- Grade level: Middle/Upper Elementary, High School
- Subject Area: Social Studies and Language Arts
Using the criteria they developed in lesson two, students begin to conduct oral histories of family members to learn about their cultural and ethnic heritage. Prior to starting, students and teachers together develop a list of questions that students will use in their interviews and research.
In conducting their oral histories students will:
- Students will develop an understanding of their cultural and ethnic heritage and the cultural and ethnic heritages of others.
- Students will develop skills in conducting interviews.
Materials and Resources Needed
- Talk with students and describe what an oral history is. Discuss how they will conduct oral histories to examine their cultural and ethnic heritage from the perspective of immigration.
- As a whole group, brainstorm a list of questions that students will use as a guide in their interviews.
- Have students develop a list of items-- photographs, drawings, artifacts, etc.-- that students might want to gather as part of their research to enhance their final reports.
- Talk with students about how they might choose which relative or relatives to interview. They may end up interviewing a family member who immigrated to this country. If no living family member immigrated, students should talk with parents, grandparents, etc. to find out what their ancestors' experiences were.
- Students conduct their interviews and write up their findings.
Below are some sample questions that you might consider using with your students to guide their oral history interviews.
Students may be interviewing family members who immigrated, or they may interview family members to find out what they know of their ancestors' and why and when they immigrated. These questions have been designed to work with people who themselves immigrated. They can be easily reworded to work in the latter case.
- What was the primary reason you immigrated to this country?
- When did you come to the United States?
- Where was your home before you moved to the United States?
- What did you do in your homeland before you moved here?
- Where did you first settle when you came to this country?
- Did you know English when you came here? What other languages did you speak?
- What was the trip to the US like? Did you come over land, by boat, by plane, etc? Was the trip hard or easy? Were you ever worried or frightened?
- What were your first impressions about the United States? Did your first experiences live up to what you had hoped for?
- Did you experience any racism or prejudice when you moved to this country?
Back to Ellis Island Unit Lesson Plans