beginning," "Middle," and "End," respectively.
  • Ask students to turn to a partner and think of transition words that show an event happens in the beginning (i.e., "First," "Initially," "In the beginning"). Record student responses on the chart paper, and continue the process for the middle (i.e., "Then," "Later on"), and the end (i.e., "Finally," "Lastly").
  • Place students in effective partnerships, and model how they will share their morning routine orally with a partner, using the transition words from the chart paper. For example, "First, I turn my alarm off and get up. Then, I get dressed and eat breakfast. Finally, I brush my teeth."
  • Have a few partners share their sequential conversation with the whole class.
  • Inform students that when they read nonfiction texts, and need to figure out the order of events, these transition words will help them figure out what happened first, last, and in between.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute a copy of the Personal Timeline worksheet to students and display one on the document camera.
  • Discuss the purpose and meaning of a personal timeline (to see the important events in a person's life in chronological order).
  • Model how to think of key events in your life (or use the example done in the answer sheet) and place them in the table. Remind students that the date does not need to be precise; they can just write the year of the event.
  • Instruct students to complete the table and the timeline according to the directions on the worksheet. Ensure that students are familiar with all of the words on the sheet before allowing them time to carry out the activity.
  • Tell students to draw a picture of each key event on the timeline if time and space allow for it.


  • Have learners complete the timeline in a small teacher-led group.


  • Allow learners to utilize glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar words.
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(3 minutes)
  • Have students answer the two questions at the end of the worksheet. Post the following sentence stems/frames to help them respond:
    • "I chose these events by ____."
    • "First, ____. Then, ____. After this, ____. Finally, ____. "
  • Place students in meaningful partnerships, and instruct them to share their timelines and responses to the reflection questions. Instruct students to use the chart created earlier as a word bank of transition words as they converse about their timelines.
  • Circulate and listen in on their conversations to gauge their understanding of timelines.
(7 minutes)
  • Lead your students in a 1-3-6 activity.
  • Write the following question on the board: "Why are timelines helpful?"
  • Hand out an index card to each student and post the following sentence stem:
    • "A timeline is a useful tool because ____."
  • Give students a minute to write their answer independently, then have them share their response in a group of three students. Finally, combine two groups of three to get a group of six.
  • Have the group of six discuss their findings and share their main takeaways with the whole class.

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