STUDENT TASK

Oral History Project

Do Something
Grade Level
3-5

What?
Students conduct interviews and record personal experiences focused on a specific theme from the central text. They then synthesize and present the information as a an article, pamphlet, poster or other medium of their choice.
 

Estimated Time

Two to three weeks
 

Why?

Oral history projects are a powerful tool for meaningful learning about a member of one’s community. Interviews often reveal personal, social, economic or cultural factors that affect a person’s experiences, perspective and identity. Oral histories can bring a human element to a theme from the central text.
 

How?

Get Ready

  1. As a class, generate topics that connect to central text themes. Brainstorm possible interview questions based on these topics.
  2. Help students generate ideas for interview subjects. Some students may interview family members while others may choose community members outside of school. Ensure diversity among interviewees to encourage sharing of different kinds of stories, experiences and perspectives.
  3. Create a letter describing the project for students to give interviewees.
  4. Assist students in finding interviewees. Ideally, each student should interview someone whose identity differs in at least one important way.  These might include:
    • Race
    • Culture
    • Religion
    • Language
    • Gender
    • Family structure
    • Socioeconomic status/class
    • National origins
    • Ability/disability
    • Sexual orientation
  5. Model an interview with the class.
  6. Assist students in scheduling their interviews. Interviews can be done during school hours if time allows.

Get Set

  1. Introduce students to the Do Something Student Planning Guide. Instruct them in mapping the steps necessary to complete their oral history project.
  2. Share the sample rubric or adapt it into a checklist for students. Refer to the rubric to define expectations.
  3. Work with students to finalize interview questions based on their selected interviewee.
  4. Ensure that each interviewee meets requirements of the project (i.e., that each interviewee differs from each interviewer in at least social identifier).

Go!

  1. Students conduct their interviews and record the resulting conversations.
  2. Students present the histories in a medium of their choice, such as an article, pamphlet or poster.
  3. Display students’ oral history projects for the class to read and enjoy. Encourage students to take turns reading them and giving feedback.
  4. Share students’ oral history projects with the larger school community by hanging them on a bulletin board or putting them on display in a public space.


Reflection

  1. Conduct a class discussion during which students reflect on the intersectionality of identities.
  2. Students can journal about how their oral history interview reflected or changed their thinking about central text themes. Encourage students to compare and contrast themes, perspectives and experiences based on reading oral history projects.


English language learners

Students learning English can develop and apply both their written language and oral conversational skills through the interview processes. Consider allowing students to conduct the oral history projects in their native languages; this can be an especially valuable modification when interviewing family members. Students can then translate the findings into English, building their English language skills as well. This task engages linguistic, intra-personal, inter-personal and spatial/artistic learning modalities (depending on the media students use to present the histories).


Connection to anti-bias education

Oral histories allow insight into the diverse perspectives, identities, experiences and viewpoints of people across a community. This task allows students the opportunity to learn more about, better understand and appreciate the experiences, identities, and perspectives of others, a critical component of anti-bias education.