Active Learning on

Chronological Understanding

For some reason the mystery of chronological understanding has always been swirling around in my brain. The very first piece I wrote for Teaching History, back in 1979, (yes, 1979) was partly concerned with developing chronological understanding. I think it’s partly because I like overviews – in the language of the Annales school I’m a historical parachutist rather than a truffle hunter although a microlite is a better as well as more up-to-date image for someone who enjoys taking the long-view and seeking the links and comparisons across long spans of time.

This section contains several articles and links to ACTIVITIES, all of which try to unravel some of the puzzle of chronological understanding.

Developing Studentsí Chronological Knowledge and Understanding

This article was written in 2022 as follow-up to a CPD session for SHP. It summarises my thoughts to date on developing chronological understanding from KS3 to A level. It’s a long article as it contains a lot of planning and teaching examples and is ambitious in its aims but hopefully will help departmental planning.

There’s a summary at the end which may be a short-cut! MORE …

‘Seeing the Bigger Picture’

Summary Notes on developing chronological understanding

This article is superceded by the longer one above (Developing Students’ Chronological Knowledge and Understanding: A Final Exploration) – but it may be helpful as a summary of some of the key points I discussed in workshops for Primary and Secondary teachers over the years. MORE …

Chronology for KS2

An introduction to chronological understanding together with resources to enhance KS2 pupils' learning. MORE …

Example Activities that help develop Chronological Understanding

The following list gives a sample of activities on this website which help develop chronological understanding.

However, you can find more in the All Activities list on:

Overviews HERE …

Non-period activities HERE …

The Big Human Timeline

Use your students to create a memorable timeline that will help them understand all kinds of issues of chronology

Wine Gums, Timelines and Really Big Overviews

The only edible timeline in existence, guaranteed to stretch and develop students’ chronological understanding.

Making sense of BC and AD

Turn you pupils into a timeline and accelerate their understanding of vital chronological terms

Timelines for Understanding Duration

Simple techniques for developing a key aspect of chronological understanding

Using family generations to link back to past events

Create a timeline of your family's generations to travel back in time to …

Personal memories as stimulus for creating or summarising a sense of period

Using your own memories to model the key features of any period

More on Chronology:
Articles from ‘Teaching History’

What time does the tune start?

From thinking about ‘sense of period’ to modelling history at Key Stage 3. Download the ‘Enquiry & Sense of Period’ Article [ MORE … ]

Thinking Across Time

Planning and teaching the story of power and democracy at Key Stage 3. Download the article [ MORE … ]

Time for Chronology?

This article originally appeared in Teaching History in 2004. Look closely and you may pick out some of the ideas that have found their way into the NC KS3.

MORE … ]

Diachronic Dancing

Alan Kelly’s fascinating quickstep through the issues of developing understanding ‘over time’ – that’s what diachronic means!

MORE … ]


Chronology Section

Developing Students' Chronological Knowledge and Understanding

‘Seeing the Bigger Picture’ (summary notes, updated in article above)

Chronology for KS2

Example Activities

Articles from
‘Teaching History’