Category: Teaching resources

The history game

This is part of me trying to share the things that work best in my lessons. Unfortunately, this one starts a little weird, as it’s probably not going to be great for you without some modification. My version is all the way at the bottom of the post.


The history game

You won’t believe this, but I didn’t have a single intermediate to advanced group that didn’t get into sorting historical events. The idea is that students are given events from different ‘timelines’ (their town, their country, the industrial revolution, basic American history, whatever) and have to sort them into order.

Sure, we all know that the Declaration of Independence was signed before George Washington became president, but was that before or after the local landmark church was built?

Gameplay

I generally ask the students something like, “who do you think knows more about history, you or the person on your left?” And we sort of all talk about the other people’s history knowledge, never our own. (Because that gets more talking done.)

Then, I say we have a history test, and we’ll see. (My students all know that the ‘tests’ aren’t real, and they still get wound up.) They all insist they’re not “good at history.”

I spread out a lot of events — without year — on individual strips of paper and I make one end of the table the future, and the other end the past, and say “The rules are simple:

  • You turn over a paper and read it out loud. Then, you just fit it into our timeline. I’ll start with (takes paper), “JFK is born. Hmm. I think that happened between the future and the past.”
  • The next person turns over a paper. And has to fit it into the timeline. “First steam engine invented.” That was clearly before JFK was born…
  • As the game continues, we can all discuss where an event fits, but only the person who turns it over gets to make the final call. That leads to a lot of “do you think Bismark had a chance to read ‘Das Kapital’?” conversations.
  • When we’re finished, we’ll check our results. Originally, I didn’t think this was an important step, but after so much energy is invested in it, it’s a hit.

Generally, we’re all impressed by some surprising things (the American wars against the Indians ended in 1924! Who would have guessed?) but impressed at how well we’ve done.

The prep

At the bottom of the post is the stuff that I use, but it’s pretty tuned to Dresden, Germany. The thing is, there are a lot of different timelines on Wikipedia, and I took events from different ones that I thought my students should know, and sorted them into one single timeline.

I took events from:

And I put them together. I’m not going to lie, I invested an hour or so in making this (which is why I’m sharing it). That’s more than I generally invest in a single lesson, but it was a winner across five different intermediate / advanced groups and I’ll be keeping it in my back pocket as an activity for when I fill in for a colleague or whatever.

My version

This is what I use. I copy the events twice, using the first list as the answer key and printing the second set larger and without the years in order to make the papers for the table.

7500 BC: Oldest known people in the area of Dresden

742: Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was born

800: Saxony was founded

962: Holy Roman Empire was founded

1434: The first record of the Striezelmarkt is made

1455: Gutenberg Bible was first printed

1492: Christopher Columbus lands in Puerto Rico and ‘discovers’ America

1517: The reformation started

1624: New York City (then, New Amsterdam) was founded

1670: August the strong was born

1681: Pennsylvania founded

1710: Production of Meißner Porzellan was started

1712: First steam engine was made

1743: The Church of our Lady was built

1749: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born

1776: The American Colonies declare independence

1787: The Constitution of the United States was signed

1788: The Abitur was introduced in Prussia

1789: George Washington became President

1814: The Great Garden was opened to the public

1815: Otto von Bismarck was born

1816: Steam locomotive that runs on rails patented

1818: Karl Marx was born

1820: Zugspitze climbed for the first time

1830: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) was founded

1839: Railway between Dresden and Leipzig opens

1848: The “Communist Manifesto” was published

1849: May uprising in Dresden

1870: Deutsche Bank was founded

1871: The German Empire was founded

1889: Adolf Hitler was born

1892: The diesel engine was invented

1893: Blue Wonder Bridge was constructed

1895: First Nobel Prize was awarded

1911: Ronald Reagan was born

1917: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born

1918: King of Saxony abdicates (quits his job)

1924: The ‘wars’ against the American Indians (native Americans) ended.

1934: Udo Jürgens was born

1945: Dresden was bombed

1946: Donald Trump was born

1954: First German World Cup victory and Angela Merkel was born

1956: First Eurovision Song Contest

1959: Hawaii becomes a state

1961: Barack Obama was born and Berlin Wall was built

1976: Apple (the computer company) was founded

1990: Germany reunified

1991: First BRN was held

1992: Soviet forces were withdrawn from Dresden

2002: The 100-year flood happens

2014: Last (most recent) German World Cup victory

Oldest known people in the area of Dresden

Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was born

Saxony was founded

Holy Roman Empire was founded

The first record of the Striezelmarkt is made

Gutenberg Bible was first printed

Christopher Columbus lands in Puerto Rico and ‘discovers’ America

The reformation started

New York City (then, New Amsterdam) was founded

August the strong was born

Pennsylvania founded

Production of Meißner Porzellan was started

First steam engine was made

The Church of our Lady was built

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born

The American Colonies declare independence

The Constitution of the United States was signed

The Abitur was introduced in Prussia

George Washington became President

The Great Garden was opened to the public

Otto von Bismarck was born

Steam locomotive that runs on rails patented

Karl Marx was born

Zugspitze climbed for the first time

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) was founded

Railway between Dresden and Leipzig opens

The “Communist Manifesto” was published

May uprising in Dresden

Deutsche Bank was founded

The German Empire was founded

Adolf Hitler was born

The diesel engine was invented

Blue Wonder Bridge was constructed

First Nobel Prize was awarded

Ronald Reagan was born

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born

King of Saxony abdicates (quits his job)

The ‘wars’ against the American Indians (native Americans) ended.

Udo Jürgens was born

Dresden was bombed

Donald Trump was born

First German World Cup victory and Angela Merkel was born

First Eurovision Song Contest

Hawaii becomes a state

Barack Obama was born and Berlin Wall was built

Apple (the computer company) was founded

Germany was reunified

First BRN was held

Soviet forces were withdrawn from Dresden

The 100-year flood happens

Last (most recent) German World Cup victory

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