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October 19, 2018

How to Interview Your Family

By Christy Crawford
Grades 3–5

    From kindergarten to college, we ask kids to investigate and memorize facts about distant cultures and periods of time. It's no surprise in social studies classes to hear "What does this have to do with me?" and "Why do we have to know this?" We can't expect anyone to care or think critically about history when they haven't explored their OWN stories — their personal histories. To sprout historians this month, start an ancestor study with your students.

    During the Thanksgiving holiday, we often gather with relatives, both near and far flung. A National Day of Listening (the day after Thanksgiving) was established to take advantage of the situation and share family stories for preservation. Here's how to arm your students with the tools to become proud reporters and competent historians.

    Here's what your reporters need to get going:

    1. A list of interview questions
    2. Recording equipment — often a phone, but pen and paper works too
    4. Camera — again, often a phone, but a disposable camera will do. (You can purchase 15-shot disposables for under $2 and outfit an entire class for $10 by having kids share, using three shots each.)
    5. Letter to parents to explain the project

    Scholastic Teachables has made the process simple with printables that include a note to the family in It's History, sample questions on a clipboard template in Primary Source Interview Questions, and a mini-book in which to capture all of those important Thanksgiving Memories.

     

    In our ancestor project, my students interviewed family members, collected artifacts for a personal history museum, and photographed their families.

    Interview questions to start you off:

    This assignment and the questions that follow ensure that all families have something unique and important to share. I also allow families to substitute other questions for particularly difficult ones, or to opt out of some questions altogether. For example, many African-American families have no knowledge of their ancestors' country of origin, and a few of these families prefer to answer questions about their migration from the South to the northern region of the United States or to other hometown settlements. 

    P1030382

    1. What was your childhood like? How was it different from mine?

    2. Tell me about my relatives/ancestors. Where is our family from? What country/countries did we come from and when? Did you or our ancestors want to come to the United States, and why or why not?

    3. Have you ever been to any of the countries or places we are from? If you have, what is that place or country like? Make a mental movie for me. What would you often see, smell, and hear there? 

    4. How did our family get to the United States or our hometown? How did they travel? Was it difficult? Was the journey long?

    5. What did you (or Mom, Grandpa, etc.) think America or our hometown would be like? What has your experience really been like? Was it everything you hoped for?

    6. Did you or any of our ancestors who came to the United States speak another language? What languages did they speak? If they did not speak English, how did they learn? 

    P1030381

    7. What things did you or our ancestors bring with them to the U.S. or our hometown?  What was your or our ancestors' most valued item and did they bring it with them? Did you or our ancestors leave anything special behind? 

    8. What did you or our ancestors miss from the country or town they came from? 

    9. What traditions have been passed down in our family? (For example, if I were being interviewed, I would talk about the ancient tradition of "jumping the broom." In the United States, the "official" marriage ceremony commonly experienced today was not afforded to slaves. Marriage was acknowledged in the slave quarters by an exchange of vows sealed with a united jump over a straw broom. So at my wedding, our united jump over an elaborate straw broom symbolized the traditional 18th century wedding of my great-great-grandparents!)

    10. What were the lives of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents like? How did they live? What do you remember them saying over and over again?

    11. Do you know what their schools were like? Can you tell me how they got to school?

    12. Do you remember any of the stories anyone in the family used to tell?  Tell me one . . . please!

    13. Do you remember any of the songs sung or jokes told by family members? Sing me a song. Tell me a joke.

    14. What is your first memory of leaving your homeland or coming to America? Or what is your first childhood memory?

    15. What artifact could I bring in that represents our family? Please tell me about that treasured item.

    

Thanks to a nonprofit organization called StoryCorps, students can take part in a national effort to record and preserve interviews with loved ones. Students can upload their interviews to share with family and friends worldwide. Additionally, many resources for conducting interviews are available on the website. This season your kids could create a piece of audio that will be treasured for generations!

    From kindergarten to college, we ask kids to investigate and memorize facts about distant cultures and periods of time. It's no surprise in social studies classes to hear "What does this have to do with me?" and "Why do we have to know this?" We can't expect anyone to care or think critically about history when they haven't explored their OWN stories — their personal histories. To sprout historians this month, start an ancestor study with your students.

    During the Thanksgiving holiday, we often gather with relatives, both near and far flung. A National Day of Listening (the day after Thanksgiving) was established to take advantage of the situation and share family stories for preservation. Here's how to arm your students with the tools to become proud reporters and competent historians.

    Here's what your reporters need to get going:

    1. A list of interview questions
    2. Recording equipment — often a phone, but pen and paper works too
    4. Camera — again, often a phone, but a disposable camera will do. (You can purchase 15-shot disposables for under $2 and outfit an entire class for $10 by having kids share, using three shots each.)
    5. Letter to parents to explain the project

    Scholastic Teachables has made the process simple with printables that include a note to the family in It's History, sample questions on a clipboard template in Primary Source Interview Questions, and a mini-book in which to capture all of those important Thanksgiving Memories.

     

    In our ancestor project, my students interviewed family members, collected artifacts for a personal history museum, and photographed their families.

    Interview questions to start you off:

    This assignment and the questions that follow ensure that all families have something unique and important to share. I also allow families to substitute other questions for particularly difficult ones, or to opt out of some questions altogether. For example, many African-American families have no knowledge of their ancestors' country of origin, and a few of these families prefer to answer questions about their migration from the South to the northern region of the United States or to other hometown settlements. 

    P1030382

    1. What was your childhood like? How was it different from mine?

    2. Tell me about my relatives/ancestors. Where is our family from? What country/countries did we come from and when? Did you or our ancestors want to come to the United States, and why or why not?

    3. Have you ever been to any of the countries or places we are from? If you have, what is that place or country like? Make a mental movie for me. What would you often see, smell, and hear there? 

    4. How did our family get to the United States or our hometown? How did they travel? Was it difficult? Was the journey long?

    5. What did you (or Mom, Grandpa, etc.) think America or our hometown would be like? What has your experience really been like? Was it everything you hoped for?

    6. Did you or any of our ancestors who came to the United States speak another language? What languages did they speak? If they did not speak English, how did they learn? 

    P1030381

    7. What things did you or our ancestors bring with them to the U.S. or our hometown?  What was your or our ancestors' most valued item and did they bring it with them? Did you or our ancestors leave anything special behind? 

    8. What did you or our ancestors miss from the country or town they came from? 

    9. What traditions have been passed down in our family? (For example, if I were being interviewed, I would talk about the ancient tradition of "jumping the broom." In the United States, the "official" marriage ceremony commonly experienced today was not afforded to slaves. Marriage was acknowledged in the slave quarters by an exchange of vows sealed with a united jump over a straw broom. So at my wedding, our united jump over an elaborate straw broom symbolized the traditional 18th century wedding of my great-great-grandparents!)

    10. What were the lives of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents like? How did they live? What do you remember them saying over and over again?

    11. Do you know what their schools were like? Can you tell me how they got to school?

    12. Do you remember any of the stories anyone in the family used to tell?  Tell me one . . . please!

    13. Do you remember any of the songs sung or jokes told by family members? Sing me a song. Tell me a joke.

    14. What is your first memory of leaving your homeland or coming to America? Or what is your first childhood memory?

    15. What artifact could I bring in that represents our family? Please tell me about that treasured item.

    

Thanks to a nonprofit organization called StoryCorps, students can take part in a national effort to record and preserve interviews with loved ones. Students can upload their interviews to share with family and friends worldwide. Additionally, many resources for conducting interviews are available on the website. This season your kids could create a piece of audio that will be treasured for generations!

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