This is a teaching aid I think should be in every Sunday school or Children’s Church classroom. When children hear the stories of the Bible, most of the time it is by topic or unit. So they will have a unit on David for 4 weeks and then a unit on Moses for 4 weeks. Next (these are just examples, not absolutes!) the curriculum will jump to the Gospels and there will be a unit on Jesus. This is especially true if it is getting close to the holiday seasons, either Christmas or Easter. Then perhaps the curriculum will jump back to Joshua, or creation, Joseph and his brothers or Daniel and his friends.
Do you get the idea? Most curriculums out there jump around.
Why is this a problem?
Because this lends to a sometimes lifetime confusion about the chronology of the Bible.
How can you fix this in your classroom?
By making a “Timeline” where you can pin the events you are teaching into a linear visual. This enables the children to start to get a grasp on how the events of the Bible fit together.
This is the timeline I had up in my most recent classroom setting.
This timeline was about 8 feet long. It was made of thick foam poster board put together side by side and taped with strong duct tape on the back. On the front, I glued a roll of cork board about 6 inches wide through the length of it.
Next, I marked out a thick “line” made with glitter and glue, so it would shine and stand out.
At the left hand side of the board, I placed a sign pointing left that said “Eternity Past” and at the far right end of the board, I placed a matching sign pointing right that said “Eternity Future” so these points were always discuss-able, and they did come up very often. I would then be able to explain that the timeline was about our world, but God has always existed. (An obviously confusing concept for children) This simple element would help them to begin to grasp that God was there before creation; before the world began. Because of these simple visuals on the timeline, we could also throughout many lessons refer to eternity future and how we would be with God forever in Heaven if we had accepted Him as our Savior.
How it worked:
Whenever a new Bible Character or event was introduced in our current topic, I would have a label pre-made, and attached to a string. Then in class we would pin the bottom of the string to the right (approximately!) chronological spot on the timeline cork board with a colorful tack. The extra room on the top of the white foam boards gave us lots of room for our labels, especially when some events and people seemed very close together.
At one point, while we were doing a unit on the Kings of Israel and Judah, I had to do a “magnified insert” add-on area, so they could see the overlapping of the kings, (color-coded) but they still got a good understanding of how they fit in chronologically with other prophets, etc.
This timeline was one of our most referred to wall decorations, because it was so relevant and interactive to every lesson or unit. Also, it was an easy way for me to explain so many things, like how Jesus, although He didn’t appear as a baby until “this point” pointing out the Nativity on the timeline, still existed in the Old Testament part of the timeline (and eternity past!) and even appeared to many of our favorite Bible Characters before He was born a baby in Bethlehem.
For Children especially, being able to visualize these things in reference to other things helps them to learn and cement it in their minds. It does me too! Here is an overlapping closeup set of pictures that show more of the detail of the timeline I made. Keep in mind that this was done on a low budget, and I am not the most creative person, but this worked great. You can copy this idea, or use it as a jumping-off point for your own timeline and create one that fits your budget and classroom area.
One important thing to mention… a disclaimer of sorts! My ratio of time on this timeline is not perfect, as you have probably noted. In the classroom setting, I try to be as “accurate” as possible about keeping the times in perspective, but this is not the part that will “stick” with children… whether or not Elijah and Elisha are pinned accurately at the year 860-ish B.C. spot or not… but keeping them somewhat in middle between David and Daniel is where I want the children to understand they fall. For accuracy they should have probably been pinned a bit closer to David/Solomon than to Daniel, but you get the idea! The purpose of the timeline in your Bible classroom is to help your students with their Bible Chronology, so they understand that Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (Babylonian and Medio/Persian Empires timing) were more towards the end of the Old Testament in timing than at the beginning, etc. etc.
I had a great shelf that this timeline safely sat on, so I didn’t need to attach it to the wall, but you could in a variety of ways. The way this timeline is made makes it a bit heavy and bulky for wall hanging, but with some added cord on the backs of the sections, it could be hung with those great Command style hooks if you can’t put permanent ones in your walls. Or the command hooks with a specially placed hole in the top corners and middle of the boards to be hung on the hooks themselves, would probably work also. It could also be placed on the shelf of a longer classroom chalk or whiteboard, and just secured along the top so it isn’t prone to toppling off. You can adjust that best-hanging situation to fit your needs and classroom style.
This timeline aid is one of the best teaching aids I have ever employed in my classroom, because it lends itself to a very visual understanding of the timing of Biblical events. It also leads to many great classroom discussions! The visual aspect really helps to cement the realness of the Bible Characters into your children’s minds too, as they see them as real people who lived in our world at a specific time on our timeline, and we “live” on that timeline too!
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