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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

Oral History Interview and Essay

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/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 relatives.

What you need:
Internet connection and word processing program, tape

The students: 
I covered this unit with 9th through 12th graders in New York City. The ability level can be wide.

Overall value:
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.

E-mail Contact: 


Subject 1:
Language Arts

Subject 2: Journalism

Number of class periods: 10 or more

Beginning grade level: 9

Ending grade level: 12



What do you think of my project?  I'd really like to hear your opinion - 
Click here
for a very brief survey.


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