Oral History Interview and Essay
Project URL: http://teachnet-lab.org/fklane/pmaslow/interview.htm
How it works:
Students are given a handout on how to do an
oral history interview and several lessons prepare them for this
undertaking. Then, after they have interviewed an older relative or
neighbor, they hand in their transcripts or notes (if they have no tape
recorder) and learn how to write an essay from their notes or transcripts.
New York City has an excellent contest, the PAL (Police Athletic League)
"Stories My Grandparents Told Me." Many of the
students enter their final drafts of their essays, and several have won
awards. Copies of the winners' essays are posted on a link from this
lesson for students to evaluate themselves.
First they read the essays of student winners.
Then they read a transcript of an oral history interview which is posted
on the Internet. There is also a link to another interview
transcript -one on working women during World War II.
Furthermore, there is a link on how to do an interview, which is also
demonstrated in class, and the students practice with each other.
They post the second draft of their essays on a
conference section of the class site on www.nicenet.org.
Students then read each other's essays and post a comment or question to
help the person whose essay they read to do revision or improve their
essay. Students are allowed to say what they liked about the essay
they read, ask questions and/or summarize the essay. These are
methods of student peer response that are taught in the NYC Writing
Project directed by Lehman College.
Students then post their final drafts in the
document section of our nicenet.org class. Lastly, they evaluate a
link to Georgia 8th graders who did a similar project. Students read these
articles after they have finished their own final drafts to motivate them
to post their own essays on our school web site with photographs of their
What you need:
Internet connection and word processing program, tape
I covered this unit with 9th through 12th graders in New York City.
The ability level can be wide.
I have done this oral history project probably 10 or more
times over the years. I think it is extremely valuable for several reasons:
1. Students connect better with their family. They learn the
interview or questioning skills that help them acquire information.
2. Taking notes and then turning them into an essay is an essential skill
for all academic disciplines.
3. Reading other interviews on the Internet also enables them to improve
their own questioning techniques.
4. The goal of winning a contest is another motivation.
Technology: Students will use computer applications for word
processing, publishing work to a virtual classroom space, and reviewing
language arts sites and teacher-developed materials.
Language Arts: Students listen for information and understanding,
take notes, and produce written work that makes connections to related
topics or information. They critique their own writing and a classmate's
writing, revise drafts, and publish to a wide audience.
Teachers may find writing contests on the web or in their local districts
to which students may submit their writing.
Peggy Maslow, a New York City high
school English teacher for 23 years, has used technology in the
classroom for over 16 years. She has also been her school's newspaper
advisor for almost two years. She has taught all levels of students
ranging from those with reading difficulties to honors, and has taught
courses in journalism, mystery, American literature and other topics.
Subject 2: Journalism
Number of class periods: 10 or more
Beginning grade level: 9
Ending grade level: 12