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Connie Martin
Journalism and English teacher
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Oral Histories of World War II

Basic Interviewing and Reporting

Oral Histories of World War II

Connie Martin of Manor High School in Manor, Texas.

Connie Martin
Manor High School
Journalism and English Teacher
Manor, Texas

Title: Oral Histories from World War II

Description of school and students

This unit will be taught to 9th-12th grade students enrolled in journalism class. Estimated time for teaching this unit is five class periods.  To implement the interviews and transcription, allow four to six weeks, depending on number of subjects to be interviewed.  The student body is culturally diverse inclusive of African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Latin American.  Class size is an optimum of 20 English-speakers. 

Unit Overview and Rationale

In order to understand the present and therefore the future, students must have a more complete understanding of history.  Today’s students have grown up in a world, where for the most part, peace between world powers exists.  They also struggle, as all generations do, to understand their place in the world.  Recording an oral history of the past is one way to understand and learn about the past.  By learning from relatives, townspeople, and leaders who lived during World War II, students will gain an understanding of a generation whose actions enabled them to live in an era of unprecedented freedom and peace. 

Unit Objectives

Through class lecture, discussion, small group activities, research and Selected readings, students will be able to:

Understanding Goals

Within the context of the interview, students may encounter a conflict between the recorded events of history and the interviewee’s perception of the events they experienced or remember.  To differentiate between the two, students will have to ask themselves another set of questions.  Among these variables are:  When things change, when things will never be the same, when things begin to fall apart, when things are learned, and when the outcome to events is uncertain.  These items will be different depending on the subject and context of the interview.  This type of critical thinking and analysis will also need to be practiced prior to the interviews. 



The Oral History Interview

As the interview begins, students will get a sense of the context of history the interviewee has lived and experienced.  Some sample general questions (from lead to scope) are: What is the central theme?  What is the point (lesson) of the story?  How did the conflict develop?  How widespread was the conflict?  Was it resolved?  How would you tell the story to a friend? 

Before writing the feature, students will get a sense of the theme of the history of the individual they are recording.  From this, students will be able to get the angle to the story.  Critical engagement questions to answer at this point will be:  What do you think is the most important idea?  What struck you as most interesting about the story?  What do you think the reader wants to know?  What do you think might hook the reader?  In addition, students will have to test the quality of quotes.  One question to consider is:  Are there any quotes good enough to be used as pull quotes? 

Recommended Readings and Sources


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