TELL ME YOUR STORIES:
An Oral History Curriculum for high schools and middle schools,
linking students with their family and community
CLASS ONE – What is Oral History?
1) Different ways that history is recorded
a) Elders‟ story telling
b) Cave painting
c) Journals and diaries
d) History books
2) Discussion about perceptions of senior citizens
a) What do you think of when you hear the phrase “old person?”
b) At what age is a person “old?”
c) What are your experiences (positive and negative) with elderly people?
d) What might make it interesting to be around elderly people?
3) Video Samples of Oral Histories (one or all of the video clips can be shown)
a) Video clip 1 – A World War II veteran tells the moving story of his brother who, while serving in an
elite American ski trooper division in Italy, was killed trying to help a German soldier.
b) Video clip 2 – An Asian woman describes her experience coming to an American school, when
she could speak no English.
c) Video clip 3 – A Jewish Holocaust survivor tells of hiding with her parents and other Jews in
Poland during the Holocaust.
d) Video clip 4 – An African-American man describes life in East Los Angeles, where he lived with
many other ethnic groups in the 1920s and 1930s; included is a rare instance of discrimination in
that neighborhood, and how it was handled by the residents.
4) Students discuss what they learned from the video taped oral histories
5) Suggested Assignment(s)
a) Write an essay, poem, or short story based on your perceptions of seniors or a personal
experience with an elderly person
b) Write an essay about how history has been recorded over time, provide examples
c) Draw a picture, make a collage, etc. about your perceptions of seniors, or experiences with a
d) Write (or ad lib) and perform a scene about a senior citizen or an experience with a senior citizen
CLASS TWO – Beginning Interview Techniques
1) Skills needs for interviewing
a) Preparation and research
b) Building on questions
c) What is “listening” and what is the importance of listening
d) Open-ended questions and how to get more than a yes or no answer
e) Follow-up questions
f) Options for recording interview
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ii) Tape recorder
iii) Video recorder
2) Practice interview with the teacher
a) Each student asks a question about the teacher‟s life
i) Questions should build on one another
ii) Feedback is given about each question
(1) Did it build on the previous question?
(2) Was a follow-up question needed?
(3) Was it a “yes” or “no” question?
(4) Were listening skills used?
3) Address concerns about what happens during an interview
a) What if the person doesn‟t want to be interviewed?
b) What if the person doesn‟t know anything about what they are being asked?
c) What if the person is shy or afraid?
d) What if the person becomes upset while talking, and cries?
e) What if I can‟t think of another question to ask?
f) What if they ask me about myself?
g) What if there is a specific topic they don‟t want to talk about?
h) Link to FAQ page
CLASS THREE – Starting with Peer Interviews
1) Students break into groups of three (groups should be composed of students who aren‟t very
familiar with each other)
a) Student #1 is a interviewer
b) Student #2 is the interviewee
c) Student #3 is an observer
2) Interviewer asks questions of interviewee for five minutes
3) Observer provides feedback, relating to listening skills and questions asked
4) Students rotate roles until each student has had an opportunity to be the interviewer
5) Class discussion about the interviews
a) What worked and what didn‟t work, in terms of interviewing skills?
b) How did it feel asking personal question?
c) How did it feel answering personal questions?
CLASS FOUR – Research and Preparation
1) Visiting interview subject
a) Class is given a one paragraph description of the interview subject who will be attending Class
i) Sources for visiting interviewee (ask for suggestions of a senior who is vibrant and coherent)
(2) Senior Center
(3) Church or Synagogue
(4) Veterans Groups
b) Example for one paragraph description
i) Anne Feinstein was born in Poland in 1920. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and began
rounding up Jewish residents in Anne‟s town, Lodz. Her brother was captured and sent to
the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Anne and her parents went into hiding, aided by gentile
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2) Class is divided into research groups of 3 – 5
a) Groups are assigned to research a specific topic pertaining to the interview subject
i) Based on the paragraph description above, topics might include:
(2) Nazi Germany
(3) Poland in the 30s and 40s
(4) Concentration camps
(5) World War II
(7) Righteous Gentiles (non-Jews who helped Jews)
a) Using the library or the Internet, research one subject area
b) Write a 3 – 5 paragraph report on the subject area
i) This assignment can be done during class or as homework.
ii) If the school has a library, contact the librarian prior to assignment. Librarian can have
specific materials available for the students.
iii) If the school has a computer lab, contact the instructor prior to assignment. Instructor can
have specific Web sites bookmarked for the students.
iv) If assigned as homework, contact the local public librarian prior to assignment so he/she can
be prepared to help students.
CLASS FIVE – Interview Questions Preparation
1) Research reports
a) One member from each group presents an oral report on their research
b) The group members answer questions from the class or teacher.
2) Interview questions
a) Research groups come up with 5-8 questions about their subject area to ask the visiting interview
b) Questions are shared with the class
c) Class discusses whether any questions are missing or could be reworded
CLASS SIX – A Practice Interview
1) Preparing the interview subject for their time with class
a) Answer students‟ questions rather than offering additional information
b) Answer “yes” or “no“ questions with a “yes” or ”no” so students learn to recognize this type of
c) Don‟t spend too much time on one question, so that each group can practice interviewing
2) Class interviews subject
a) Each students take turns asking 1-2 questions and follow-up questions
3) Class discussion, after interview
a) What worked and what didn‟t work in the interviewing process?
b) What was uncomfortable?
c) What new information was learned?
d) What did they forget to ask?
a) Choose an elderly family member to interview
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b) Write a 3 – 5 paragraph essay about this person, and why you would like to record this person‟s
CLASS SEVEN – The Family Elder Interview
1) Students share their essays about their interview subject
a) Prepare a list of 3-5 areas to research about your subject
i) Where is the person from?
ii) What were the significant times they lived through?
(1) The Depression
(2) WW II
(3) The „60s
(4) Vietnam War
(5) Beginning of the Space Age
iii) Questions you might ask other relatives to prepare for the interview
(1) What is your favorite story about Grandma?
(2) How did the family view Aunt Helen?
(3) Is there anything you have always wanted to know about Grandpa‟s life?
CLASS EIGHT – Family Elder Interview Research
1) Feedback is given on research areas
a) Using the library or Internet, research the subject area
b) Write a 2 – 3 paragraph essay about each area
c) Follow suggestions in Class Four
CLASS NINE – Family Elder Interview -- Questions Preparation
1) Class shares research
a) Students develop 15 – 20 questions to ask
b) Organize questions chronologically
a) Students are given 2 – 3 weeks to conduct their interviews
i) Students should be encouraged to record the interview on audio or video tape
CLASS TEN – Final Projects
1) Language Arts classes
a) Write an essay or poem about your family elder, and how it changed your relationship with that
person, or your view of them. Incorporate information from the interview.
2) Social Studies classes
a) Write a report about your family elder, incorporating the historical events surrounding their life
3) Performing Arts classes
a) Write and perform a play, song, or piece of music that expresses the life of your family elder
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4) Visual Arts classes
a) Create a piece of art that depicts your elderly relative and/or your relationship with them
5) Link to Sample Projects and Oral History web sites
TAKING IT ONE STEP FURTHER
Using the same learning steps, of research, questions, preparation, interview, and final project, the Tell
Me Your Stories curriculum can be used as a community outreach program in several ways by having
? An elder of a different ethnic group
? An elder who is involved in a career that interests the student
? A group of elders who served in WWII, who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, or
who were early residents of a the local community
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