Lesson Plan

Carl Sandburg Through Time - Growing Up (Timeline Activity for Grades 3-5)

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.RI.3, 4.RI.7, 5.RI.3, 5.RI.7, 4.SL.1, 4.SL.5, 5.SL.1, 5.SL.5, 4.W.6, 4.W.8, 5.W.6, 5.W.8
State Standards:
North Carolina Essential Standards
Social Studies
Additional Standards:
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies Standards
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words.


Learning Targets:
• I can compare and contrast connections between myself and Carl Sandburg.
• I can select important events to include in an autobiography.
• I can create a timeline of important events.
• I can describe the difference between a biography and an autobiography


This lesson can be used to plan for a visit to the Sandburg Home or as a stand-alone lesson in the classroom. Students will explore one of Sandburg's literary genres: autobiography through Carl Sandburg's autobiography for children, Prairie Town Boy.




  • Excerpts from "Prairie Town Boy" an autobiography by Carl Sandburg for each group of students. (final pages of pdf lesson plan)
  • Computer and projector or student laptops
  • Notebook paper and pencils.
  • Optional—students can bring in photos or draw pictures to illustrate their timeline.
  • Optional – Carl Sunburg’s childhood autobiography, Prairie Town Boy. (New, used, and digital copies available online on sites such as amazon.com, or check out of your local library.)


Prior to lesson print a set of excerpts from "Prairie Town Boy" found on the third page for each small group of students. Can be copied on cardstock and laminated. Sort students into small groups. 

Activating Strategy
Carousel Brainstorming - Divide students into four equal groups with each group member having a different colored marker. Students will rotate to four different locations that have a piece of chart paper labeled with a topic. Students are to write a one word response to the topic on the chart paper. Give students a short amount of time at each rotation to respond and have the entire groups rotate at the same time. *Prior to this activity you will need to prepare four pieces of chart paper with each paper labeled with only one of the following topics: Carl Sandburg, timeline, biography and autobiography. After rotations are completed, teacher will review responses to the topics whole class.

Teaching Strategy
1. Give each small group of students a set of excerpt cards mixed up, one piece of string or yarn and nine clothespins. Teacher will review the importance of a timeline and how it is created. Students will need to work together to read the passages, sort cards into chronological order and attach cards to yarn to create a timeline of Carl Sandburg. As students are working in groups, teacher will encourage students to make connections between Carl Sandburg and themselves.

2. When the groups have created the timelines, the teacher will pull up the timeline on the whiteboard for the students to check. Discuss the similarities students found between Carl Sandburg and themselves.

3. Teacher will share with students that the information displayed on the cards regarding Carl Sandburg and the fact that it came from his autobiography about his childhood, Prairie Town Boy. Begin class discussion on biography, autobiography and Carl Sandburg. Reinforce the difference between biography and autobiography.

4. Each student will create a timeline of his/her life on notebook paper focusing on only the important events.

5. Students will share their timeline with a partner.

Summarizing Strategy
The Most Important Thing -  Have students complete the following sentence…
"Three important ideas/things form the lesson today are ___________________, ___________________, and ___________________, but the most important thing I learned today is ___________________."





Enrichment Activities


  • Students will create an Animoto (www.animoto.com) or Photostory of their timeline adding photographs or illustrations.
  • Students will use their timelines to write an autobiography of their life.

Additional Resources


Related Lessons or Education Materials

Check out the other lessons in this plan:

Pre-Visit Lesson: Connemara Farm
Pre-VIsit Lesson: Poets and Poetry
Pre-Visit Lesson: Sandburg Through Time - Growing Up

On-Site Lesson: Sandburg Through Time - From Prairie Town Boy to Famous Writer
On-Site Lesson: Sandburg's Writing "Spring Grass"

Post-Visit Lesson: Sandburg Through Time - Autobiographical Poem
Post-Visit Lesson: Sandburg and Lincoln
Post-Visit Lesson: Why Goat's Milk?

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Last updated: July 24, 2015