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Why Teach Timeline Songs?

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

It does actually make a pretty great parlor trick to have your child condense the history of the world into 15 minutes of song, but of course, there are better reasons to do so. Why is it so important to have your students learn a Timeline Song? Grab yourself a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it!

1. Because they can. I will say it again for the people in the back, but children are SPONGES for information. Why just offer them a trickle of information when they can handle much more? My kindergarten students are able to sing through the songs with no problems. In fact, they love showing off their ability to do so! By taking the information off of the pages and putting them front and center in their minds, you are providing them with a wealth of information to use as a resource for the rest of their years in academia. I once had a 7th grader brag to me about how impressed her teacher was that she included so many dates in her essay answers when they were not required, when all she was doing was including what she had learned from the Timeline Song!

2. To provide “clothespins” or scaffolding for future knowledge.

Imagine hanging out a clothes line the length of a football field. Each small event in the Timeline Songs represents a clothespin that is waiting to hang more information on it.

When that information comes, the student now has a pre-existing framework on which to hang that knowledge. When they pick up a picture book about Lewis & Clark, they are able to relate that knowledge to its rightful time and place in history. Later on, they may visit a museum with artifacts from Ancient Egypt. Now they not only have a place to file away that information, but they also have a framework for understanding that the two events were separated by thousands of years. I recently traveled to Washington D.C. with my son’s eighth grade class. When we stopped in to see the Magna Carta on display in the National Archives building, I heard my son explaining to someone that it was written in 1215 to limit the powers of King John. That may be about the extent of his knowledge of the Magna Carta, but because of how he has it organized mentally, he was able to easily retrieve information when he needed it. After leaving, he was able to hang even more on that specific “clothespin” in his brain.

3. To understand their place in human history. I had a parent once tell me that she still gets goosebumps when their daughter gets to the end of the Timeline Song and sings, “Now, it’s my time.” We desire that students see themselves as a part of human history, not just passive bystanders. Since the dawn of, it has become increasingly easier to connect with one's family history. There is a unique sense of connection when you look at the names on your family tree and realize that only 3-4 generations have passed since the Civil War. I often find myself looking at the dates and locations of ancestors to try to imagine what life looked like for them. Maya Angelou once said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again." I’m not so naïve as to think that learning a song will change the world, but I do believe it can lay a foundation for a life-long love of history. If we don’t want our students to relive the same mistakes of the past, they have to at least know about them.

4. To have a framework for understanding the context of historical events. In my classroom, if I want to discuss something that has been shaped by a dramatic event in history, I often ask students to list off some of the events that happened prior to an event in the Timeline Song. One reason we wrote 4 distinct songs is to give students an easy place to jump into songs without starting at Creation every time. For example, if I want to talk about Mozart in my music class, I’ll start with asking about the Classical Period of the Arts… which Timeline Song features it? What sorts of events are listed around it? Which ones might be pertinent to ideas that were important to composers during the Classical Period? Why were there so many revolutions during the time of the Classical Period? Why are there no American composers from the Classical Period? Why might composers emphasize forms and theory over emotionalism during this time? There are so many inferences that a teacher can help students make just by asking good questions based on the information in the Timeline Song.

5. To pique their curiosity to explore the stories of history. Many times I’ve been at the library and had one of my children pick up a book and say, “Look Mom, it’s about Marco Polo in China,” and they start looking through it as if to become better acquainted with an old friend. When presented with a list of people to do a report on, they will almost always gravitate towards the ones who are mentioned in their Timeline Songs. They feel connected to the people and events that they have sung about.

We’ve tried to make teaching Timeline Songs as easy as possible. Because we are so passionate about them, we created an entire subscription level for parents and teachers who just want access to our Timeline Songs and teaching materials. Have questions? Feel free to contact us. Do you have any fun stories about connections your child has made with the Timeline Song? Post them in the comments below.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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