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 Adamu is a teacher of Primary 6 at the Government Primary School in Kanamana Yobe State in Nigeria. The anniversary of the Nigerian Civil War is coming up and he wants his pupils to think about the events that led up to the war.

He sends his class to the library where they read up on the events. Two local newspapers, The Star and The Guardian, have just published supplements about the war and he reads extracts from these to his pupils to stimulate their interest. These articles contain profiles of the lives of some of the people who were involved. He divides his class into groups and asks each group to take one of these people 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 has happened to them since.

Mr Adamu’s pupils then plan to present their findings to the whole school. Their posters are displayed around the hall and some of the pupils speak at the assembly.

Resource 3: The Nigerian Civil War gives some background information

Activity 2: Researching an important date in history

This activity is built on a visit to a museum, in this case the National Museum in Onikan, Lagos, but you could use a more local site. (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 women played in the Aba riot in October 1929 (see Resource 4: The Aba women’s riot). It is important that you focus the attention of your pupils on a particular event, especially if they are visiting a museum covering 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