Step 3: preparing for the interview 

Getting children to focus on what they should ask the visitor. A rigid, pre-determined set of questions can stifle spontaneity in an interview and should be avoided, but children should be guided into establishing the areas about which they might ask questions. For example, an interview with a retired farmer might focus on how particular aspects of his work had changed since he grew up on the farm as a boy, including the appearance of the farmyard and buildings and the equipment used in the fields to plant and harvest crops.

Learning interview techniques

Initially, work might concentrate on preparing questions. Groups in the class could be allotted a particular aspect of the interview and asked to formulate suitable questions. Some of these could then be tried out in role-play situations in the classroom. The aim of this work is not only to encourage children to think about a range of questions in advance but to examine the quality of the questions: an open question such as ‘How did you plough the fields then?’ will lead to a much fuller answer than the closed question ‘Did you have horses to work with?’ which can be answered with the monosyllabic ‘Yes’.

The importance of listening carefully to what is being said should also be stressed. Children might write down some key questions but they should be encouraged not to adhere rigidly to the list of questions. By listening carefully they should be able to respond to the speaker and elicit further interesting details. Watching other children interviewing and being interviewed in role playing will also give pupils an opportunity to observe the importance of gesture.

Deciding if and how the interview might be recorded. Video or audio taping may be used, but the permission of the interviewee must be sought well in advance. All equipment to be used in recording should be checked and in place before the arrival of the visitor.