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"I am" Identity Oral History Project

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Keywords: research, speaking, listening, note-taking, questioning, film, film editing, oral history, identity
Subject(s): Video, Social Skills, Writing, Reading, Social Studies, English/Language Arts, Speech and Language, History
Grades 6 through 8
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Namaste Charter School , Chicago , IL
Planned By: Nawal Qarooni
Original Author: Nawal Qarooni, Chicago
Teaching Objective: Students will learn how to ask pertinent questions in order to better understand their own oral histories by formulating questions, taking notes, interviewing relatives on camera, and creating a video of the work.

Mini-Lesson: If you had to describe yourself in just one or two words, what would they be? Try to complete the sentence below.

I am...(ex. an enigma. a daughter. a student).

We all come from different backgrounds, traditions and understandings. Our experiences shape us to who we are today, and who we will become. Often, we learn through discussion with our peers that there is no right or wrong way to view issues in the world, but instead, it's the discussion and discourse that's most important. Understanding who you are is no exception: we learn who we are by understanding what brought us here, and by talking to those who shaped the our experiences.

What is oral history? It involves interviewing people or groups of people to gain an understanding of what it was like to live at a particular time, or what it was like to be a part of a specific group within a society. Interviewing can create a living picture of that experience.

Your job over the next few weeks will be to ask relatives and extended family members about their life experiences. You will need to ask specific questions that do not elicit a 'yes' or 'no' answer; rather, you want your questions to create a safe space for your relatives to explain in detail what life was like.

You will prepare your questions in class with your peers and have them ready on note-cards before using the Flip cameras in your homes for interviewing.

Next week, we will compile all your clips together, with your narration, into an "I am" piece that explains for audiences where you come from.

Guided Practice: On laptops, students watch model video clips of oral history projects, taking notes on what they notice.

Group Share: What did you notice about the way questions were asked? What kinds of questions were asked? Where were the speakers interviewed? What topics did they cover? How did the film-maker create a safe, comfortable space for the speakers?

Independent Practice: Brainstorm a list of relatives you believe would give insight into your past for this project. Then, begin writing 4-5 questions for each of them. Remember, the questions should not elicit a 'yes' or 'no' answer and should allow for a long answer that provides insight into your background.

Assessment: Review students' questions or allow for peer partnerships to review questions to be sure they tackle appropriate topics and are phrased in a way that allows for response.
Students should have the opportunity to share their work with peers to determine whether or not the information they collected provides an illustration and understanding of his or her background.
Students should edit their films, write the narration for them, and have the opportunity to present their work to a larger audience and community.
Students should be asked to reflect on their work through peer partnership discussion.
Materials: Flip Video
Other Items: 10 Flip Video Cameras