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Record an Oral History of 9/11

Students will interview someone who was alive on September 11, 2001. They will record an oral history that tells about the events of that day from the subject's perspective.

PROCESS:

  1. Ask students to share what they know about the events of September 11, 2001. Then ask them to raise their hands if they were alive when it happened. (Note: This is unlikely given that this lesson is written for students up to Grade 10.) Ask them to raise their hands once again if they learned about the terror attacks from someone they know.
  2. Point out that people can learn about history in many ways. They can read books, study artifacts or go to museums. They can also talk to someone knowledgeable about the subject. And that doesn't always have to be an expert. It can also be someone who was simply there when the event occurred. 
  3. Inform students that in the case of 9/11, "there" is a very broad term. The attacks occurred in three separate locations-New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania-and they were broadcast worldwide. The attacks unsettled the nation long after they occurred.
  4. Point out that interviews are a good way to capture people's stories. Tell students that an interview is simply a conversation. While it is important to prepare a list of questions to ask during an interview, it is even more important to listen closely to the answers. The details in the answers are what writers use to create a vivid oral history that tells about someone's recollection of certain events. 
  5. Instruct students to select someone they know who is old enough to remember the 9/11 attacks. Then have them interview that person and record the conversation. Challenge students to create a detailed oral history about 9/11 from this person's perspective.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to share their interviews with the class. As they listen to the interviews, encourage students to identify similarities and differences in the oral histories. Challenge them to summarize how the attacks impacted the nation as a whole. 

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice interviewing one another and recording their conversations. Continue doing this until all students are comfortable with the process. Then instruct students to identify who they plan to interview. As a class, create a list of potential questions students could ask their subjects. 
Grades 5-6:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice interviewing one another and recording their conversations. Then instruct students to identify who they plan to interview. Challenge students to create a list of potential questions they could ask their subjects. 
Grades 7-8: 
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Check to make sure that all students understand how to use the recorders and are comfortable with the interviewing process. Then instruct students to identify who they plan to interview. Give students time to create a list of potential questions they could ask their subjects. Then remind students that listening is a critical component during an interview. Encourage students to stray from their prepared list of questions during the interview if the conversation warrants a detour.
Grades 9-10:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Check to make sure that all students understand how to use the recorders and are comfortable with the interviewing process. Then instruct students to identify who they plan to interview. Based on what they already know about this person, challenge students to create a list of questions that will encourage the subject to give detailed answers about his or her 9/11 experience. Challenge students to guide the conversation so it results in a unique oral history about the events that unfolded on that day.