Lesson Plan

Listening to History

The Statue of Liberty against the Manhattan skyline.
Photo caption

The Statue of Liberty against the Manhattan skyline.

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 plan is designed to help 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.

Guiding Questions

How has American history touched the members of your family?

What stories can your family add to our national saga? How does their experience shed light on our past?

Learning Objectives

Analyze examples of oral history for what they reveal about the past.

Develop an oral history research topic and prepare questions to ask during an oral history interview.

Conduct an oral history interview using a tape recorder.

Present evidence of the impact of historical events on individual lives.

Recognize how individual perspectives mediate perceptions of the past.

Construct an historical narrative or report based on oral history research.