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Timeline of Our Lives

This activity will help encourage students to think about their whole lives from birth until death. It will allow students to compare similarities and differences between one another and will also put the process of becoming adults into the context of their own lives.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Draw a long horizontal line across the board or on a large piece of paper.
    1. You may want to label the timeline with ages from birth-120 years old (the age Abraham died and therefore the traditional number used to demarcate end of life) as benchmarks.
    2. It helps to use slips of paper with tape so you can move them around as events and ideas are added/changed.
  2. Prepare by predicting some common life events (graduations, wedding, sweet 16, having grandchildren, etc.).
    1. To add some variety to your timeline, print pictures to represent these events ahead of time.
    2. Make your own list of events that are important to your community to ensure that all of the ideas are included.

Activity Plan:

  1. Students should sit where they can see the timeline you have set up.
  2. Choose one or two students to be in charge of writing or taping events on the timeline.
    1. Students can also take turns writing up their own ideas.
    2. If parents are in attendance, invite them to participate in this section, as they’ll have a different perspective on the milestones that take place over the course of one’s life.
  3. Explain that the timeline represents one’s life. Ask:
    1. What are the important events that mark transitions, changes, or achievements in our lives?
    2. You may need to begin by giving an example or two. (Birth and death are good starters).
      1. If you want to emphasize Jewish milestones, include texts about other Jewish life cycle events to deepen students’ understanding.
    3. What goals will you have for yourself?
    4. What expectations will your family have for you?
    5. What expectations will your community have for you?
  4. Call on students (or have them call on one another) to suggest important events that happen in a person’s life and mark them on the timeline.
    1. Ask questions as needed to help guide students to include religious and American cultural milestones.
    2. When ideas start to slow down, prompt students with “is there anything missing?” Feel free at this point to suggest things that may be missing.
    3. Some students may disagree about what belongs on the timeline. Emphasize that this is a collective timeline and that not everyone will do everything, but these are many of the options.
  5. Ask some questions for participants to discuss as a class or in small groups (7 mins):
    1. What things on the timeline have you already done? What things will you do?
    2. Are there events or achievements which are not on the timeline that you have done or will do?
    3. Are there events or achievements on the timeline that you don’t expect to do/have in your life?
  6. Then ask the following questions to the larger group:
    1. At what point on the timeline do you become an adult? Have the students share their ideas and see if they can decide on one time period or event as a group.
    2. Is this the same as the age of bat or bar mitzvah (12-13)? Why or why not?
    3. Why do you think the Jewish tradition recognizes people as adults at this age? Do you agree? Why or why not?
      1. What is seen as adulthood in American culture? Why do you think it is different? Do you think the age of adulthood changes based on time and place (e.g. in different historical periods or cultures)? If so, why?
    4. Do you think it’s important to mark the transition of bat/bar mitzvah? Why or why not? What does it mean to you? (Could also add a question that addresses the newness of the bat mitzvah: Do you think this is a meaningful innovation and opportunity for girls? Why or why not?)
    5. Do you feel like you have any special responsibilities now that you are becoming a bat/bar mitzvah? What are they? What rights will you have once you become a bar/bat mitzvah?
      1. What expectations will you have for yourself?
      2. What expectations will your family have for you?
      3. What expectations will your community have for you?

Note: This conversation can really benefit from disagreement because students come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Encourage students to discuss differences and emphasize that these differences are okay.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Timeline of Our Lives." (Viewed on June 25, 2019) <https://jwa.org/node/22152>.

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