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Record and Share Life Histories

Students will learn proper interviewing techniques, identify appropriate questions and record a conversation with a grandparent or other adult. They will share the life histories they collect and use the content to learn more about the world around them.

PROCESS:

  1. Display a current newspaper. Ask students how the reporters who wrote the articles knew what to write. (They conducted research. They asked questions.) Point out that the answers they got determined what they wrote. If the reporters had interviewed different people, they might have gotten a different perspective. They might have told a different story.
  2. Inform students that everything they read—from magazines and newspapers to the history books they use in the classroom—tells about events from certain people's points of view. That doesn't mean that everyone who lived during that time had the same experience. And it doesn't always mean that one person's experience was more accurate, interesting or important than all others. It just means that someone took the time to learn about and share the details of this person's life. 
  3. Explain that an interview is nothing more than a conversation with a point. Reporters investigate topics they want to know more about. They identify key people involved. Then they interview those people to find out more. During the interview, reporters ask questions. More importantly, they listen. They analyze what they hear to gain a better understanding of what is going on.
  4. Provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice interviewing one another and record their conversations. Continue doing this until all students are comfortable with the social and technical aspects of this process.
  5. Encourage students to think of a grandparent or older adult they'd like to know more about. As a class, create a list of possible topics and compile a list of questions students could ask. Instruct students to conduct and record an interview with that person.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to share their interviews with the class. Analyze the interviews as a whole to recognize significant differences between the older generation's lives and students' own experiences. Encourage students to discuss what they learned from talking with their interviewee.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:  

Grades 3-4:
Prior to conducting this activity, download the StoryCorps lesson plan for "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." Review the lesson to identify ideas that are appropriate to share with your class. (Note: Students in grades 3-4 cannot participate in the actual event. Participants must be 13 or older.) To enhance students' experience, emphasize the importance of selecting a proper setting for conducting interviews. Provide examples of a one-on-one interview in a quiet room and a group interview conducted in a noisy gym or lunchroom. Have students listen to each. Give students ample opportunities to practice interviewing one another prior to interviewing their subjects. Make sure each student has identified a topic and written a list of potential questions they can ask. After students complete their interviews, invite them to share their productions with the class.

Grades 5-6:
Prior to conducting this activity, download the StoryCorps lesson plan for "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." Review the lesson to identify ideas that are appropriate to share with your class. (Note: Students must be 13 or older to participate in the actual event.) Give students multiple opportunities to practice with one another prior to conducting their actual interviews. Remind students that listening is a critical component in this process. Encourage them to stray from their list of prepared questions when the conversation warrants a detour. After students complete their interviews, invite them to share their productions with the class.

Grades 7-8:
Prior to conducting this activity, download and review the StoryCorps lesson plan for "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." (Note: Students must be 13 or older to participate in the actual event.) Follow the steps in the guide as students plan their interviews. After students complete their conversations, provide assistance as needed if they choose to post their conversations in the Library of Congress archives. Invite students to share their interviews with the class. Select the top interviews from your class and share them with TeenTribune by uploading them here. We will select the best interviews to be featured on the TeenTribune site.

Grades 9-10:
Prior to conducting this activity, download the StoryCorps lesson plan for "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." Follow the steps in the guide as students plan their interviews. After students complete their conversations, encourage them to post their conversations in the Library of Congress archives. Invite students to also share their interviews with the class. Then select one or more of the follow-up activities to help them reflect upon what they learned from this experience. Select the top interviews from your class and share them with TeenTribune by uploading them here. We will select the best interviews to be featured on the TeenTribune site.