Using the TimeMap of World History with Middle School students


Section 1. What the Timemaps of World History offers Middle School students

Section 2. Suggestions for Activities


Section 1. What the Timemaps of World History offers Middle School students

The Timemap of World History offers students of world history the following:

1. Broad surveys

It will let students quickly and easily survey the rise and fall of ALL the different civilizations and empires of world history.

2. Context

The maps all fit into a single chronological framework, with the same set of dates, the Timemap of World History. This lets students see clearly how each civilization or empire fits into its wider historical context, so that they can easily understand how it relates to world history as a whole.

3. Connections

The maps are at three geographical levels: world, regional and national. The Timemap of World History therefore lets students understand connections between different regions and civilizations, for example in trade, conquest, migration or mission – and how these connections spread changes in government, technology, religion or art.

4. Cause and effect

Because the maps fit into a single geographical and chronological structure, the Timemap of World History lets students see clearly how changes in one part of the world affected other parts of the world; they can see clearly developments in one society may well have their origins in a completely different part of the world.

5. Track any country

The atlas will allow students to track the history of any country in the world, from its origins through to the 21st century. This might be specially useful for students whose families comes from different parts of the world.

Teaching suggestions:

1. Overviews of World History

The idea of this activity is to help students to place civilizations, empires and great events in the context of world history.


It is best done in small groups.

Depending on what period of world history you are studying, go to the Atlas and choose a world map dated to an appropriate time in history.

Using the active timeline beneath the world map, move forward through history.

At each map you come to, hover your mouse over the icons on the regions of the world. You can view brief summaries of what’s happening in those regions at that time.

For the purposes of this activity, don’t worry about following the links through to the regions concerned.

Read the summaries, and jot down the historical events and developments they mention. Remember to note the region in which they occur, and the date.

Wrap up:

In a class discussion, share your lists and see if you can agree on a “class” list of major civilizations, empires, and developments during that period of world history.

Either in groups or in a whole class, discuss the following questions:

Which region of the world was most significant at this period?

Select 3 items from your list which had the most impact upon the lives of the people of the time.

Select 3 items from your list as being the most significant in terms of their impact upon our modern lives.

In a class discussion, share your lists.

2. A Time-Travel Agency

This lesson idea was inspired by a presentation given by Jeffrey Mann, of Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, Arizona, at the NCSS Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado, in November 2010.

I have described the idea with reference to the Ancient World, but it could easily be adapted to other periods of world history.


Rationale: By the end of this unit, students will have a deeper understanding of the Ancient World, and how it was made up of different nations, civilizations and empires, each with their own distinct histories, but each contributing to the larger history of humankind. The activity also encourages students to think about the significance of different civilizations and empires within the ancient world, and what they contributed to human history.

This activity should be done as the finale to a unit on ancient history. It acts as a summary and reinforcement exercise for the period.


Students are the staff of a travel agency in the year 4027 CE. 

It is a Time Travel Agency!

By the year 4027, time travel has become a practical proposition, and travel companies organize cruises to the past. Of course, the tourists can’t influence history in any way – in fact they and their time-ships can’t even be seen by the peoples of the past. But the large time-ships can take hundreds of passengers to any time and place in history and, hovering low over ancient cities and landscapes, give them a wonderful view of what went on.

The students’ task is to design a fortnight-long vacation which involves a time-cruise to the Ancient World. But this is not just any old cruise. This is a cruise for people who want, not only to see fascinating cities and wonderful sites, but to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Ancient World

So, the task is to design an itinerary which will take in sites specially chosen to illustrate ancient history most effectively. They have to be important sites on their own merits, but taken together, they have to build up a clear picture of what was happening in the ancient world – the key developments, the most important empires, the great civilizations and so on.

Depending on the time available, and what the teacher wishes to achieve with their class, the activity can either involve just A, below, or A and B, or A,B and C.

Task A: Design an Itinerary

The cruise takes a fortnight (ship-time) – otherwise the ship runs out of fuel and hundreds of tourists are stranded in a space-time warp.

The time ships take two standard days (ship time) to get from 4020 CE to any location in the Ancient World space-time. Then they can hop around time and space almost instantaneously, so long as they remain within the parameters of 3500 BCE to 500 CE. However, it is best to limit the number of locations to visit to one per day, so that the tourists aren’t overloaded with site-seeing!

Finally, the ships take 2 days to get back to 4017.

You are therefore limited to 10 sites to visit. Each can be a city, or a particular building or monument.

For research, students should use the Timemaps Atlas of World History to identify possible sites and cities to visit. To do this, students might first go to a world map at a particular date, then dip into the different regions (Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia and east Asia) to get an overview of what was happening at those places at that date. This should then give them an idea which sub-regions or countries go to, to identify particular cities or sites that are worth visiting.

The students should then use other sources for further information about what there is to see at the actual sites : Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, if they have access to it online or in the library; or Wikipedia, which often has good articles on individual historic sites, towns and cities.

Task B: Prepare and Deliver a Presentation

The groups prepare a presentation (PowerPoint, Prezi or other), to show their choices and also justify the inclusion of their particular selections. The presentations should show that the locations they have chosen are interesting in their own right, and are also important in helping tourists understand ancient history as a whole i.e. key developments in the human story.

Task C: Create a Travel Brochure

Students create a 6-panelled travel brochures:

The 1st (front) panel will outline the itinerary. It must also “sell” the cruise, and include a title for the cruise.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th panels will describe the locations to be visited, three or four sites per panel. For each site there will be a photo, and a brief description of the site: when does it date from? who built it (which civilization and/or state/empire, and individual if known)? what was its purpose|? why is it worth visiting (is it spectacular? Interesting?Does it tell us a lot about the people who built it? Does it contribute to our understanding of the human story?)

The idea is to “sell” the site, sparking potential tourists’ interest in visiting it.

The 6th panel will be a creative way to advertise their travel agency (this includes the student’s name and class period).

The students finish by presenting their travel brochures to each other in heterogeneous groups of three-five. Each student will fill out a peer analysis feedback form for each of their peer’s brochures, which will be attached to the brochure that is turned in for evaluation. 


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