Interviewing A Parent

Learning Objectives

  • Students will complete a personal interview in order to discover important information about family history and interesting family artifacts.
  • Students will analyze statements from the interview in order to prove the accuracy of these statements, as well as to discover where to search for additional information about family history and interesting family artifacts.

Teaching Stratedgies

Before students begin their own investigations, you may want to have them watch a full History Detectives investigation, Ernie Pyle's Typewriter. As they watch, have students look for the basic steps of investigation: observation, hypothesis, testing and conclusions.

Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

Watch the full episode of this story from Season Five.


  • Discuss with students that often the most interesting finds are waiting to be discovered in unlikely places, sometimes even right under their noses or even right over their heads. Inform students that they will be working in groups of 4 to search their attics or basements in order to discover items of historical significance.
  • Explain that students will split into groups of 4. Each student in the group will begin by interviewing one parent.
  • Have students prepare a list of questions they will ask their parents. Stress that it is important to create a prepared list of questions so that they are sure not to miss any important details. Make sure the questions are general enough that they will fit enough situations. You may want to emphasize that students should ask questions about family history, family heirlooms, the history of the house, and the history of any areas where the family has lived.
  • Remind students that parental permission and supervision will be necessary, so part of the interview will consist of asking each parent if the students will be allowed to come over and search.
  • Have students compare their lists of questions. Ask them if they found any questions they would like to add to their list now that they have seen others. Does it matter in what order the questions are asked?
  • Assign as homework to students an interview with their parents. Make sure all questions on the list are answered. Inform students that they may add additional questions to the list or ask follow-up questions as necessary.
  • To help students prepare for their parent interviews, have them watch one or all of the extended interview video clips below. While they are watching, ask students to observe and reflect on good interview techniques such as listening carefully, asking follow-up questions, making eye contact, etc.
  • Once the interviews are completed, they will then decide which house to search for historical artifacts.


Houdini Interview

More of Gwen's interview with magician Lance Burton in Las Vegas from the Houdini Poster story.

Houdini Interview

Watch more of Gwen's interview with magician Lance Burton.


3D Cuban Missile Crisis

Wes discovers more about the Cuban missle crisis.

3D Cuban Missile Crisis

Wes discovers more about the Cuban missile crisis.


Mayme Clayton's Collection

Gwen speaks to Avery Clayton about his mother's incredible collection of African-American history and memorabilia - the world's largest.

Mayme Clayton's Collection

Gwen speaks to Avery Clayton about his mother's collection.


Standards From MCREL Standards


Standard 3.1:

  • Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns
  • Knows how to identify the temporal structure and connections disclosed in historical narratives.
  • Knows how to develop picture time lines of their own lives or their family's history.
  • Understands patterns of change and continuity in the historical succession of related events.


Standard 3.2:

  • Understands the historical perspective
  • Knows how to evaluate the credibility and authenticity of historical sources.
  • Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos; magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay).


Standard 21.1:

  • Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
  • Compares and contrasts the credibility of differing accounts of the same event.
  • Understands that when people try to prove a point, they may at times select only the information that supports it and ignore the information that contradicts it.
  • Understands that to be convincing, an argument must have both true statements and valid connections among them.
  • Evaluates the overall effectiveness of complex arguments.
  • Identifies techniques used to slant information in subtle ways.
  • Identifies or seeks out the critical assumptions behind a line of reasoning and uses that to judge the validity of an argument.


Standard 21.3:

  • Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences
  • Orders information and events chronologically or based on frequency of occurrence.
  • Compares different sources of information for the same topic in terms of basic similarities and differences.


Standard 21.6: Applies decision-making techniques

  • Secures factual information needed to evaluate alternatives.
  • Predicts the consequences of selecting each alternative.
  • Makes decisions based on the data obtained and the criteria identified.


Standard 22: Working With Others

  • Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
  • Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.