Church Timeline Activity

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was very nice…relaxing and enjoyable. Waking up early this morning to go back to work was not easy!

Tonight is our 4th session on Church history. I came up with another activity that reinforces the Church history timeline powerpoint that I used the 1st two weeks of the unit. Here’s the scoop:

  • I printed out the “slides” from the Powerpoint (37 in all) and fixed each one with cardoard backing (index cards) and “laminated” them (I do home-made laminating using clear packing tape!). I did this so that I can re-use the cards and the timeline for a number of years (hopefully).
  • Each slide card is about the size of a business card with the information from the Powerpoint: title of an event in Church history, the year of the event, a short description, and a picture.
  • I bought a roll of white paper (about 27 in. by 5 yds) and measured out a segment about 8 feet long and used this to create an actual timeline.
  • I used blue painter’s tape (1 in. wide) to represent the timeline across the length of the roll of paper.
  • I printed out 5 slides from the Powerpoint that represent the 5 periods of Church history and pasted those along the timeline.
  • I velcroed the 37 slide cards along the timeline (just above the blue tape) illustrating the events from church history that we have been focusing on.
  • With the velcro now in place, I removed the 37 slide cards and am now ready to do the following activity:
  1. Tonight, we will meet around a long table on which I will lay out the timeline.
  2. I will mix up the slide cards and distribute them at random…about 3 per student.
  3. We will then go through the chapters of the Church history unit of the Finding God textbook, reading aloud the articles that describe the events of Church history.
  4. I will instruct the young people to call out “TIME OUT!” whenever we come to a part of the article that refers to an event on one of the slide cards they are holding.
  5. The student who calls “TIME OUT!” will then place the corresponding card on the timeline (remember, the cards are velcroed to keep them in place) in chronological order.

My hope is that, having visualized the timeline for the first few weeks via the Powerpoint presentation, the young people will have a context within which we will now read the material in the textbook. Likewise, they will have another visual (the paper timeline) to reinforce the Powerpoint visual from previous weeks. Finally, they will be actively involved in the reading of the articles, paying attention to the events being described and matching them with the slide cards they each possess, placing them on the timeline as we chronologically read through Church history.

Next week, I hope to do one final activity with the same paper timeline. I plan to create small cards depicting saints from each of the 5 periods of Church history with short descriptions of their lives that make connections to the various events referred to on the timeline. The activity will challenge the young people to connect these famous people with events on the timeline (velcroing them beneath the blue timeline) so that we will complete the unit with a sense of not only events, but people living lives of holiness along the way.


…I’d like to suggest how you can use the main idea as a simple active-learning activity.

  1. If you’re going to be reading a chapter in the text book (or a section of a chapter), read it over ahead of time, and select a number of key terms and/or key people that you want the kids to focus on.
  2. Take some small index cards and write these key terms/people on them.
  3. Try to come up with enough cards so that each child has at least one, possibly two or three.
  4. Mix them up and distribute them randomly.
  5. Use a poster board to create a Reading Summary Board or Chart. For example, if the chapter is about the Seven Sacraments, the poster can be arranged in such a way that the names of the sacraments and their signs, symbols, and related gestures are to be listed. These would be the terms listed on the index cards.
  6. As you read the chapter aloud with your class, have the students call “TIME OUT!” whenever they recognize a term that is on one of their cards.
  7. They can then come forward and, using a glue stick, afix the card on the Reading Summary Board in the space you’ve designated.
  8. This simply allows you to turn the reading of the textbook into a more active-learning activity that involves visuals and manipulatives.
  9. When you’re done reading the chapter, you now have a visual summary to review with the class.

I hope you get back into the swing of things quickly this week…Advent is right around the corner!


About Joe Paprocki 2747 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

4 Comments on Church Timeline Activity

  1. Joe
    I love this idea. What about another simpler option for someone who might find it overwhelming.
    break up your time line into bite size pieces based upon the number of students.(you suggested that your students would get three cards each so why not divide the whole time line in 3 or do this with each chapter along the way.) give students the cards and ask them to arrange themselves into the time line
    Another option would be to ask them to work as teams to arrange events within a time period for example middle ages or post Vatican II. Then after reviewing the content from the book others in the class can suggest improvements on othe teams timelines.
    We apply a simular activity for students in the younger grades when they are learning their prayers.

  2. Maura, thanks for your feedback and suggestions, both of which are very doable. You illustrate a very important point which is: ADAPT!!! Activities should always be adapted to your own circumstances, preferences, and style. Once you have a main idea, you can go in countless directions with it. That’s half the fun of being a catechist! Thanks again.

  3. I’m going to be introducing my students to the Jewish/Christian timeline this week, first Sunday of Advent.

    First, I always ask the students if they know what a timeline is all about. Hopefully, most, if not all, will know, and I let them explain in their words what a timeline is. Next, I ask them to make a timeline of their lives, which would include Sacraments they have received.

    Then, I continue on with the lesson, looking at the Old Testament Scripture reading for Sunday, which this year comes from Isaiah. Hopefully, they will be able to grasp that the coming of a Messiah was foretold long before Jesus was born.

    I like the idea of the “Time out” activity, and will try to incorporate in upcoming lessons.


  4. Paul, what a great way to usher in the season of Advent! I especially like the timeline of your lives idea…kids appreciate history more when they begin to pay attention to their own history. Let me know how the “time out” activity goes. Have a great Advent.

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