History sample unit Past and Present Family Life

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History sample unit

Past and Present Family Life

Stage 1

Duration: One term (10 weeks)

Unit description

Key inquiry questions

This topic provides a study of present and past family life within the context of the students’ own world. Students learn about similarities and differences in family life by comparing the present with the past. They begin to explore the links, and the changes that occur, over time and are introduced to the use of historical sources.

  • How has family life changed or remained the same over time?

  • How can we show that the present is different from or similar to the past?

  • How do we describe the sequence of time?


Historical skills

Historical concepts

HT1-1: communicates an understanding of change and continuity in family life using appropriate historical terms

HT1-4: uses skills of historical inquiry and communication

The following historical skills are integrated in the lesson sequences:

Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • discuss and recount stories of family and local history

  • sequence familiar objects and events

  • distinguish between the past, present and future

Use of sources

  • explore and use a range of sources about the past

  • identify and compare features of objects from the past and present


  • explore a point of view within an historical context


Explanation and communication

  • develop a narrative about the past

  • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written, role-play) and digital technologies

The following historical concepts are integrated in the lesson sequences:

Continuity and change: changes and continuities in family life over time

Cause and effect: what may have influenced changes in everyday life over time

Perspectives: different points of view held by people from the past

Empathetic understanding: why people in the past lived as they did

Significance: the significance/importance of a family event in the past


Teaching, learning and assessment


Differences in family structures and roles today, and how these have changed or remained the same over time (ACHHK028)

  • Read Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are (or another story on families) to the class and recall discussions and findings from Early Stage 1 about how individuals and families are similar and different. Summarise both similarities and differences.

Adjustment: Provide a graphical representation of similarities and differences to aid recall.

  • Students represent graphically the structure of their family through either a drawing or a simple family tree.

Adjustment: Students can bring in a family photo and write or record a sentence to describe the members of their family.

  • Provide sources such as photographs of families approximately 100 years ago.
  • Students pose a range of questions as if they were detectives trying to find ‘clues’ that there were differences and similarities to families today, such as the number of children and adults, clothing worn, the stiff formality of the poses. Introduce relevant vocabulary to use in the discussion, and ask students to begin their sentences with phrases such as ‘in the past’, ‘then and now’, ‘today’, ‘years ago’ and ‘in the olden days’.

Assessment activity 1

Using a graphic organiser, students record similarities and differences between families in the past and families today under the headings ‘Families: Then’ and ‘Families: Now’.

Adjustment: Students bring in a photograph of a grandparent or older family member and a photograph of themselves. They construct a table and place the photographs at the top of each of two columns. Students then write words to describe their family member and themselves. Once completed, guide students to identify words that show differences between the family member and themselves.

  • Introduce the range of roles within families today and focus on one or two that have changed over time, such as the roles of women. Using old magazines/newspapers/digital downloads, students locate and collate photographs of modern women performing a range of roles and make a display with the heading ‘Women Today’, eg scrapbook, collage.

  • Students discuss the roles of women they know.

  • Provide a range of sources, particularly photographs of women 100 years ago in a variety of roles (they will be mostly domestic), eg cooking, washing, cleaning, chopping wood, child care. Encourage students to pose questions and to make observations.

  • List their findings and record under the headings ‘Women: Then’ and ‘Women: Now’. Discuss what is similar and what is different (change and continuity).

  • Students may write a recount beginning with ‘In the olden days, women…’, followed by ‘Today, women…’.

Adjustment: Provide students with a range of images of both historical and contemporary women performing roles. Students categorise each image as either ‘Women: Then’ or ‘Women: Now’.

Resources are suggestions only

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Who’s in a Family by Robert Hauskerr

Me and My Family Tree by Joan Sweeney

Old photographs of family groups

Scan and save

Graphic organiser

Selection of magazines/newspapers

Old photographs of women in various roles

Differences and similarities between students’ daily lives and life during their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods, including family traditions, leisure time and communications (ACHHK030)

  • Read several stories that focus on life in earlier times. Ask students what was similar and what was different. If appropriate, sequence the events in the story and discuss a simple example of cause and effect.

  • Tell a family story of your own and ask students what they know of any ‘old’ story told in their family. Students inquire at home about an ‘old’ family story and retell it at school. Discuss with the class how such stories are remembered over time and that they may vary depending on who is telling the story.

Adjustment: Students may ask a member of their family to record/podcast/webcam a family story for the student to play back to the class. Alternatively, the family member may email the teacher, who may read the story to the class. Students introduce the story and give a one sentence explanation of what the story is about.

  • Explain that the class is to examine life in earlier times compared with their lives today. Show a selection of photographs of children over time and ask students to categorise them into ‘the present’ or ‘the past’ and to justify their decision. What clues were in the photographs to help them decide, such as clothing, toys, transport? (Often, clues are found in the background of photographs.) This can be done as a jigsaw/group activity. Brainstorm how they will find out about lives in the past and record findings. Use FreeMind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeMind) or other similar software to develop mindmap either individually or as a group on a board.

Adjustment: Provide students with selected images that depict obvious differences between the past and the present. Provide sentence starters to help them justify their decisions, eg ‘I know this picture is from the past because …’.

  • Invite an older guest speaker (or videoconference/Skype) to talk about their childhood and schooling and encourage students to ask questions. Introduce the idea of oral history and that they are to be historians and ask questions of an older member of the family or a friend/neighbour about their childhood. Brainstorm the sort of questions that could be asked (open-ended questions that invite more detail).

Adjustment: Provide a model question that students may ask the guest speaker. Scaffold simple questions that students may ask their older family member/friend/neighbour.

  • Students report back on their interview with an older member of the family or a friend/neighbour and the class collates their findings under the headings ‘Children: Then’ and ‘Children: Now’.
  • Using photographs of toys from the past and the present (or actual toys if you can find them), have the class classify them as ‘in the past’ or ‘in the present’. Old-fashioned games could be played, such as quoits, blindman’s buff, pin the tail on the donkey, tiddlywinks, straws, skipping, marbles, jacks, etc.

  • Students ask parents and/or grandparents what toys they played with when they were children. They draw these and make a classroom display and complete a comparative chart of ‘Toys Today’ and ‘Toys Not Used Today’. Students complete the following sentences: ‘I like the games played in the past because …’ and ‘I prefer the games played today because…’.

Adjustment: Students may bring in a family toy that once belonged to a family member OR a toy from their own childhood. Students may share with the class why their family member’s toy is important to them OR why their toy is special to them.

Papa and the Olden Days by Ian Edwards

My Great Grandma by Brenda Parkes

A selection of fables or fairy stories that teach a lesson or moral.

The Hare and the Tortoise by Aesop

A selection of Dreaming stories (the Australian Museum Sydney has recordings of Dreaming stories on its website)

Old photographs of aspects of children’s lives, such as school days, childhood toys

Photographs of toys or actual toys

Older games, such as quoits, tiddlywinks

Toys (History of Objects Series) by Karen Bryant-Mole (also Clothes, School)

How the present, past and future are signified by terms indicating time such as ‘a long time ago’, ‘then and now’, ‘old and new’, ‘tomorrow’, as well as by dates and changes that may have personal significance, such as birthdays, celebrations and seasons (ACHHK029)

  • Create an illustrated timeline around the room indicating months and seasons. As the year progresses, birthdays, public holidays and festivals could be added.

  • Using My Place by Nadia Wheatley, cut out each page and laminate them, removing the dates at the top of each page. Challenge students to place them in their correct sequence, explaining why they have sequenced them as they did. What were the clues used? Discuss the main clues that show change over time (clothing, housing, transport modes).

Assessment activity 2

Students draw three pictures or use technology to illustrate their lives ‘in the past’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow or in the future’ and write a sentence explaining each stage. Students then create a timeline of their life and describe an important (significant) event in their life.

Adjustment: Create a scaffold for the timeline for students, with pre-prepared dates. Students make or find images that relate to the major milestones of their life and place them on the timeline. Students can then label the milestones.

  • The teacher says a phrase and students complete the sentence, eg ‘When I was little, I…’, ‘In the future, when I am grown up, I will…’, ‘In the past, people…’, ‘Before I was born…’.

My Place by Nadia Wheatley

Assessment overview

  • Ongoing assessment – student understanding may be assessed through the use of observational checklists, anecdotal records and analysis of contributions to class discussions.

  • Students produce a variety of work samples, including designated assessment activities. These should be evaluated to determine students’ level of achievement and understanding.

Assessment activity 1

Using a graphic organiser, students record similarities and differences between families in the past and families today under the headings ‘Families: Then’ and ‘Families: Now’.

Assessment activity 2

Students draw three pictures or use ICT to illustrate their lives ‘in the past’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow or in the future’ and write a sentence explaining each stage. Students then create a timeline of their life and describe an important (significant) event in their life.

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