Create Timeline

How to create a simple timeline

Two examples are used to illustrate a very simple timeline and one that is more detailed.

Six Steps to Creating a Simple Timeline

1. Decide the content to be shown on your timeline.

  • You might do a personal timeline.
  • You might do the timeline of a person you are studying.
  • You might do a timeline for a particular event in history like World War II.
  • You might do a timeline to show development in one area such as Computers.

You should be able to think of many other subjects for a timeline.

2. Make a list of events that you want to include and the dates.

3.  Draw a horizontal line across the page.

4. Divide the line into an appropriate number of spaces and number them.

If you are showing your own life or another persons like, show spaces to match ages. If you are 15  years old, you’d use 15 equal spaces, one for each year. If you are showing the life of your grandmother who is  90 years old, it would make sense to divide the line into 9 spaces. Each space would then represent ten years.

Example: For Jeremy, a 16 year old boy, the line below is divided into 16 spaces. Each space represents one year of his life.

A horizontal line divided into 16 equal numbered spaces.

5. Choose a few of the most important events in your life, events that could be considered turning points.

6. Using the events, divide the chart into periods and create a label for each time in your life. Add a Title if you would like to.

Many students divide their life into child, elementary school, middle school, high school, etc. But this is true for nearly everyone you know. A significant timeline will show important events that were turning points in your life.

Jeremy adds the two events that were turning points in his life. When he was 8 years old, his father lost his job. Though he has been looking for work, he hasn’t found work yet. Jeremy’s mother works two jobs to pay the bills. When Jeremy was 12, he got a newspaper route to help his family. The student added two events and divided his timeline into 3 categories.

Jeremy needed to think about how the three periods of his life were different. You can see on his timeline, how he described the three periods.  Obviously, if he had chosen different events in his life, his categories would have been different.

Look at a more detailed Timeline

I did a timeline of Barack Obama several years ago.  It seemed to me that where he lived at various time probably were the major periods of his life. I used the space under the line to show major periods in his life. It was on the previous page but I’ll add it here too.

order of events but it does not  give you a sense of the time involved.

Timeline Barack Obama

You might compare the two timelines.

1. Obviously Obama has lived much longer than Jeremy, so the spaces on this timeline that indicate 2 or 3 years for Jeremy, indicate 10 years for Obama.

2. On Jeremy’s timeline, the numbers indicated his age. On Obama’s timeline, the numbers represent dates.

3. Jeremy listed only two turning points. For Obama, there were many important events.

4. It would be difficult for someone else to decide how to describe each period of another person’s life. Therefore the categories describe where he lived during each period. This is important in Obama’s life because as he began doing something new, he generally moved to a new place.

5. I added a Title to this timeline. Jeremy could certainly add a title to his.

6. I added color to this timeline. Jeremy could certainly add color to his.


Another example you might find interesting is one that I did of my life.  I have done many timelines of my life, often based on people who made a difference in my life. This time I looked at Books that Changed My Life.

How Books Changed My Life: Complex Material organized into a Timeline


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