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Using Timeline in teaching the History of the English language to EFL students

The study offers a Timeline tool to solve problems of language competence and teaching history, in particular, the History of the English language to EFL students. Teaching and learning the course “History of the English language” is a tedious experience directed mainly toward memorizing dates and names. However, knowledge of the language’s history is paramount as it explains the influence of culture and other circumstances on all aspects of the language. There are plenty of free tools with excellent features for creating timelines on the Internet. Timelines have a wide range on implementation of possibilities; they can be used for studying time periods or time-bound topics spanning centuries and eras. The research was conducted to evaluate if creation of a Timeline can promote cooperative learning and develop the historical and linguistic knowledge of students. The experiment was carried out among the second-grade students of the specialty “Foreign languages: Two foreign languages” in two Kazakhstan Universities. Each group had to create a Timeline on the grounds of various events, pictures, videos, diagrams, and photos according to the definite period in the English language history. Group learning was a dynamic process considering the students’ different learning styles and different digital skills. Results of the experiment showed that working with timeline is handy and economizes time in highlighting the most important events from the English language history. Timeline technology in the educational process increases understanding of the cultural and historical events by establishing connection and sequences between cultural phenomena and significant events.


Nowadays the study of linguistic and sociocultural processes in their joint interaction is highlighted. It is obvious that it is impossible to consider language phenomena without establishing the conditions and boundaries of the history, culture, economy, social development in the society.

The history of every language cannot be examined without the history of its people. The connection between the history of the language and people is a bilateral relationship that is preserved by the ancient national traditions, ethnographic habits, personal names, events, customs, habits, and historical works. Language is one of the tools that have been preserved throughout the times for many generations. The relations of national history, language, culture, and the influence of culture on language show the national mentality and spiritual values of that ethnic community. The linguistic world is similar to the logical image of the nation’s human mind.

Nevertheless, teaching and learning the course “History of the English language” tends to be a negative and boring experience, limited mainly and simply to reading the comprehension of long pages devoid of timelines and visual materials [1; 93–107].

Alvin R. Sunseri stated that “Educationists continually charge that history is useless and dull, repetitious and tedious, and should be replaced by courses more concerned with present problems” [2; 127–129]. Students, from their point of view, “tend to view history as static facts to be memorized” [3; 672–695]. Cynthia Hartzler- Miller also suggests such a practice as historical inquiry, but its use does not flourish due to the lack of certain knowledge and beliefs among the teachers which make it possible to adopt alternative approaches [3; 672– 695].

What makes history subject less interesting in the classroom is that teachers are mentally not prepared to revise the whole lesson at home. Teaching is teaching when learning takes place and in a subject like a history, our students everywhere copy only notes [4].

The teaching methodology reflects the attitude of the teacher to the purpose of teaching history, and their motivation, in turn, affects their methods. As a result, perception of history by youth becomes questionable [5; 17–22].

As the scientist noted, many students graduate without a high level of foreign language proficiency. In isolation from the linguocultural aspect, a foreign language differs little from Latin — it is divorced from cultural characteristics that affect the quality of communication. Language is integral to the history of a nation, its traditions and social structure. Thus, the study of the history of a language is as important as the knowledge of its grammar [6; 1012–1018].

Halyavin argues that, in the current setting, the teaching of history is declining overall [7; 155]. According to him, the paradox is that with increasing access to information, there is no increase in professional skills among students — the most active part of Internet users. The previous forms of control of student knowledge — essays, various kinds of abstracts of literature, etc. — have become completely meaningless. Students quickly learned to find it all on the Internet and pass it off as their own labor. Moreover, the value of the teacher himself as a carrier and source of information has decreased. According to Halyavin, now information needs to be generated rather than impulsively processed as a text.

Using a timeline of events for a new topic may seem as an impossible challenge, but when provided with context clues that can help students connect events to other occasions, it can be a useful tool to introduce new material. This fact can also be useful to assess student learning at the completion of a unit (Classroom Applications — Teaching with Timelines).

Timeline is a common tool for students to use in the various studies to gather information and to create to demonstrate their knowledge [8; 230–236]. The Internet is full of free tools with excellent features for creating timelines, which, undoubtedly, seem powerful and visual instruments for educational purposes. Timeline can be used for studying time periods or time-bound topics spanning centuries and eras. Timeline helps students in understanding the chronology of historical events.

During the literature review, we explored for usage in the lecturing the course English History for university students 6 timelines that were found free on the Internet.

  1. Office Timeline (“Free Timeline Makers That Save You Hours of Work”) is one of the most professional tools for creating timelines and Gantt diagrams online. Owing to PowerPoint integration, it becomes possible to include timelines created directly to the PowerPoint slides. Office Timeline allows importing files from other platforms and tools such as Excel or Microsoft Project.
  2. Sutori (“Sutori”) is famous for its possibility to use videos and pictures for creating stories that are especially useful for historical events’ representation. Sutori enables exchange in social nets such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google Plus. It also lets its users include audio and video files in the timelines for more efficient and effective cooperation and interaction.
  3. MyHistro (“Geo-Located Interactive Timelines with a Social Twist”) is one of the most innovative free tools for creating timelines. It can serve as a platform for e-learning or for designing maps as well. MyHistro allows not only to include photos, videos, and texts but also to mark their location on Google maps. As Sutori, it provides its users with ease exchange in such social media as Facebook and Twitter. One of its great function is its availability to be used on IOS and Android.
  4. SmartDraw (“Flowchart Maker Org Chart Maker Drawing Program Floor Plan Creator”) is another powerful and effective tool for creating timelines with a large set of ready-made templates for all tastes. SmartDraw automatically rearranges the events every time its user changes in his/her timeline. It also allows exporting timelines in Word format.
  5. Timeline JS (“Timeline JS” — https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline) is open-source with a few functions and highly appreciated as one of the most interactive free instruments for creating timelines. There are also ready-made templates that can be transformed and advanced by more experienced users, who can use various multimedia from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud, Document Cloud, etc. Timeline JS supports 40 languages; so teachers can remove all barriers and use this tool for multilanguage projects.
  6. Tiki-Toki (“Toki Timeline Maker: Beautiful Web-Based Timeline Software”) is a program for creating beautiful interactive timelines and sharing them on the net. This instrument is the only one that allows watching its timelines in the 3D on the Internet.

As the criteria for choosing one program for lectures and practical classes we considered the following:

  1. free online application;
  2. to connect easily with YouTube video, Quizlet, MS Teams, etc.;
  3. to demonstrate and share with peers;
  4. to work easily in distance learning.

According to all the above-mentioned criteria the most appropriate was Sutori; thus, we chose Sutori for its easy interface with simple tools and possibility to export timelines in pdf format. It offers a free version without advertisements.


The main object of the experimental teaching was to ask students to create a Timeline to promote cooperative learning and to develop historical and linguistic knowledge. We tried to consolidate working methods and required tools in order that students engaged with their learning process and develop transversal skills requested by university. These skills were in the subject syllabus: a) theoretical knowledge, b) responsibility skills, c) communicative skills, d) creative skills, e) teamwork.

The specific objectives were that students:

  • Learn to be respectful and critical of the books, journals, internet publications;
  • Create texts, images, graphics in a cooperative way and share them;
  • Improve their oral and written communication;
  • Develop teamwork;
  • Search information on the internet, and be able to filter it critically;
  • Develop learning skills in digital context to construct critical citizenship.

The experiment was implemented in two academic years, 2019–2020 and 2020–2021. After the first year, we assessed and made a reflection about the initial implementation and the students’ acceptance. This innovative experience was carried out by 2 teachers, was implemented in a subject of two Universities of the country. It was a compulsory subject of both Universities.

The participants of the experimental teaching were the second-grade University students of the specialty “Foreign languages: Two foreign languages”. The total number of students was 72. The duration lasted spring term for 15 weeks, from January till May 2020, 2021. There were 6 groups of pre-intermediate and intermediate language levels. The age was mostly 17–19 years old.

The Timeline was presented during an online lesson on the screen of the computer. The teacher shared a link with students. It was up to the type of the lesson.

The proposed Timeline technology was introduced as an interactive learning tool with a graphical depiction of events in chronological order that allowed learners to create story chronicles that included photographs and documents in pandemic distant teaching. It gave students complete control over how they presented their theme, with many options available to use. The participants identified causal relationships between events, classified similar events or camp elements at different times.

Most interestingly, the timeline offers the ability to combine many online programs in one platform. Teacher mixes media, various links, slide shows, images, photos in one presentation. Students enjoy with the use of many interactive interfaces promoting their motivation to learn dull theoretical material.

The historic periods of the History of the English language were chosen according to the syllabus. The events were chosen by the thorough analysis of the scientific literature on the raised issue accounted for 49 sources, 32 of which were written in English since we have been exploring the history of the English language development. We also tried to make our timeline as interactive as possible to engage as many people as possible in the study of the most crucial and significant historical events that had a great impact on developing the English language.

For instance, the New English Period included 10 events such as “Printing Press” [9; 187–189, 217, 233], “The Great Vowel Shift” [9; 220, 222–224, 233], “King James Bible” [9; 56], “Shakespeare's Influence” [9; 217–223], “The First English Dictionary”, “Table Alphabeticall” [9; 216], “The first English-language “Daily Courant” [10; 169], “Johnson's English Dictionary” [9; 256–257], “The Times Newspaper” [9; 373], and “The Oxford English Dictionary” [9; 216, 293, 325].

The Timeline was prepared as a text for reading comprehension. The class was reading a book “Legends of King Arthur”. Students summarized for each part and did tasks in oral and written forms.

All these events contributed to the English language changes and development. For example, “The Great Vowel Shift” affected the long vowels of the English language [11; 7–14], while Shakespeare invented such new words as ‘laughable’ (1596) and ‘moonbeam’ (1600) that entered all English dictionaries. For each event, we chose the text, the video, and the picture because we wanted that our timeline could serve as an electronic book to become aware of the history of English.

To reach the objectives mentioned above, each group of students has to be distributed the tasks to create a Timeline on the given theme.

The Timeline was demonstrated online on the board to the 2nd year students at the university with the help of site Sutori.com. The theme and content were carefully examined, checked beforehand, detailed facts and key data were shown. Students followed the link and learnt various events, pictures, videos, diagrams, photos according to the definite period in the history of the English language. Students made comments, wrote the complete responses on the sticky note, and placed them on the TimeLine board.

They have to summarize texts, present investigations, provide critical analysis of events, presentation of case studies and real experiences, video, short films clips, documentaries, historical movies, westerns, quizzes, tests, tasks.

It was proposed the universal working algorithm with Timeline demonstration:

  1. theoretical overview of the definite period of the History of the English language;
  2. significant events, personalities, places, dates, etc.;
  3. creation of Sutori timeline in groups;
  4. public presentation of Sutori timeline;
  5. comments and evaluation.

As each group had to create a Timeline and share it, the learning was an active and dynamic process considering the different learning styles of students and the different digital skills. The material of all tasks was published on the online platform moodle.enu.kz and all the class could participate in other publications and edited the comments. Evaluation and co-evaluation were used to assess the tasks, particularly the cooperative work.

Results and Discussion

Every lesson was proposed as an evaluation process to know the impact of the innovative experience on student learning. Co-evaluation is where each group was asked to assess three different Timelines from the same group. The students were asked to check the quality of the texts, the constancy of the entries, the formality, the links, historical significance. This evaluation had a formative purpose in the group.

Students observed the history of the Old English Period, for example, by the dates. Students properly worked with each date in this period, checked in the open-ended questionnaire and passed the test. Moreover, a link of TimeLine was attached to the chat and students saved their works in PDF format and shared the link. From lesson observation, for presentation theoretical materials, it took 20–30 minutes and 20 minutes were devoted to Timeline completion and its discussion.

Figure 1 demonstrates the representation of the beginning of our timeline in a part of the Modern English Period at the first point.


The overall volume of our timeline accounted for about 60 pages in the pdf format. It is not too good in our opinion because people, especially students, do not like to read much due to their clip-thinking [12; 289– 292]. Therefore, our current stage of work is to shorten the timetable in its textual part.

However, even now, we can still ensure that such a timetable has great potential to attract people familiar with the history of English because technologies such as timetables make the learning process more comfortable and usable.


Lesson preparation is always time consuming and each work with innovative platforms takes enough time to prepare for the class. During the preparation for the lesson, working with timeline did not take much time. It covered 30–40 minutes for a high-quality lesson planning with different tasks.

Sutori is handy in usage and economizes time in highlighting the paramount events from the history of the English language to pick up the crucial information and people, to be concrete and straight to the point.

We concluded that the timeline board had more advantages than the disadvantages. Firstly, it is time effective to create the presentation on it and construct the chronological events in easy way. The most important advantage is the simplicity to do it and provides numerous opportunities to include quizzes for checking knowledge. Secondly, the Sutori is a free platform and there are no commercials. Thirdly, Sutori is the most convenient to present information in a remote classroom. Sutori multimedia app can be downloaded in PDF and can be enriched with texts, multiple-choice questions, images, video, forums, audio, and “Did you know?”. Sutori was useful in organizing collaborative activities for students in online grouping work, for instance, doing projects, research paper, sharing presentations.

During studying English History, it is hard to provide tasks related to cultural and historical events, establishing cause and consequences relationships between cultural phenomena and events. Implementing TimeLine technology in the educational process facilitates solving these problems effectively.

We use Timeline technology at the Course of the History of English language in university so that to vividly imagine the era in which those events occurred, to compare the historical period with the events in the world. Besides, it promotes the generalization and systematization of theoretical knowledge.

Educators find timelines a useful strategy for a variety of educational purposes. It can be enlarged by recording events from a legend and speeches of historical leaders in a sequential format.


  1. Smith J.T. “Picturesque and dramatic” or “dull recitals of threadbare fare”: good practice in history teaching in elementary schools in England, 1872–1905 / J.T. Smith // Journal of Educational Administration and History, 2014. — Vol. 46, Iss. 1. — P. 93– 107.
  2. Alvin R. Sunseri. Comments on a Methodology of Teaching History. / R. Alvin // Improving College and University Teaching, 1973. — No. 21 (2). — P. 127–189.
  3. Hartzler-Miller C. Making Sense of “Best Practice” in Teaching History / C. Hartzler-Miller // Theory & Research in Social Education, 2001. — Vol. 29, No. 4. — P. 672–695.
  4. Akash M. Who says 'History' is boring? / M. Akash. — 2015. — Retrieved from https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opin- ion/who-says-history-is-boring/.
  5. Donmez C. Pre-service Social Studies and History Teachers’ Perceptions of History and Their Views on Purpose of History Teaching / C. Donmez, C.C. Yesilbursa, A. Altikulac // The Anthropologist, 2015. — No. 19 (1). — P. 17–22.
  6. Garaeva A. The Development of Linguocultural Competence of Students in Teaching the History of the English Language. Procedia / A. Garaeva // Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2014. — No. 152. — P. 1012.
  7. Халявин Н.В. Несколько слов о проблемах преподавания истории в высшей школе (из опыта преподавателя отечественной истории) [Электронный ресурс] / Н.В. Халявин // Историко-культурное наследие народов Урало-Поволжья. — 2015. — С. 155. — Режим доступа: https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/neskolko-slov-o-problemah-prepodavaniya-istorii-v-vysshey-shkole- iz-opyta-prepodavatelya-otechestvennoy-istorii, свободный (дата обращения: 20.03.2021).
  8. Brugar K.A. Timelines: An Opportunity for Meeting Standards through Textbook Reading / K.A. Brugar, K. Roberts // The Social Studies, 2014. — No. 105 (5). — P. 230–236.
  9. Baugh A.C. A History of the English Language / A.C. Baugh, Th. Cable. — Pearson, Boston, 2013. — 405 p.
  10. Allen J. Cset English Subtests i-Iv Book Online. / J. Allen. Piscataway, New Jersey: Research & Education Association Inc., 2015. — 169 p.
  11. Singh I. The History of English: a Students Guide. / I. Singh. — Routledge, London, 2015. — 207 p.
  12. El’bekyan K.S The Peculiarities of the Clip Thinking of a Modern Student / K.S. El’bekyan, Ye.V. Pazhitneva, Ye.В. Marka- rova, A.B. Muravyova // International Journal pf Applied and Fundamental Research, 2017. — No. 4 (1). — P. 289–292. — Retrieved from https://applied-research.ru/ru/article/view? id=11384.
  13. Chkannikova A.D. Using Timeline at the Literature classes. Corporation Rossuam textbook / A.D. Chkannikova. — Lekta, 2018. — 37 p.

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International relations

International relations



Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection between textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics.[

Technical science

Technical science