Charting History with Pennies


Students collect pennies and sort them in ascending order of dates. For the year on each penny, students research key events in history and pick a single event, explaining its historical significance. Then students use these events to create a timeline of U.S. history.


On their own, students will research random years in U.S. history and identify key historical events.

Subject Area Connections

  • Coins & Mint


  • 3rd
  • 4th
  • 5th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Time: 0-45 minutes


  • Pennies (20 per student)
  • Paper
  • Pens/pencils to create "date sheets."

Lesson Steps

  1. Ask students to collect 20 pennies - each with a different mint date - and bring them to the classroom.
  2. Have students create a "date sheet" for each penny. (You may want to have students tape or otherwise attach each penny to its sheet of paper.) Then have students sort the date sheets in chronological order.
  3. Have students research events in U.S. history for each year on their date sheets.
  4. On each date sheet, have students note a key event, explaining its historical significance.
  5. Collect all date sheets from students. Post the sheets in chronological order around the classroom, creating a timeline of U.S. history.

Differentiated Learning Options

Use the class timeline to create a Web page or site that electronically charts the same information.


  • Use the students' projects to determine whether the students:
    • Were able to correctly date sheets in chronological order. 
    • Effectively used reference materials to find and research key events. 
    • Accurately explained the events selected and gave supporting facts.
  • Evaluate students' spelling, grammar, and other writing conventions for accuracy.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.