Learning to Interview
Students practice their listening and speaking skills by interviewing their families and each other about their ancestors and immigration
- Grades: 1–2
- Unit Plan:
After observing the teacher and a classmate model an interview, students will practice interviewing a classmate and share their results with the class. Then students will gather information about their families. This data, recorded at home, will be compiled later at school.
- Observe teacher interview classmate
- Interview classmate using form provided
- Share results and look for patterns in data
- Bring home letter and interview form
- Interview mom and dad or grandparents and other relatives
- Return form to school
- Classmate interview form (PDF)
- Clipboards and pencils
- Overhead projector and transparency of interview form and pens for overhead
- Sentence strip and marker
- Cover letter to parents (PDF)
- Interview form for mom’s and dad’s families (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Make changes in interview form to make it meaningful for your students.
- Make copies of interview form including a few extras.
- Have clipboards and pencils ready. Clipboards allow students to move away from desks and arrange themselves around the room in pairs.
- Set up transparency on overhead projector. Don’t turn it on yet. (optional)
- Write interview on sentence strip.
- Select partners for students. Make a list of pairs.
- Write cover letter to parents asking for their cooperation. Let the parents know they will have one week to work on interviews.
- Staple cover letter to interview form.
Step 1: Teacher introduces the term interview. Write this term on a sentence strip and put it on the blackboard. Have students clap the syllables and talk about the small word view within the larger word interview.
Step 2: Select a child from the class and using interview form ask questions and record answers. Three questions are sufficient. It’s not necessary to do the entire interview.
Step 3: Teacher’s partner asks the teacher three questions and records the answers with teacher’s help.
Step 4: Turn on overhead projector if you are using it. Help student record responses on transparency. Students love to write on transparencies!
Step 5: Announce pairs that will be working together.
Step 6: Hand out clipboards and forms. Show students where to put their names and names of their partners. Remind them that they are writing about the OTHER person.
Step 7: Have students interview one another.
Step 8: Bring class back together for sharing time. Have students share in pairs and draw attention to similarities.
Step 9: End by summarizing a few of the findings of the class. Ask the question, “Based on this data, what true sentences can we say about our class?”
Step 10: Explain that next time they will interview their parents.
Step 1: Before handing out the forms, review the idea that an interview is about the other person. Review results of the partner interviews.
Step 2: Make sure students understand the terms ancestors and immigration. These two terms are so important that they should be posted in the classroom. I’d come back to the terms every day or two. Explain that they will be doing two interviews at home and that they can talk to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. (Adopted children should research their adoptive family.)
Step 3: Distribute the cover letter and form and read them together. Discuss what each question means. Let students know they will have one week and show them the dates on a class calendar. Tell students that you will be reminding them daily. Allow time for their questions.
Supporting All Learners
There are usually students who finish early and ask, “Now what can I do?” Have a few ready responses for them. For Part I you could ask them to make up their own questions for their partner and record responses. Or they could star their three favorite questions and tell why they liked them. There may be students who work slowly and need teacher support. At the point where almost everyone is done I’d stop the group and say, “Let’s just go with what we’ve got.” Or you might want to continue the assignment on another day and save sharing for later.
Some children may have difficulty getting information, especially African American or adopted children, or those whose parents are separated/divorced. Set aside time to work with the children individually, away from the group. Use what facts they can provide and have them help you tally class results so they will feel included.
There are students who love interviewing. I’d encourage them to bring their clipboards, paper, and pencil out on the playground and do playground interviews. Once students understand about interviewing, some may want to interview the principal, librarian, custodian, etc., and find out about their family histories. Students could summarize their results and share them with the class. I would not combine their data with the class data.
Weekly Newsletter: I write my newsletter every Thursday evening and send it home on Friday. About half of the families receive the newsletter via email. It includes activities we've done during the week like partner interviews. I also preview coming attractions, like the parent interviews.
Some parents and grandparents get very involved in finding out about their families. Families may have photographs of ancestors and/or family artifacts that they are willing to share with the class. You can display family photos and objects on a desk or table.
Students will complete an interview form with their peers. Students take a second interview form home to interview their parents.
You will know the lesson is working if children are on-task. Pick the partners carefully (example: reader with non-reader) and lesson will work. You will need to circulate constantly to monitor what’s happening and offer assistance. Accept that you will not have total control during interviews. Have students return to their seats and establish control and quiet before sharing.
You will be able to tell if the lesson was successful if the students and their families fill in the form. You may want to mention this project beforehand in your weekly newsletter so parents will be expecting to be interviewed. You may need to send home reminders and be patient about receiving the forms. If you think you don’t have enough data/participation, you may want to expand this activity to more than one class.
Additional Tip: I ask myself at the end of every day: How did it go today? Was there anything I could have done differently that would have made the outcome better? This self-reflection practice helps me be an effective teacher.
Here’s what I’m looking for in class:
- Does student understand the directions?
- Do the partners help one another?
- Does student complete the form?
- Are students listening during sharing time?
- Are students raising their hands during sharing time?
- Are students able to see similarities and differences in data?
- Can students identify patterns in data?
Here’s what I’m looking for from the home assignment:
- Did the student return the form to school?
- Did the student make an attempt to gather information?
- Did the student do his own writing on the form or did her parents fill it in?
- Does the student understand the data she has gathered?