Have you ever regretted that you waited until it was too late to record the stories of your family elders? Or, been relieved—even elated—to finally have interviewed your grandmother about her life experiences and beliefs?
We can find names, dates, and places in official records, but the personal details of growing up, relationships, history, challenges, and success are a precious legacy that should and can be captured in one or several conversations.
Ellie Kahn created Tell Me Your Stories—a project of the Living Legacies Historical Foundation— as a means to honor family and community elders, and to preserve their stories for future generations. Tell Me Your Stories (TMYS) recognizes the special bond that’s established when someone lets you into his or her world.
Tell Me Your Stories bridges the distance—both geographical and relational—between young people and older people through recording oral history interviews. The project offers curriculum, interview templates, and sample projects to help your students conduct interviews with elders from their families or community, and have conversations that may touch their hearts, and, perhaps, be life-changing.
This 10-class oral history curriculum designed for middle school through college takes your students from understanding the purpose of oral history to preparing interview questions and conducting interviews. Your students will strengthen research, interviewing, organization, and listening skills with these hands-on lesson plans.
For the complete Tell Me Your Stories Curriculum, click here.
Sample Interview Questions
Sample questions and categories are provided. TMYS strongly suggests that your students make up their own questions. Categories include: Ancestors, Early Years, Teen Years, Adulthood, Historical, and Reflections. Have your students create their own categories, too!
- Sample Interview Questions [MS Word file size:19K]
This how-to guideline on getting ready for an interview covers: deciding who your student will interview; researching relevant history and places; and preparing intriguing, open-ended interview questions.
- Tips for Preparation and Topic Areas handout [MS Word file size:12K]
Logistics—equipment and interview environment— for your students’ interviews are addressed. Students also will learn how to create follow-up questions and decide what topics are off-limits with their interviewee. Most important? How to be a good listener.
- Interview Techniques Summary handout [MS Word file size:23K]
Frequently Asked Questions by Students
These candid questions address any student’s anxiety and prepares them well for a memorable interview. How do I select my person to interview? What do I do if my person cries during the interview or repeats what she’s saying over and over?
After your students have finished interviewing their family elders, it’s time to create a final project. Sample projects for different subject classes i.e. language arts, social studies, and visual and performing arts are available.
Tell Me Your Stories is a project of the Living Legacies Historical Foundation. The nonprofit’s mission is to increase opportunities for elderly people to tell their stories, and to create projects that allow young people to learn history through interviews with the actual people who have lived it.
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