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 Ademola wants to show his Primary 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 Ademola 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 Nigeria since independence from British rule to the present democratic rule. (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 Nigerian history.

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

Activity 2: Identifying key events

  • Give pupils, individually or in groups, a copy of a story from a local newspaper; or you could read the story to them and ask them to make notes as they listen; or you could copy the story onto the chalkboard for pupils to read. Choose the story for its interest and the sequence of events it contains.
  • Ask pupils to:
    • read through the story;
    • 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