Closer Readings Commentary

Pass It On! Family Stories

The American Library Association is sponsoring a Pass It On: Preservation Week April 24–30, 2011 highlighting what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections.

One way to work on this in our schools is by having students collect and preserve personal, family or community heritage. See two EDSITEment lessons where students explore how stories that comprise our personal and family history are developed and instructs students in how to gather such information.

What is History? Timelines and Oral Histories

In this lesson, our youngest students (K-2nd grade) will gain a frame of reference for understanding history and for recognizing that the past is different depending on who is remembering and retelling it. They will construct a timeline based on events from their own lives and family histories. This will give them a visual representation of the continuity of time. They will also be able to see that their own personal past is different in scope from their family's past, or their country's past.

Versions of History Chart

provides a worksheet for students to record their interviews

Listening to History

Family stories help teach us who we are, connecting us to a heritage handed down across generations. But when we listen closely, family stories can also be a resource for historical research. They can take us back through memory to the scene of pivotal events or give us a feel for the impact of broad social change, providing a uniquely personal insight into our nation's past.

This lesson which can be adapted for different grades helps students tap this resource by conducting oral history interviews with family members. Through a series of classroom activities, the lesson introduces students to the riches historians can discover in firsthand recollections; helps them choose a topic and prepare for a productive family interview; provides tips for conducting and recording the interview; and offers suggestions for sharing their family stories in a historical narrative or report.