Beacon Lesson Plan Library

American History Research with Visual Timeline

Carter Hannah
Monroe County Schools


Students write a three page research paper choosing their topics from a Washington, D. C. landmark and create a project depicting their topics to go on a time-line.


The student reads and organizes information from multiple sources for a variety of purposes (for example, supporting opinions, predictions, and conclusions; writing a research report; conducting interviews; taking a test; performing tasks).

The student constructs and labels a timeline based on a historical reading (for example, about United States history).


-Note cards
-Pencils or pens
-Overhead of notecard and copies of instructions for taking notes
-Poster paper
-Computers and disks for word processing (Optional)
-Timeline with topics (created by teacher)
-Hand-out of requirements and dates everything is due
-Pictures of landmarks in Washington, D. C.


This lesson can be used by the classroom teacher or the media specialist to teach research techniques, use of media materials and resources, note taking, and organization of information in the creation of a research paper. Sign out the media center for one hour for Session 1 and an additional 6 half hour time slots for student research. Student research can also be done at additional times or at home. Work with the media specialist to present the lesson and to put materials on reserve. Decorate the media center or classroom with pictures of Washington, D. C. landmarks. Create a timeline using your chosen landmarks. (If your students go on a field trip to Washington, D. C., choose landmarks which they will see). Students can pick their topics from the landmarks you have chosen. For example they might choose George Washington’s Presidency after seeing the picture of the Washington monument.
1. Consult with the Media Specialist
2. Find pictures of Washington, D. C. and display (classroom teacher or media specialist)
3. Make a timeline which incorporates many possible subjects (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, White House, Capitol, FBI, Vietnam War, World Wars, Korean Wars, Senate, House of Representatives, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, etc.) and have as an example for students. You may have students choose their own topics or pick from your timeline.
4. Make copies of materials to be given to students (dates everything is due, form for note cards and bibliography)
5. Have supplies ready—poster board for project, note cards
6. Media Specialist needs to put materials on reserve and arrange for computer research time and if appropriate, word processing time.


1. Session 1 – Ask the students what they know about the Washington, D. C. landmarks they see displayed. After their feedback, tell them that they are going to select one landmark which interests them. They will pick a topic related to that landmark and then will learn how to research that topic so they can write a paper about it.

2. Ask students what they know of research—what are some resources they know of that contain research. (For example: Encyclopedias, Almanacs, nonfiction books).

3. Describe note-taking procedures, being sure to tell them about copyright and putting the notes in their own words. Tell them how to use the note-cards. Hand out an example of how you want the notecards done.

4. Define what a bibliography is and hand out examples of the form you require for all types of media making sure to include examples of encyclopedias, books, periodicals, computer and Internet sources. Have them get with a partner and write a bibliography entry from an encyclopedia and a reference book on a notecard. Have them share the cards and make sure that everyone knows how to write the bibliography entry. Tell them to write a new bibliography card for each new book or resource they use when writing their research papers.

5. Describe the time line and topic choices. Explain the multimedia project. They are to create a poster or other one-dimensional project which depicts the topic.

6. Help students choose their topics and narrow down any topics which are too broad.

7. Give students the requirements for the paper and the due dates for the completed notecards, the rough draft, and the completed paper

8. Sessions 2 – 7 as the students research and take notes, work with individuals as they have problems and facilitate as they research. This should be done in conjunction with the media specialist.

9. When the research is completed, students should be instructed to put their notecards in order of how they want the paper to be written. The note cards are their organizational tools for writing the paper. They have read the information, picked out what is relevant for their reports, and now must organize that information for their papers. The paper must be logical, accurate, and informative.

10. Have students write a rough draft of the paper. This may be done in class or for homework. It may be handwritten or word-processed. Tell them to proof read their papers and to read them out loud before having you correct them. You and the media specialist should work together proof reading.

11. Correct the rough drafts and have the students rewrite the final copies. This may be done with pen and paper or word-processed. Give the students time in class to prepare the final copy of the paper or assign as homework or have them use the computer lab or the media center.

12. Have students create a one-dimensional multimedia project related to their research papers. The art teacher may help with this project and may even have them do this project in art class. The project must include the date of the topic and some representation of the project. For example, the project for a research paper on Thomas Jefferson might be a drawing of the Declaration of Independence or of Monticello and the dates of Jefferson’s life. A paper on World War II might have a drawing of the statue of Iwo Jima with the dates of WWII. (1 hour and homework or in art class).

13. The multimedia projects are scored using a check list. Have the students work in small groups putting the projects in order by date. The posters are then posted around the classroom or media center. You may have the students write their own timelines from the displayed works (30 minutes). This should be a fun project which teaches the fundamentals of a timeline and should give all students a feeling of accomplishment.

14. Grade the research papers using the Florida Writes Rubric or any writing rubric you have created or the attached rubric.


There should be various assessment times during this lesson. The teacher should observe student progress throughout the process. Credit should be given for the completion of the note-taking and for the completion of the rough draft. Notes should be legible and in the student’s own words. Bibliography references should be accurate and written according to teacher instructions. The rubric for grading the research paper should include use of multiple resources (at least 3), evidence of an understanding of the resources used and accuracy in the presentation of the information. Students should be held responsible for writing in their own words and should have presented the material in a logical and informative manner. The information should be organized in a comprehensive way so that the paper is cohesive and comprehensible.
The multimedia project should include the dates and should reflect understanding of the topic. The student should be able to place it on the visual timeline set up in the room and should be able to easily place the projects of classmates on the timeline. This can be evidenced by teacher observation as students work to place the representations in the correct locations.
The check list for the multimedia project should reflect
--theme used effectively
--placed on the time line accurately


For ESOL students and ESE students this lesson is easily modified by reducing the number of resources to be used and the page number requirement. More emphasis can be given to the multimedia presentation.

Attached Files

A rubric for assessment of the research paper.     File Extension: pdf

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