My family in history: Kråkerøy Lower Secondary School

Kråkerøy Lower Secondary School in Fredrikstad municipality, South- Eastern Norway, is undertaking a development project that focuses on source evaluation in particular. In the project called My family in history, students in 8th grade are given the assignment to present the life story of a family member.

In an everyday situation where the students are inundated with information, the project group at Kråkerøy School envisaged a need to teach the students how to sift through information. The goal of the project is to enable the students to better evaluate the relevance and credibility of sources, and then apply the information in their own work. In this manner, the students will improve their skills in writing non-fiction texts.

Studying the ancestors

In other words, the project engages the students in studies of their own ancestry. They choose a research problem and interview a family member on a particular topic from the past. The purpose of this assignment is to regard this person’s history in light of wider historical processes.

In addition to interviewing a family member, the students must identify a number of various sources, such as books on local history, reference books in the school library, pictures and various online sources. The school also invites parents and grandparents to come to the school to share their stories with the students.

As part of the project, the students receive training in information management, such as issues related to copyright and protection of privacy. Kråkerøy School places major emphasis on correct use of sources, and at the start of the project the school hands out a leaflet that not only outlines the assignment, but also includes guidelines for assessment of  sources and preparation of lists of references.

Generates interest in history

My family in history is a comprehensive student project that has a duration of three weeks in the autumn and three weeks in spring. Before Christmas, the students submit a factual interview on which they receive specific feedback. After Christmas, the students should rework this into an article. After the first year, Kråkerøy School recorded a clear improvement in the students’ knowledge of history and the use of sources. In addition, the school has observed an increased interest in history among its students.

The students are also encouraged to submit their assignments to the national competition My family in history, under the auspices of the Norwegian Historical Association. During the 2011-2012 academic year, several of the school’s students made it to the final, and one student achieved 2nd place for his contribution. The statement of the jury praised the assignment for its broad and well-considered selection of sources.

In 2012-2013, Kråkerøy School has expanded the project to encompass also the 9th grade. The students will focus on World War II, and the result will be presented as a digital narrative. In this manner, the project will also link up with the goals defined by the syllabus for multimedia texts, and the school hopes that it will provide some extra motivation to students who find written presentations especially challenging. In the project, the students will see how the same historical event can be portrayed in different ways, depending on the sources used for the presentation.

Journalist in the Norwegian School Library Programme University of Agder