Project Description
Project Components
National Standards Correlations
Lesson Planning Suggestions

Oral histories offer a unique way to learn about past events and the people that experienced or played important roles in those events. This project gives students the opportunity to learn more about the life of someone they find interesting. During the workshop, you'll take students step-by-step through the process of creating an oral history. While the focus of the project is the creation of an oral history, the step-by-step instruction for completing the report revolves entirely around the writing process. An Activity Assessment Rubric assesses the finished product.

When the writing projects are complete, encourage your students to post them on this web site for the rest of the world to enjoy!

Time Required

"Writer's Workshop: Oral Histories" offers teachers and students the opportunity to learn more about another person in their family or community as they work step-by-step through the writing process. A typical class following the entire lesson plan can expect to spend one class period each school day for two to four weeks, depending on class size, grade level, and resources. Our weekly lesson planner has divided the project up into a three-week schedule. However, you may choose to work at a slower or faster pace than what we've outlined. It should be noted that a good portion of the work required to complete this project (including but not limited to the interview itself) may need to be completed away from school.

This "Writer's Workshop" project gives students the opportunity to become comfortable with the writing process as they work to complete their report. The workshop is designed to take students through each step of the writing process and includes tutorials, rerproducibles, online planning tools and interactive mini-lessons.

Mini-Lesson (1 day)
Begin your workshop with two quick mini-lessons designed to enhance students' note-taking and punctuation skills — important skills required for conducting and reporting accurate interview information. We've provided both interactive online versions of our mini-lessons as well as printable versions you may copy for each student.

Prewriting (3–4 days)
During this stage, students choose an individual to interview, gather information about the person, develop a set of questions for their interview, and finally, conduct the interview itself.

Drafting (2–3 days)
Students review the notes or tape from their interview and begin to create a rough draft of their report. A rough draft allows students to begin the process of organizing their work and get their thoughts down on paper.

Revising (2–3 days)
Students concentrate on the content of their oral history report. As students begin this process, remind them that revising doesn't involve making changes for spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

Editing (1–2 days)
At this stage, students focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation (including use of quotation marks), capitalization, and subject/ verb agreement.

Reviewing (1–2 days)
The review allows students one more look before taking their work public. Students discuss number of different ways they may conduct a review process including: peer review, self assessment, and teacher conferencing.

Publishing (1–2 days)
This is a time for students to celebrate their accomplishments and allow the rest of the world to view their work. In addition to posting work on, there are a number of other great ideas for publishing students' oral history reports.

"Writer's Workshop: Research Papers" correlates with many of the national standards for language arts.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) include:

  • Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Technology Foundation Standards for Students

  • use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
  • use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
  • use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • use technology tools to process data and report results employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
  • use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • use technology tools to process data and report results.

Week One

Introduction to the Unit & Mini-Lesson (1 day)

Begin the unit with a discussion of oral histories. Explain that an oral history consists of an interview and a report of the interview. Read examples of oral histories that have been published on

Next, discuss the steps of the writing process and activities involved with each step. Be sure to include how much class time and homework will be involved with this project.

The mini-lessons that accompany this unit, note taking and quotation marks, align nicely with the type of writing required to create and oral history.

Explain the importance of good note taking skills, especially during an interview. Ask students why they think this skill is so important to the interview process. Write responses on the chalk board. Allow time for students to experience the online note taking activity.

Review punctuation rules. Remind students that oral histories include an abundance of direct quotes. Review the rules for quotation marks. Click here to print a copy of the "Smart Quotes" activity and the Rules for Using Quotation Marks. This sheet will serve as a great reference tool as students work on their projects.

Pre-Writing (3–4 days)
The pre-writing activities actually fall under three different headings:

Locating a Subject
Begin this lesson with a classroom brainstorming session. Ask students to name individuals they consider interesting enough to interview. Refer to the reproducible of interviewee subjects. Discuss the possibilities with students.

Preparing for the Interview
Once students have decided on the person they plan to interview, print and distribute the Preparation Checklist. Do not allow any student to begin an interview until they have worked through each of the important preparation steps listed on this document. One of the most important steps towards preparation involves gathering background information about the person they will be interviewing.

Finally, before sending students out on their interviews, review the etiquette rules for good interviews:

  • Be on time.
  • Maintain eye contact and be a good listener.
  • Don't rush a response. Give the person plenty of time to answer your questions.
  • Bring a tape recorder and something to take notes.
  • Always conclude by thanking the person for spending time with you.
Conducting the Interview
More than likely, as students' interviews won't take place during school hours, remind them that they should schedule 3–5 days plus a weekend to conduct their interviews. You may wish to create individual schedules with students to help keep them on track.

Week Two

Drafting (2–3 days)
Once the interviews have been completed, regroup and spend time as a class discussing the interview process.

  • What did they like?
  • Were they comfortable with the process or uncomfortable?
  • Did they learn anything new?
  • Did everyone get enough information?
Next, send the students to their desks and have them read through their notes or listen to their taped interviews. Tell them to begin thinking about specific quotes or anecdotes they want to be sure and include in their reports. This is also a good time for students to begin thinking about ways to open their reports—a great "hook" to keep the reader interested.

Click here to print the Drafting reproducible.

Once everyone has had time to review their tapes and revisit their interview notes, it's time to start writing a first draft. Allow students at least one class period and additional time at home to complete this part of the process. Also, remind students that this is simply a time to get their thoughts on paper—get content down now, and go back later to make corrections.

Revising (2–3 days)
When everyone has completed his or her first draft, it's time to begin the revision process. Spend time discussing what actually happens during a revision. Remind students that they do not need to correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling during this phase of the writing process. Have students check flow, content, and sentence structure by reading their paper out loud.

At this point, you can also encourage a peer review. Click here to print the Peer Review Checklist.

Week Three

Editing (1–2 days)
Once students have drafted and revised their work, prompt them to check for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, subject/verb agreement, and spelling. Click here to print and then distribute an Editing Checklist to each student. Review the quotations mini-lesson with students.

Reviewing (1-2 days)
The reports are almost ready for their debut. The reviewing process comes next. This step is painful to some students, so be sure to offer a variety of options for review.

  • Teacher Conference
  • Peer Review—Click here to print a Peer Review Checklist
  • Self-Assessment
Tell students to think of the Reviewing process as a dress rehearsal—one last time to "get it right" before the rest of the world gets to see their report.

Publishing (1–2 days)
Celebrate students' finished pieces by publishing their work in a way that is meaningful to your class. You may wish to discuss ideas with students. Click here to post your students' work on the Web site. Find creative ideas to publish students' writing on the Celebrate! Page.