US Homefront WW2 Unit - Lesson Plan, Conducting Oral Histories Illustration

Conducting Oral Histories

Teacher Preparation

  • Make Copies (one of each per student)
    Handout #1 - Where were you on December 7, 1941
    Handout #2- Basic Rules of Oral Histories
    Handout #3 - Family Interview Form
    Handout #4 - Oral History Release Form

  • If possible, find a copy of President Roosevelt's Dec 8 address about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and play it for your students prior to reading it. Tape recorder

Lesson Plan

What is an oral history?

Brainstorm with you class about what is an oral history.

Handout #1: Where were you on December 7, 1941?

Compare the information provided. Compare facts about the attack. Compare what people were doing in each interview provided.

Discuss ways oral interviews can be conducted:

  1. Written - the interviewer asks questions and writes down the answers.

  2. Audio taped - the interviewer records the answers on tape.

  3. Video taped - the interviewer films the interview.

Conduct an oral history with family and/or friends about an important event

Discuss with your class how people remember important events in their lives.

Have students write a paragraph in class about where they were, and their memories of this important event.

  • Handout #2: Basic Rules of Oral Histories

  • Handout #3: Family Interview Form

  • Handout #4: Oral History Release Form. Tell students when using information from oral histories, the class or an individual student must get a release from the person interviewed.

Activity: Tell students their assignment is to conduct an oral interview with a family member about the same event on which they wrote their paragraph. Remind them to be sure and get a signed release form from the person they interview.

Conduct an oral history with a classroom guest about an aspect of the home front during World War II

Teacher Preparation:

  • Find someone who will visit your class who was a child or young adult on Dec 7, 1941. Inform the office that you will be having a classroom guest.

  • Arrange for comfortable transportation for your guest to and from school.

  • Provide your guest with a list of questions they will be asked several days prior to classroom visit.

  • Invite someone from the local newspaper the day of the interview. They might send a photographer. If not, take pictures yourself. Send a quick news lease (written as a class activity) with picture to the local paper. You might be surprised. They might publish it!

Announce to the class that the class will be enjoying a visit from someone who was a child on December 7, 1941, and remembers the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Home Front activities during World War II.

Group Activity: Break into groups. Have each group prepare 5 questions that are most important, and five more that would be interesting to know. Give them some time. Then have each group share their list with the class. Write their questions on the overhead or chalk or whiteboard. Have the class vote on a list of 10-15 questions that will be asked. Questions should include: How old were you on December 7, 1941. Where were you living?

The Interview: Have an escort (student from class) meet your guest at the office. Make sure they are comfortable. Introduce your guest. Interview your guest. At the conclusion, thank your guest. Bring soft drinks and cookies or candies for everyone. Escort your guest back to the office. Make sure they have a way to arrive and return home safely and comfortably.

Follow Up: Share interview notes taken by students. Post interviews on the wall. Write thank you notes to the person interviewed and mail them

Some Information from Through My Eyes, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Co-Sponsored by the National Archives-Central Plains Region and the Johnson County Museum System, reprinted by permission. All Rights Reserved

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