2. Introducing the concept of chronology

The study of time and the order in which events took place over time is called chronology. This part explores how you can help pupils understand this sequencing of events, the relationship between the order events happen and the outcomes. In using these activities with pupils, you will realise the importance this has on their understanding of the past.

Case Study 2: Ordering events

Mr Ngenda wants to show his Grade 5 pupils how chronology affects their understanding of events. He writes the following sentences on the chalkboard:

  • A body of a man lies on the floor in the room.
  • A man is arrested for murder.
  • Two men go into the room.
  • A man leaves the room.
  • A man screams.

He asks the pupils to rearrange these sentences into an order that makes sense and to provide a reason for why they think the sentences should go in that particular order. Mr Ngenda uses this exercise to show how important it is to place events in a logical order.

However, he also wants pupils to begin to see the connections between events, and how one event influences another. He tells the class about the events in Rwanda since independence from Belgian rule to the genocide in April 1994. (See Resource 1: Some important historical events since independence.) Using some of these events, he and his pupils construct a timeline on the chalkboard. He has selected a short section of Resource 1 so that his pupils are not confused by too much information. He cuts these events up into strips and asks his pupils to put them in date order. He asks his pupils if they can identify the most important events that changed the course of Rwandan history.

Mr Ngenda is pleased that his pupils are beginning to see chronology as the first step in explaining why things happen.

Activity 2: Identifying key events

Ask pupils to use the summaries found in Resource 2: Two histories of Zambia and the account of a strike on the Copperbelt (see Resource 3: Copperbelt strike) to produce a simplified account of 20th-century Zambian history. They should:

  • read through the account;
  • underline what they think are the important events that took place;
  • using the events that they have underlined, create a timeline. Remind them about the importance of listing the events in order;
  • mark on their timeline the event they believe is the key event;
  • explain below the timeline why they have chosen that particular event as most important. In other words, how did that event cause later events?
  • share their answers and, by discussion, agree the key event and then discuss whether or not this key event was the only cause of later events.

1. Building a timeline

3. Comparing African histories