Looking for a great way to engage high school students in the art of listening this November? The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a new oral-history project from StoryCorps, is a powerful exercise for teachers looking to give students opportunities to use their digital, planning, research, and communication skills in the context of a social studies class, journalism course, extracurricular activity, or integrated unit.
StoryCorps, an organization whose mission is to record and archive the stories of Americans from all backgrounds, will work with high school students across the country to preserve voices and stories of grandparents and other elders -- in any language. Incredibly, these interviews have the option to become part of a lasting record in the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Everything educators will need to enlist students ages 13 and over can be found in StoryCorps’ new Free Teacher Toolkit: guidelines, lesson plans, permission forms, and more. All that is needed to participate is a smartphone and the free StoryCorps mobile app, available from the App Store and via Google Play. (The activities can be adapted for students who do not have access.)
- Students can listen to classic StoryCorps recordings to familiarize themselves with recorded interviews, such as this interview between Joshua Littman and his mother, Sarah.
- As students prepare for interviews, ask them to consider the qualities of great questions as they review StoryCorps' "Great Questions." Two other resources that might help students prepare are The American Folklife Center's "Interviewing Tips for Oral History Interviews," and "Tips for Interviewers" from the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley.
- StoryCorps' worksheet, available in the Toolkit Appendix, will help students write and upload archive-quality titles, summaries, and keywords for their recordings.
- Teachers may involve students in follow-up and reflection activities using questions and suggestions from the Toolkit. To extend the project, find other potential activities in Edutopia’s "Living Legends: Oral-History Projects Bring Core Subjects to Life" and "Empowering Students Through Multimedia Storytelling."
More Oral-History Resources for Parents and Educators
- Twitter: #thegreatlisten
- StoryCorps’ Dave Isay: Engaging Everyone in the Act of Listening, Facing History and Ourselves
- StoryCorps Educator Resources
- The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide
- Oral History in Education, Oral History Association
- Oral History and Civil Rights From Teaching Tolerance