Oral History

Grades 9 through 12 

Social Studies, English, Speech

Students will learn about oral history through the use of StoryCorps and will be introduced to the art of conducting an interview. 

Students will explore StoryCorps to experience oral histories. Students will also utilize Storycorps interviews to hear how events shape local history. They will then create their own oral history interview questions to gather information about local history.

Paper and pencil

Activity 1: (15mins) First, begin by discussing with the class the idea of interviewing. Talk about the different types of interviews, such as interviewing for information on a topic vs. interviewing for information about that person. Have students listen to some of the of snippets oral history interviews found on the StoryCorps website. Students should pay particular attention to the questions asked, the manner in which they were asked, and the structure of the interview. This is intended to provide students with an introduction to interviewing so they should focus on the person conducting the interview and his/her questions. Students should listen to parts of at least 2 interviews.

Activity 2: (15mins) Ask students to reflect on the questions they heard during the StoryCorps interview and why such questions were posed. Talk about possible questions that could be asked during an interview. Students should then come up with a short list of possible interview questions for a fellow student. The topic of the interview can be anything the student wishes. Discuss what is appropriate for an interview and what is not, as well as what kinds of information they should be looking for in the interview process. Give the students the opportunity to share some interview ideas they have or questions with the class.

Activity 3: (20mins) Divide the class into groups of 2-3. Have each group combine lists of questions and discuss again what is appropriate and what is not. Discuss with class the appropriate ordering of questions for the interview to flow from one thing to the next. Each group should list questions in the way that they would like to ask them during an interview. Each student should have a list of questions from their group. Shuffle groups and have students interview each other using their questions to make sure that they flow. Once students have interviewed one another, have students re-group. They should now reflect on what questions during the interviews worked well, which did not, and why. They should finally also reflect on overall ways to improve the interview. In their reflection journals, each student should write a short paragraph about what they think are the benefits of oral history interviews. Students should include what questions worked well and what did not during their interviews, and a reflection on their own interview.

Students will be graded on their engagement with the Storycorps interviews. Each student will also come up with a list of possible interview questions, to be handed in at the end of class. Lastly, students will be assessed by their participation in the small group work and interviews. Their short reflection journal should demonstrate what they learned about oral history and conducting interviews.

Lesson adapted from: http://www.lessonplanspage.com/SSOralHistoryLesson1-HowInterview46.htm