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Oral History Activities

  • Make an illustration of your favourite part of the oral history interview.

  • Write a poem about what you learned from the person you interviewed.

  • Rites of passage: Focus a family history project on the adolescence of an earlier generation. Have students interview their parents/grandparents about their experiences with everyday rites of passage, such as fitting in, becoming interested in pop music, being allowed to pick out your own wardrobe, learning what it means to be cool or going with friends to a movie. Students can transcribe their interviews and use them to create an inter-generational teen magazine.


  • What do you think you would say 40 years from now if a young person asked you to give a tour of the places that were most important to you in 2001? Write out what you think you might say about three or four important sites that would describe what made them so special or important.

  • Create a dramatic portrayal of an interviewee's oral history. This could be a dramatic skit, interview show, a news report, etc.

  • Radio broadcast of student oral histories that will be aired on a local public radio station.

  • What do different people have to say about the same 'universal' life event: school graduation, first job, first kiss, and so on. Interview six or more people about something they have all gone through.

  • Focus on the history of your school. Interview graduates of earlier classes about the way it was. The more details, the better. What went on at dances or sock hops? What was on the cafeteria menu? How have classes, rules, and activities changed over the years?

  • A 'time line' can be a good way to spark ideas for oral-history interviews. To make a time line, take a ruler and a long sheet of paper and draw a horizontal line. Put a starting date at the left end of the line: for example, the date of your grandfather's birth. Dot other dates along the line, world events as well as family events. You can then use the time line to think about stories of your family you'd like to hear and the history that they lived.

  • Imagine that you are creating an oral history of your town or city. Find a back issue of the local daily or weekly from at least 30 to 40 years ago. Look at everything: movie listings, store advertisements, news and feature stories, classified ads. As you read, keep an ongoing list of ideas, questions, and names that might be useful as background information for oral-history interviews.

  • Working with a team of classmates, find and interview one long-time resident for each decade--the 70's, 60's, 50's, 40's, 30's. Ask for memories of local teen hangouts, popular music and dances, customs, fads and so on.

  • Invite a guest to school, and with the list of questions created by the students, begin to interview the person. Volunteer students will take over the interview, and record and photograph the person.

  • Students create a collage of voices entitled, "Voices of the People," excerpts from everyone in the class on tape, with a transcription that conveys some of the strong emotions/experiences of people.

  • Students create a memorial to the person they interviewed.

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 Activities in Word Document format.




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