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Lesson 2: Telling It Like It Was

Students discover and explore the experiences of people in different eras using many historical resources.

(Adapted from Utah Lesson Plans from the Utah State Office of Education)

Subjects: Social Studies, Language Arts

 Grade Levels: 10-12

 Time Frame: 2-3 weeks

 Materials Needed:  

  • City of Richmond Archives Oral History Transcript (Handout 1)
  • Tips for Interviewing (Handout 2)
  • Guiding Questions for Oral History Interviews
  • Oral History Questions and Answer Sample
  • Question and Answer Turned Into Oral History
  • Students' gathered selections of old newspapers, maps, diaries, family albums, personal histories, texts, magazines, etc.

Learning Objectives: Students will:

  1. Explore the experience of someone else, using reading selections and discussions
  2. Write a narrative based on a series of related episodes from the experience of someone else
  3. Produce a final draft of a narrative

 Procedure: 

1.       Instruct students to gather from the library/ friend/ family, etc, old newspapers, maps, diaries, albums, histories, texts, and magazines which capture stories of individual’s experiences.    Assign these collections or copies of them to be brought to class for a reading day.

2.       Allow a day of reading, browsing, and sharing of these collections. Keeps things very informal and monitor and share with the students.

3.       Read aloud the "City of Richmond Archives Oral History Transcript: Interview With Leif Birkedal" (Handout 1.)   

  •     Emphasize that his would not have been shared had not a interviewer come and asked for the story.
4.       Discuss the following ideas from the Interview with   Leif Birkedal:

 a.       What were Leif’s emotions as he was recalling the past?

 b.      Why did the interviewer not edit the discussion?

 c.       What characters were brought into the interview? How did they support the mood or the emotions of Leif?

 d.      What happened at the end of the account?

 

 5.         Go over with students the Oral History Questions and Answer Sample and the Question and Answer Turned Into Oral History Handouts to develop their skills in transcribing oral histories to text.

 6.         Teach some interviewing skills so that students feel comfortable with the task of interviewing someone for an oral history (Handout 2).  Give copy of oral history questions.

 7.         Have students conduct an interview with a person of their choice. Instruct them to bring written notes; the taped interview; and some papers, cards, pictures, ribbons, certificates, a current snapshot, a copy of the person's handwriting, a favourite recipe, etc., to class (these mementos do not have to be original--they can be copied or even sketched, handwritten or drawn). 

 8.         Instruct students to make a scrapbook that represents the person they interviewed. This can be made from construction paper or card stock and pencils or paints. Have them arrange the scrapbook in the same order in which they will write the oral history. This is an aid in planning, organizing, and sorting information.

 9.         Have students share the scrapbooks in small groups, showing what they've made and telling of the experiences of the person.

 10.    After students have explored the experiences of someone else, have them write a narrative based on a series of related episodes.

 11.    Place students into groups and ask each to read their own story silently and to write five questions about their story.

  • These questions should focus on points that the writer tried to get across in this oral history--points such as mood, reflective feelings, changed attitudes, changed customs and/or expectations, feelings about this person, etc

 12.    Ask each student to read aloud his oral history to the others in the group. The others should listen to the content and clarity of meaning in the oral history. After reading the oral history, the reader then asks the questions previously written down and conducts a mini-discussion on the oral history. This should help writers analyze their own and others' work and clarify the paper to improve its meaning and communication.

  13.    After all have read and discussed, have each student quietly make any changes, additions, or deletions he thinks would improve his oral history.

 14.    After the final draft, post scrapbooks and oral histories on a bulletin board. An alternate bulletin board is a large box (such as a refrigerator box) covered with butcher paper. Borders, burnt edges, appropriate and related graffiti can be added. Post scrapbooks and oral histories on this. Rotate the box for the next few days so all sides get some exposure. Students will linger around this and read passages.

  • Have students read their finished product into a tape recorder and send it and the scrapbook to the person it highlights or send them a copy.
  • Encourage students to share oral histories with family members--maybe sending out a copy to those closely related to the person interviewed.  

Source: Utah State Office of Education

http://www.uen.org/

City of Richmond Archives
Oral History Transcript


Interview with: LEIF BIRKEDAL

Interviewer: Marilyn Clayton (for the Britannia Heritage Shipyard Project)

Recorded at Queensborough Shipyard, 23740 Duke Rd., Richmond, B.C., October 3, 1991

(Project) Tape No. 116:1

FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF TAPE - NO RESTRICTIONS

___________________________________

Short description of machinery transfer from Britannia Machine Shop 1979.

MC: Leif's telling me about the closing down of the shipyard and you're saying that you helped remove all the machinery.

LB: We took all the machinery and all the parts, packed the parts down in a tote box. John Robertson and myself and we had 6 guys from Paramount, and we packed everything down and took all the tools and shipped it up to Paramount, B.C. Packers place up there, and it was stored in a warehouse. But I don't know if it's there now. I know the steam box is in Namu, that went up to Namu. So, where the parts are now, where the parts, of course went into the parts department at Paramount but where the tools are. Yeah, I know where the lathe is, that's in the machine shop in Paramount.

MC: Is it?

LB: Yeah.

MC: Okay.

LB: And where the rest of the parts went I don't know.

MC: No.

LB: All the tools or anything like that, they was taken to Paramount and from there, I mean its hard to say where it is.

MC: Where it went. Okay, when you shipped, you say you shipped it out, did you ship it out by water?

LB: Yeah. We loaded it onto a barge. We had a big flat deck barge, you know, and used the crane that you see on the big deck and loaded everything onto the barge and then towed it up to Paramount and unloaded it up there.

MC: Did you operate that crane?

LB: Yeah. I didn't operate the crane when we are working there, there was, there was Harold Grahn that operated it but everybody was laid off and I was the only one left so I operated the crane, taking all the parts and tools out of there.

MC: Okay. So at the very end, Doris was still there?

LB: No, nobody was there.

MC: Oh, you were the very last person.

LB: Yeah, the only one that was left there was John Robertson and me and we took everything out. John took all the parts from the parts department and the stockroom and I took all the tools out and shipped them out.

MC: Okay. So do you know what date that would be approximately?

LB: Oh that was... I don't know when Harold died, I could find that out and I have to talk to Doris Grahn then, to find that out. But can you remember the date when BC Packers took over the Britannia? (Speaking to Rod Nelson) I think we were one year.

RN: Oh Jesus. How long you been here? You only worked one year then...

LB: '78 I think.

RN: You were working at Namu for one year weren't you?

LB: We come underneath Britannia, or the BC Packer, in 1978. So we worked in Britannia, under BC Packer, from '78 on. And in 1980 I think it was closed down but I don't know the date.

RN: Britannia?

LB: Yeah.

RN: Oh, I could find that out. I don't know what date it was either.

LB: So then I went down to Samson, I was in Samson two years, and then I came here.

RN: Oh were you?

LB: Yeah.

RN: Before you came here? I thought you were....

LB: Yeah, I was part, I was part in Samson and the last year in Namu. In 1980 I went in Samson and then they stopped the Samson in '81 and they took ten of us to Namu. Then it was Samson out again in '82, that was the last year. And then I come here. (to Queensborough Shipyard)

END OF INTERVIEW 

Source: http://www.city.richmond.bc.ca/

Handout 2

Tips for Interviewing

Adapt to the situation: With a talker, sit back and listen; with a shy person, keep the questions gentle but frequent.

Be willing to let the interview wander – but if you’re not getting interesting material, put it back on track with a question.

Remember to use follow-up questions to dig deeper into the story.   Useful phrases include "Give me an example of that" and "Can you remember a specific time when…?"

Be respectful – but don’t be afraid to push a little, to ask bold questions.

Be accurate: After the interview, check the spelling of names used by the subject.   Write the spellings in your notebook.

Always say thank you, and stay a few minutes to talk after the tape recorder is turned off.

If possible, come back for a second interview once you’ve transcribed the first one.   By then, you’ll know where the best material is coming from; the second interview can provide more depth and color.

Guiding Questions for Oral History Interviews

  • What country are you originally from?
  • Why did you leave this country?
  • When did you leave? How old were at that time?
  • What were the conditions in the country when you left?
  • How did you prepare for your trip here?
  • Who came with you when you emigrated? Who did you leave behind? What did you leave behind?
  • How did you get here? Did you stay somewhere else before arriving here?
  • Why did you choose Canada? Why not some other country?
  • Who decided you would come here? Did you want to leave?
  • How did others in your home country treat you when they knew you were leaving?
  • What changes in lifestyle did you make when you came here?
  • What was your first impression of Canada? Has this initial impression changed over time?
  • What are some of the differences/similarities you've noticed in the cultures here and in your home country?
  • What were your hopes for yourself (and/or your family) when you came here? Have you realized these hopes?
  • How were you treated when you first arrived in Canada? How are you treated now?
  • Were your expectations of Canada met? Was your idea of Canada the same as the reality?

Source: Adapted from The New Americans Teacher Guide

Oral History Question/Answer Sample

 (From a verbatim transcript of oral history interview)

 Q: So you really weren't that excited to be coming here?

 A: Well, no, not really. I mean, think about it. Would you be? I mean, you live in one place your whole life and then suddenly your parents tell you, "Look, we've decided it's best for all of us to move to America. Your father has a better job and we'll be much happier there."

 Q: Why didn't you want to come here?

 A: Well, all of my friends were in Taipei. They were all that mattered to me. I mean, you spend most of your younger years in school, so it only makes sense that you'd miss your friends when you have to move away so far. Uh, I guess I might've been somewhat selfish. I mean my father did get a better job when he got here, but for the rest of us in my family it really was difficult. I think I was 12 at the time . . . yeah, 12. I started in middle school here, yeah, and it was a pretty awful experience. It's not like middle school is normally a great time in your life anyway, is it? But coming here at that time and not knowing English all that well, well that certainly didn't make it any easier for me. I was lonely here.

 Q: Why were you lonely?

 A Uh, it took me a long time to get to know people. In my school I really didn't know anyone else who was from Taiwan. Most everyone else had either grown up here or they were from Mexico, yeah mostly they spoke Spanish or English. But no one spoke Cantonese-that was the only language I knew then.

Source: Adapted from the New American Teacher Guide: Immigration Oral Histories

Q/A Turned into Oral History

No, I wasn't all that excited to be coming here. I mean, think about it. Would you be? I mean, you live in one place your whole life and then suddenly your parents tell you, "Look, we've decided it's best for all of us to move to America. Your father has a better job and we'll be much happier there." At that time, all of my friends were in Taipei. They were all that mattered to me. You spend most of your younger years in school, so it only makes sense that you'd miss your friends when you have to move away so far. I guess I might've been somewhat selfish. My father did get a better job when he got here, but for the rest of us in my family it really was difficult.

I think I was 12 at the time . . . yeah, 12. I started in middle school here and it was a pretty awful experience. It's not like middle school is normally a great time in your life anyway, is it? But coming here at that time and not knowing English all that well certainly didn't make it any easier for me. I was lonely here. It took me a long time to get to know people. In my school I really didn't know anyone else who was from Taiwan. Most everyone else had either grown up here or they were from Mexico, and mostly they spoke Spanish or English. But no one spoke Cantonese-that was the only language I knew then.

Source: Adapted from the New American Teacher Guide: Immigration Oral Histories

Oral History Unit

 Lesson 2: Telling It like It Was

Students discover and explore the experiences of people in different eras using many historical resources.

Document 1: City of Richmond Archives Oral History Transcript

http://www.city.richmond.bc.ca/

Birkedal, Leif Transcript available - Online (4.2K)

 

Lesson 1: Settlement Oral Histories

Lesson 2: Telling It Like It Was

Lesson 3: Storytelling

Lesson 4: My Oral History Project

Download Lesson 2 in Word Document format.

 

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