History at key stages 1 and 2 (Year 3/4) Section 6

Section 6. How can oral sources help us to find out about how people lived?


Children should learn:
  • to initiate and pursue specific lines of questioning
  • to develop listening and note-taking skills
  • to differentiate between fact and opinion
  • that historical accounts are often influenced by personal opinion



Identify a topic of interest about the local area and discuss possible questions that could be asked of a visitor to the school who is able to talk about changes over time in the local area. Encourage open-ended questions such as Can you describe your day/house/work/journey/school? What was it like to…? How did you…? What do you remember about…?
Compile a short list of agreed questions and make sure that the children are clear about the purpose of the interview.
Before the visitor comes into school to answer the questions, ask the children to practice interviewing teachers, family and friends. Collect information during the interview by taking notes or recording on tape, or by holding a follow-up discussion and summarising the main points.
Help the children to identify the facts from the visitor’s opinions.



  • collect information about the area from oral evidence
  • summarise the information collected
  • identify facts and opinions


Points to note

This activity will need to be planned well in advance. Local history societies, the library, parents, governors and staff would provide a good source of suitable ‘visitors’. The visitors will need to be briefed about the children and the teacher’s expectations.
Questions might be linked to another source studied such as a map, photograph, building or artifact. Using this technique can help put visitors at ease.
Oral history is the only historical source that allows dialogue. This gives the opportunity for extracting answers to specific questions. Older children should be encouraged to pursue lines of enquiry in more depth to gain the detail they want.