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Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

[Detail] Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

Lesson Overview

Learning history from real people involved in real events brings life to history. This project provides a means to learn about the twentieth century from real people and primary sources. A 1913 newspaper provides a view of the world on the brink of a World War. An interview with a grandparent or significant elder provides a human face for life in the twentieth century. Through researching primary and secondary sources, students become conversant with significant aspects of twentieth century history.


Students will learn:

  • that each person, no matter how seemingly insignificant, contributes to the world's story;
  • how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources and how to assess the relative importance of each in the study of history;
  • how to access, interpret, analyze, and evaluate primary sources of various kinds;
  • how to conduct an interview;
  • effective use of questions in doing research;
  • techniques and skills of research;
  • the importance of accuracy and honesty in research;
  • how to "write history" clearly so that it communicates to others;
  • how to teach others the topic on which one has become an expert; and
  • techniques for effective oral presentations


Time Required

Eight to ten weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12, 6-8


  • Immigration & Ethnic Heritage
  • Culture & Folklife


  • Great Depression and WWII, 1929-1945
  • Postwar United States, 1945-present


Deborah Dent-Samake and Carolyn Karis, American Memory Fellows, 1998