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Celebrate Abe Lincoln:
A Primary Timeline Activity


  • Arts and Humanities
  • Language Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Social Studies


  • K-2

Brief Description

This lesson uses a short history of Abraham Lincoln written for young students to explore the valued qualities of persistence and honesty. Children connect those same qualities in other famous people as well as in those they meet each day.


Students will

  • explore the qualities of Abraham Lincoln that enabled him to overcome obstacles to become our nation's president.
  • create of a timeline
  • make a book about Abe Lincoln.
  • create a portrait of Abe Lincoln; learn how to use a palette to create skin tones from the colors brown and white.


Abraham Lincoln, president, President’s Day, Abe, honesty, timeline, portrait

Materials Needed

  • a copy of the book Abe Lincoln's Hat by Martha Brenner (Random House) from your school, town, or state library
  • timeline paper
  • tempera paints and bookmaking supplies as needed

The Lesson

Prepare in Advance
Prepare in advance a simple report about Abe Lincoln based on facts from the book Abe Lincoln's Hat or another simple biography of Abe Lincoln written for young readers. Include in your report a handful of facts that the students will learn from the book but the facts should be written out of sequence in such a way that many students will realize right away that the report seems odd, disjointed Write your report on chart paper.

Day 1
Begin this lesson by reading aloud to students the book Abe Lincoln's Hat (or another similar Abe Lincoln biography written for young readers). Abe Lincoln's Hat is a "STEP into Reading" book that is very well liked by children. The book is sure to provoke a lot of interest and discussion.

Day 2
Introduce the report you prepared in advance. Share it with students. Read it aloud to them, then have them read it. Express disappointment at how your report turned out. Brainstorm with the students what might help make the report better.

Guide the discussion back to the book and notice/point out that the book is written in a timely/sequential order. If students have not already made the suggestion, you might suggest that writing your report in sequence might help make it better.

Introduce to students the concept of a timeline. Provide them with large strips of white paper to draw their own timelines. (For young students, you might have already created a timeline template/work sheet that they can cut apart and paste or tape together.) On a sample timeline you can mark Lincoln's birth date. Then mark his death date at the end of the timeline. Discuss where some important events in Lincoln's life would fall and mark them on the timeline.

If you teach very young students, you might continue on in this fashion adding more dates and events. If your students are a little more independent, you might have them add dates/events on their own as you reread the book aloud.

Days 3 & 4
Have students use their timelines to write their own books about Abe Lincoln. They should select a few (younger students) or more (older students) events that they feel are most important to include in their books. Have them illustrate the events in their books.

Day 5: Painting a Lincoln Portrait
As an additional project, introduce this activity in which students paint portraits of Abe Lincoln.

  • Draw a simple Abe figure, complete with hat, on the board for children to see and copy onto a sheet of large white paper.
  • Use a painting palette to teach students how they can mix brown and white to create "people colors" for Abe Lincoln's face. Have students paint Abe's face and clothing first. Then
  • Once the paint dries, students can add details (lines, additional coloring) to Lincoln's face.
  • Cut a one-inch border around students' portraits of Lincoln and mount them to black paper. Post students' portraits on pink paper background on a bulletin board.

Day 6: Abe Lincoln as a "Loser"
Discuss the various events in Abe's life again. Point out how Abe was often the loser in elections, but he still wanted to run again. Introduce the word persistent as a descriptor of this quality. Give students an example of how you had to be persistent to accomplish something and ask them to explain times when they had to be persistent too (e.g., learning to ride a bike, asking someone to play a game, learning to tie shoes). Make an "Our Persistent Chart" chart with an example from each student.

Day 7
Plan a birthday party for Abe complete with cupcakes! Students will share their completed Abe Lincoln books with their classmates during this party.


Use a rubric that is consistent with your district's writing goals to grade the projects (timeline, book).

Submitted By

Martha Leslie, Centennial Elementary School in Graham, Washington


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Last updated 2/12/2015