The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority advice on teaching chronology in history comes amid worries about pupils' knowledge of the past. The concern is that students studying specific historical periods in detail are unable to fit them into a bigger picture.
Schools are now being advised that, by the age of 14, pupils should have a wide chronological overview of history from the ancient Greeks to the 20th century.
The history national curriculum for key stage 3 has included a requirement to develop chronological understanding since it was introduced in 1991.
It states: "Pupils should be taught to recognise and make appropriate use of dates, vocabulary and conventions that describe historical periods and the passing of time."
But a QCA spokesman said monitoring had revealed that such an understanding had "not been as well developed as it could have been" and needed strengthening.
Its review of chronological teaching at KS3 was ordered last year by Charles Clarke, then education secretary, after he expressed concerns that children were spending too much time learning about Nazi Germany.
The guidance says that chronological understanding goes beyond merely knowing key dates: pupils should understand chronological terms such as AD, BC, millennium and anachronism and develop a "sense of period" with an ability to relate terms such as Stuarts to people and events.
They should also be aware of different chronologies running alongside each other. For example the Tudor period from 1485-1603 is appropriate for political history but social and landscape history recognises 1540-1640 as a distinct period.
Ian Dawson, from the Schools History Project, who helped to develop the guidance, said: "I think there has been an assumption that simply by doing things in chronological order children develop a good grasp of chronology.
But the pressures of time mean that people don't look and reinforce what has been done before so the knowledge of where it all fits into the big picture can fade."
Alf Wilkinson from the Historical Association said: "This is just what good teachers have done all the time. But sometimes things get lost and you have to restate the obvious."
The guidance includes exercises teachers can use to test chronological understanding. For example matching the following dates and events: 1. 1066, 2. 1215, 3. 1348, 4. 1381, 5. 1415, 6. 1450s. a. Peasants' revolt, b. Battle of Hastings, c. Battle of Agincourt, d. invention of the printing press, e, outbreak of the black death, f. Magna Carta.
(Answers: 1b, 2f, 3e, 4a, 5c, 6d)