Using archives creatively
Children need to understand how real historians work, using actual sources, analysing these and making educated guesses about what they might mean. Often this takes the form of using artefacts and/or visiting a castle or historic house, for example. However, in order to support and deepen learning and understanding we should also be introducing children to source documents of different kinds. They should be introduced to how and why these documents were produced and by whom. Analysing the particular source then becomes easier as children are introduced to the idea of questioning the evidence they are presented with. This is not an easy skill for children to learn but they can begin to grasp these concepts if they are developed carefully and appropriately. Scaffolding the children’s learning by introducing a small selection of carefully chosen archive documents can stimulate their curiosity and encourage them to develop enquiry skills in a context which is meaningful and relevant. If the documents are about local people, who lived in their village or city, their attention is all the more easily captured.