Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > Personal Stories and Primary Sources

Back to Lesson Plans

Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

[Detail] Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

Unit 2: Interviewing

Students are introduced to this project and the concept that each individual creates and contributes to history. They study the transcript of an interview, learn how to conduct an interview, and conduct and record the interview with his or her grandparent or elder.

The interview analyzed in the lesson is called Women and the Changing Times. This document, a transcript of an oral interview, may be printed and distributed to students for homework. It is best if students write out the answers to the questions in the lesson. The interview transcript is used both as a model of interviewing and as part of the lesson on primary sources (see Unit 3). Remind students to keep the copy of the interview and their notes for the later lesson. These papers should be put in the above mentioned folders.

Students attempt to determine what questions the interviewer, Mrs. Daisy Thompson, asked Mrs. Blount and compile a list of the possible questions. Discuss how to formulate questions for an interview. Make a list of questions, which the students believe should be asked of their grandparent/elder. Compare these questions with the list of Interview Questions. You may wish to add some of the student-created questions to the Category Questions of this list of interview questions, or you might suggest that the students use class-generated questions for the two original/personal questions mentioned in the "Instructions for the Interview."


Students are introduced to the concept that each individual creates and contributes to history.

Unit 2 of this project teaches techniques for interviewing. Students learn how to conduct an interview and extract information from oral history. They use Women and the Changing Times, one of the interviews from American Life Histories, 1936-1940, as a model for the interview. This life history focuses on family life in the Great Depression and fits with the theme of the third unit, Gathering Information from Primary Sources.

Objectives: Unit 2 introduces students to:

  • the interview as a primary source in the study of history;
  • the skills of interviewing, accessing, interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating the primary sources of oral history;
  • the ways to pose questions in interviewing; and
  • the process of conducting an interview.

Time Required: One to two weeks