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Oral History Unit Overview


Oral history serves as an exciting process designed to increase student involvement and improve student insight into historical experiences

It involves students directly in a method of historical inquiry, which includes the organization and presentation of data directly from another person. 

Oral history is an effective tool that requires students to become active participants in their own learning process. 

It invites inquiry, stimulates discussion, and transforms abstract concepts into concrete reality.


Oral history is a process that aids in the reconstruction of the past and in preserving and documenting culture. It is an extension of the art of storytelling. In this sense, each of us has an oral history - an account of where we come from and how we got to be who we are. Communities, likewise, each have an oral history. So, too, do nations, families, and human organizations of every sort.

Oral history serves us in many ways. It can inspire us with stories of exemplary lives or caution us with tales of human weakness and wickedness. Oral history can inform and educate us by providing the context and perspective that allows us to make thoughtful decisions about the future. Moreover, oral history has the power to delight and enrich us, enlarging and intensifying the experience of being alive!


  • Serves as a link from the immediate present to the immediate past in a very understandable and human way.

  • Fills an information gap when less and less information and reflections are recorded in written form.

  • Provides a natural opportunity to obtain information related to ordinary people.

  • Provides an opportunity to "experience" history firsthand

  • Places local history within the overall context of Canadian history

  • Helps students understand all phases of designing, implementing, and completing an activity.

  • Increases understanding of a specific historical event

  • Chronicles the traditional skills and values of many different groups

  • Affirms community and common purpose, employs evaluation/reflection

  • Nurtures mutual appreciation of schools and communities

  • Produces a source of pride and identity and develops a sense of relativism

  • Creates understanding that bridges generations

  • Tries to capture in sufficient detail meaningful characteristics of a past that might otherwise be lost

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate the techniques of recording oral history

  • Discern how point of view influences and effects historical understanding

  • Learn about the experiences of some modern immigrants

  • Evaluate selected experiences of modern and early immigrant experiences

  • Demonstrate the literacy skills required to identify and analyze visual, oral, and written primary sources

  • Develop language abilities, critical thinking skills and comprehension, and the understanding of community and self

Language Arts

Students will:

  • Identify the central idea, purpose, or theme of a work and connect it to the theme of an oral history

  • Gather and organize information from primary and secondary sources.

  • Incorporate different genres of writing throughout the project

  • Use standard conventions of writing to revise and edit their work

  • Demonstrate appropriate speaking and listening skills

Social Studies

Students will:

  • Use historical thinking, especially how it relates to chronology and cause and effect

  • Engage in historical study through research and other forms of investigation

  • Be able to compare their primary source information with literature and additional research information

  • Study concepts related to Canadian ideals and how diversity has added to that perspective

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the rights of citizens and civic involvement

  • Study the role of geographic and cultural perspectives on the lives of individuals


Students will:

  • Recognize technology as a means of creativity and problem solving

  • Become active participants in our technological world

  • Identify the purposes of communication

  • Create a product based on their oral history investigation

Oral History Unit Overview

Information for the Development of an Oral History Project

Oral History Project: Guidelines For Recording an Interview

Fish Bowls and Bloopers: Oral History in the Classroom

One Minute Guide to Oral Histories

Oral History Questions

Specific Oral History Questions

Oral History Lesson Plans

Oral History Websites

Oral History Activities

Teacher's Guide to the Teen Reporter Handbook

Oral History Topics, Skills and Methods

Download Oral History Unit Overview in Word Document format.




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