Purest Sons—Timelining to Understand

Timelining to Understand: “Purest Sons” (25-60 Minutes)

“Timelining to Understand” activities allow students to place the events discussed in the Basic Plan in a larger historical context.


This activity asks students to discuss the institution of slavery. Please be sure to inform students of this content prior to viewing and remind students of the respect and rigor required to study this history. This is hard history, but it is necessary history to study.


  • Evaluate the significance of historical events before, during, and after the Revolutionary War by.
  • Identify, explain, and analyze connections betweens key events and developments in a broader historical context.
  • Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.


1. Before the lesson:

  • Examine the “Student Timeline” and modify it to fit your curriculum and students. Younger students may need fewer options to choose from. You may also want to add in content from other lessons you have taught or add in other events.
  • Print physical or assign virtual copies of the “Student Timeline” to students.

2. Complete the Basic Plan.

3. Choose a central event:

Depending on your curriculum and students, you may want students to focus on a moment in the Revolutionary War or a moment in the lives of Thaddeus Koscuiszko, Thomas Jefferson, or Agrippa Hull. Choose an event or add one to the Student Timeline document, which students will focus on when creating their six-item timelines.

4. Create the timeline:

Have students work alone, in pairs, or in small groups to create their six-item timeline which includes the central event using the Student Timeline document. Consider having students create a large chart paper version of their timeline. Alternatively, have the students complete a Google Form marking their selections so students can easily see class trends. (15-20 minutes)

5. [Optional] Attempt to come up with a consensus class list

Pair individuals/pairs/groups and have them come to a consensus list, then pair those groups with other groups and repeat the process until the whole class agrees on one final list. (10-20 minutes)

6. Discuss timelines as a group. Consider some of the following prompts: (10-20 minutes)

  • What events did almost everybody agree to include on their initial lists? Why?
  • Which events did nobody include? Why? [You can connect this to significant and enduring points of disagreement that historians have today regarding this era of history.]
  • (If only one or two groups picked an event) You included this, but almost nobody else did. Why do you think it’s important?
  • What’s the best “starting point” if you want to understand this story? Why?
  • Is there one “right” timeline? Why or why not? [You can connect this to significant and enduring points of disagreement that historians have today regarding this era of history.]
  • What traits make an event “significant”?
  • What “throughlines” can you construct between significant events?
  • Are there pieces of background information that are important for people to understand that aren’t on this timeline? What are they? Why aren’t they on the timeline? (This question is designed to help students see that things like societal beliefs are a part of context, even if they can’t be tied to one event.)

Written by Precious Musa, Hannah Barr, Zeynep Ertugay, and Michael Lawrence-Riddell, © Self-Evident Education, 2022