- Conduct an interview for an oral history project
- Write an essay based on interview questions
- U.S. Oral History Student Activity Sheet printable
Copy a class set of the U.S. Oral History Student Activity Sheet printable.
Step 1: Tell students that America has always been a land of change. The nation started with horses and buggies, handwritten letters, and farming communities and today features electric cars, billions of texts sent every day, and a global economy. The country has even changed significantly in the lifetimes of students’ older family members and friends.
Step 2: Ask students to name some of the larger changes that they think have occurred in the last few decades. These might include the invention of personal computers and smart phones, changes in how people communicate, and improvements in medicine.
Step 3: Tell students that they will explore the last few decades by interviewing an older family member or friend of the family. They will carefully schedule the interview and come prepared with questions. They will then turn their notes into an essay. This practice is called oral history. A good oral history can provide details that get overlooked in traditional histories.
Step 4: Distribute the U.S. Oral History Student Activity Sheet printable. Instruct students to read the sheet carefully, including the tips for asking good questions and for writing an essay. While in class, have them write their own questions on the sheet. Remind students to avoid asking “yes/no” questions because open-ended questions will produce better, more in-depth answers from their interviewees. Good responses from their interviewees will be crucial for writing good essays.
Step 5: Have students conduct their interviews outside of class over the next few days.
Step 6: Once students have completed their interviews, have them turn their interview responses into short essays describing the America in which their interviewees lived.
For an additional writing activity, have students submit the full list of questions and answers from their interviews. This supplementary text is often a component of an oral history. The activity will require good transcription skills from students.