Section 2 : Investigating how we used to live

Key Focus Question: How can you develop your pupils’ thinking skills in history, using oral and written sources?

Keywords: evidence; history; thinking skills; interviews; questions; investigations

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • used oral history and documents to develop pupils’ thinking skills in history;
  • planned and carried out activities that help pupils gather and use oral evidence to find out about past events.


When we study history as part of social studies, we place a great deal of importance on the sources of evidence that can tell us something about the past.

There are two important ways of gathering evidence about the past – finding and analysing documents that record what happened and using oral history. Oral history is the gathering of people’s stories about particular events. We can also look at objects, pictures and buildings from the past to find out more.

In this section, you will encourage your pupils to investigate documents and conduct oral interviews in order to help build their understanding of their own past. It is important to encourage pupils to ask questions and listen to each other’s ideas, so they develop skills in assessing evidence and drawing conclusions.

1. Gathering oral histories