Student Historians Preserve
Student Reporters Gather Stories of the Past
By Laura Richter
GRADE LEVELS 7-8 and very adaptable for other grade levels
TIME ALLOTMENT 2-3 40 minute classes plus time for individual interviews
Block scheduling allows for the continuous flow of the activities.
OVERVIEW In preserving our cultural heritage, student historians
play a critical role in our communities. It is important that students
learn effective strategies in gathering the rich stories of Maine’s
past. Students learn how to conduct effective interviews by using technology
as an essential tool in researching, communicating and publishing. Internet
resources included here are essential for gathering information and
celebrating published works. Other forms of technology integrated in
this project include multimedia presentation tools, a student-friendly
movie production program, and a web design program.
SUBJECT MATTER Language Arts / A Study in Local Communities
Social Studies/ Maine History
Students will be able to: Use a wide range of strategies to address
different audiences for a variety of purposes; Write or speak for reflective,
creative and informational purposes;
• Record significant information from interviews conducted;
• Make extensive use of primary sources when researching a topic;
• Ask pertinent questions when interviewing
• Demonstrate an understanding of the lives of selected local/
state figures.STANDARDS National Standards: (NCTE)
#8 Students use a variety of technological and information resources
to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
#9 Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in
language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups,
geographic regions, and social roles.
Maine State Learning Results:
Research-Related Writing and Speaking: Students will work, write, and
speak effectively in connection with research in all content areas.
Research involves generating ideas and posing questions. It includes
gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing data from a variety of sources
(e.g. print, non-print, and electronic texts, examination of artifacts,
interviews, with people). Researching and reporting use a variety of
informational and technological resources to gather and synthesize information
and to create and communicate knowledge
Processes of Writing and Speaking: Students will develop the ability
to use the skills and strategies of the writing process.
History/ Historical Inquiry, Analysis, and Interpretation: Students
evaluate primary sources in understanding Maine history.PREP FOR
TEACHERS This lesson can be part of an overall unit
on the history of your state with an emphasis on preserving local heritage.
Teachers should be prepared in the instruction of interviewing skills.
Prepare two index cards for your mock interview. Have questions prepared
to demonstrate the difference between “closed” and “open”
You may want to contact an older individual in the community for conducting
a “mock interview”.
INTRODUCTORY ACTIVITY: SETTING THE STAGE
Explain to the students that they will be interviewing a person in the
community who has valuable experiences to share. Tell them that a good
interviewer can get information without distancing the subject. It is
important to make the subject feel at ease and the ultimate success
of an interview depends on the questions asked and the manner in which
they are asked.
Having said this, choose a student to ask you two questions in front
of the class. Give the student the index cards with a “closed”
question. I used the question: “Have you ever traveled?”
I responded “yes.” I then questioned the whole class as
to what they thought about the question. They all know already that
I travel and they quickly picked up on the fact that it was not open
ended, or required only a “yes” or “no” response.
The second question on the card was “Tell me about one of your
exciting experiences while traveling in Italy.” After responding,
I turned to the class and asked if they noticed the difference? I then
took a few minutes to brainstorm questions on the overhead, that the
interviewer could ask me about my travels. We listed both “closed”
and “open” type questions. Have the students write down
Elements of a Good Interview:
• Be Prepared
Try to research or gather information about your subject before the
Have a pen and pad if keyboarding skills are good, take laptop to interview.
• Be a Good Observer
Try to make your subject feel at ease by noticing how they react and
allowing them to talk.
• Be Objective
Try not to react emotionally to the responses.
• Note Taking and media
Try to develop a way to take notes by abbreviating. Ask the person that
you will be interviewing if they mind you using a tape recorder. Also
make sure they do not mind if you publish their stories on your community
web site. Take
Ask if it is ok to call if you have further questions.
Before students interview their community member, have one class where
students interview one another.
Begin by passing out 5 index cards per student and have them
write out “open” questions to ask a peer. The goal should
be to get the subject to recall an interesting story about his/her past.
Have student pair up and as one interviews the other, he/she should
take notes following the guidelines for elements of a good interview.
Allow enough time for both interviews to take place.
Process the lesson by having students come forward to model
the interview and share what they learned form each other. Encourage
the class to ask questions and share reflections.
The culminating activity will be the community member interview.
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS This project is entirely about community
and preserving local heritage. A special evening presentation can be
held where students invite everyone in the community who helped them
in the study.