Two to three weeks
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.
- As a class, generate topics that connect to central text themes. Brainstorm possible interview questions based on these topics.
- Help students generate ideas for interview subjects. Some may interview family members while others may choose neighbors or other community members. Ensure diversity among interviewees to encourage sharing of different kinds of stories, experiences and perspectives.
- Create a letter describing the project for students to give interviewees.
- Determine whether students will conduct their interviews individually, with partners, in small groups or as a class.
- Kindergarten and first-grade students are developing early literacy skills, so small-group or whole-class interviews in which each student contributes questions and ideas may be most appropriate.
- Second-graders may be more equipped to conduct individual, partner, or group interviews.
- Assist students in finding interviewees. Ideally, each student should interview someone whose identity differs in at least one important way. These might include:
- Family structure
- Model an interview with the class.
- Assist students in scheduling their interviews, during school hours if possible.
- Adapt the sample rubric into a visual checklist. Refer to the rubric to define expectations and components of an oral interview before students begin working. Define expectations for equitable collaboration.
- Verbally introduce students to the preparatory steps included in the Do Something Planning Guide. Instruct them in the process of mapping the steps necessary to prepare for their oral history interview.
- Work with students to finalize interview questions for their selected interviewee.
- Ensure that each interviewee meets requirements of the project (i.e. that each interviewee differs from each interviewer in at least social identifier).
- Students conduct their interviews and record the resulting conversations.
- Students present the histories in a medium of their choice, such as a drawing, paragraph, poster or bulletin board.
- Display students’ oral history projects for the class or share whole-class in a story-telling session to continue the practice of oral history telling.
- If students present histories in the form of drawings, paragraphs, posters or bulletin boards, identify a public space for exhibit.
- Conduct a series of class discussions during which students reflect on connections between aspects of identity as they hear other people’s stories, ideas, and histories.
- Be mindful of individuals being or feeling like “spokespeople” for particular groups: it is important that students not come away with generalizations based on the interviews.
- Engage students in processing, clarifying, and discussing ideas and stories brought up in the interviews.
English language learners
Students learning English can develop and apply both their written language and oral conversational skills to the interview process. 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 addresses linguistic, intra-personal, interpersonal 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.