2. Investigating a historical event

As well as using oral histories to find out about life in the past, you can use written records with your pupils.

In this section, we look at how different sets of records can help pupils build up their understanding of the past. In Activity 2 and the Key Activity, pupils explore written records of past events and conduct oral interviews with community members. How you organise and gather resources together is part of your role and advice is given on how you might do this.

Case Study 2: Using written records to explore past events

Mr.Peter Arhin is a teacher of Class 6 at the Catholic School in Cape CoastGhana. The 27th anniversary of the June 4 1979 uprising is coming up, and he remembers that soldiers from the air force played a central role in that event. He wants his pupils to honour the role that the soldiers played and the anniversary by creating a display.

He sends his class to the library where they read up on the events of 4 June 1979. Two local newspapers, The Times and The Daily Graphic, have just published supplements commemorating the uprising and the role of the men from the air force, which he reads extracts from to his class to stimulate interest. These articles contain profiles on over 20 of the prominent soldiers, their lives and what has become of them. Many are now famous politicians, renowned business people or intellectuals.

He divides his class into groups and asks each to identify one of the leaders, and to research and then write a profile of that person on a poster, for display in the school hall. The poster must include how they were involved and what happened to them both then and now.

The pupils then plan to present their findings to the whole class. Some of the pupils speak at assembly with their posters displayed around the walls.

Resource 3: The June 4 1979 uprising gives some background information.

Activity 2: Researching an important date in history

This activity is built on a visit to a national museum, in this case the Armed Forces Museum in Accra, but you could use a more local site for a visit. (If it is not possible for you to visit a museum, you could collect together some newspaper articles, pictures and books to help your pupils find out for themselves about an event.)

  • Decide on a particular historical event that you wish your pupils to investigate during the visit to the museum (or in class if you have the resources), e.g. the role students played in the uprising in Ghana on 4 June 1979. It is important that you focus the attention of your pupils on a particular event, since museum exhibitions often cover many years of the past.
  • Divide the class into groups, giving each a different issue or aspect of the historical event to focus upon.
  • Discuss what kinds of questions they might need to find the answers to as they read and look at the exhibitions (if at museum) or materials (if in school).

Back in class, ask the pupils in their groups to write up their findings on large posters. Display these in the classroom or school hall for all to see.

1. Gathering oral histories

3. Thinking critically about evidence