There are several tools that specialize in creating a timeline. Some require accounts and logins, which are tricky with CIPA and COPPA, and some just aren’t free. Then there’s PowerPoint, which you and your students probably already have complete access to.
PowerPoint online has 1 style of Timeline and the desktop version of PowerPoint has 2 styles of Timeline, Basic and Circle Accent. In both cases, they are under the Insert tab, under Smart Art.
Basic versus Circle Accent
The Basic Timeline essentially displays two levels of text- level 1 creates a new event on the timeline and level 2 describes that event. In the Circle Accent Timeline, Level 1 text creates a large circle and Level 2 creates a small circle, allowing for differentiating between major and minor events, or separating events into chronological categories. (For example, centuries, successive empires, WWI and WWII, etc.) Level 3 text gives details about a level 2 event, and appears above the timeline instead of below.
Once you insert the timeline, you can then edit.
Editing the Circle Accent Timeline
For the Circle Accent Timeline, Click in a text box to edit the text.
To add or remove circles and text, click on the arrow to the left of the timeline. You can also edit text here.
Add another line by pressing enter. By default it will be the same “level” text as the line above it. Press tab to move from level 1 to 2 or 2 to 3 (Indent on the outline to the left) Level 1 is the large circles. Level 2 is text under the small circles, and level three is text above the small circles. Use shift+tab to move from level 2 to level 1.
To change the color of text, click on the format tab and change the Text Fill. To change the color of the circles, use Ctrl to select all the circles you want to change, then use shape fill, also under the Format tab.
You don’t have to color in sequential groups like I did. For example, in a timeline of the Civil war, you could have one color for battles, or even one color for battles won by the North and a different color for battles won, another color for major legislation (like amendments to the Constitution), etc.
Editing the Basic Timeline
The basic timeline works very similarly, except that there is really only 2 levels of text. If you make something level 2 it appears under the level 1, and making it level 3 just indents it under the level 2 text. In order to add a new item on the timeline, it has to be level 1.