Civil War Timeline Project Ideas

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

The U.S. Civil War is studied in classrooms across the country from elementary to high school. One great way to organize the causes, events and effects of the Civil War is through a timeline. These projects are created for students of all ages.

The U.S. Civil War

From 1861 until 1865, the United States was a nation divided during a civil war over the issues of states' rights and slavery. Although the war lasted only four years, there were significant events leading up to the war, and the effects of the war lasted long after 1865. When doing Civil War projects, it is important to include major events that led to war (like the Election of 1860, Bleeding Kansas, etc.). It is also possible to combine this with a Reconstruction unit and include things such as the 13, 14 and 15th Amendments, Johnson's policies and the rebuilding of the South. For each of the projects below, you will see an overview of the project followed by specific instructions based on student level. Choose the project that best meets the needs of your students.

Sticky Note Timeline

The sticky note timeline is something that students will add to throughout the unit. After learning about each day's lesson, students will create a sticky note(s) for the events they learned about that day. Then, they will add the events to a large timeline. This is something students will add to daily. Their final project will make for a great review tool before a unit test. Each sticky note should include a date, a title for the event and a description of what occurred.

  • Elementary Adaptation: In elementary school, students will most likely need guidance on what events to include on their timeline. At first, have these discussions as a class and model creating the sticky notes. As you move through the unit, gradually give students more autonomy in picking events. This may include working in small groups, then pairs and finally independently. As students have more responsibility in picking events, ensure that you monitor their choices so that they are picking the most relevant things.
  • Middle and High School Adaptation: In older grades, students should be responsible for the events on their timeline. Give them parameters for the timeline (begin around 1850, mark every 5 years, etc.) and model the first sticky note, but then students should do the rest on their own. This could make a great exit card for the end of each day or as a homework assignment--give students 10 minutes at the end of class to create the sticky notes for the content from that day.

Review Timeline

A review timeline is a great way to do test preparation at the end of the unit. Once students have completed all content, they will be creating a timeline of the important events and explaining how each event influenced the overall war.

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