ICYMI: Oral History Resources

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Here’s a quick catch-up post for anyone who’s been following our series on Oral History and how to use these powerful tools with students. More to come soon!

Oral History: An Introduction:

We often think of history as big events—think battles, coronations, explorations—that’s observed impartially, recorded faithfully, and carefully preserved in libraries and universities for later generations. But history is as much about the lives of every day people as so-called great events, and we all can play an important part in preserving our own, and our community’s, history.

And these days, it’s hard not to feel as though we are all in the process of making our own contributions to history….

Oral History: Students are Historians, Too!:

Here at Small Stones, we LOVE hearing about students collecting oral histories from people in their communities. For this second installment in our Oral Histories Series, here’s a quick who/what/where/when/why/how explainer to help students understand to how powerful oral history can be–and to see themselves as historians….

Oral History: A Community College Assignment:

During the second half of the quarter, you and your group will be completing an oral history project. Since we’ve begun this quarter by reading, writing, and discussing issues of immigration, you’ll continue with this theme and interview an immigrant to California. You’ll choose a subject, conduct background research, conduct the interview, preserve the interview, and get it in shape to share with the world….

And deeper dives into two of our favorite resources:

Oral History Resources: Voice of Witness:

First up: a webinar series on conducting oral history projects with students. Registration is required, but resources are available to check out now. We particularly like the resource guide “Listen Up: How to Plan Your Oral History Project.” At the top of the PDF is a list of excellent examples of other projects, notably some from high school students….

Oral History Resources: Story Corps:

For educators, the site is a treasure trove of materials. From a community college perspective, when Emily was helping students conduct oral history projects, a few resources in particular were invaluable.

  1. Great Questions. There are pages upon pages of questions here, organized by general subject area, that you might want to ask as you conduct an interview. Categories include “Growing Up,” “School,” “Family Heritage,” “War,” and “Great Questions for Anyone.” Not doing an oral history project with your own students? These may very well be useful in the classroom in a lot of different contexts, whether in ice breaker games or as a way to “interview” a fictional character….

 

Series Catch-Up!

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We’ve been working on a couple of series lately, and since we editors are slammed in our ordinary lives, it seems like a good day to collect both of those in one giant in-case-you-missed-it post. Enjoy!

Oral History:

The Music of Social Movements:

Oral History: A Community College Assignment

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Next up in our Oral History series, an example of a project assignment for community college students working in groups to conduct oral histories. This is student-facing content; we’ll address teacher-specific content and tips soon!

This assignment was used in a community college setting, but with tweaks, it could easily be used with high school students or other adult learners.

Next up: strategies for helping students conduct respectful interviews and act as responsible historians.

Oral History Project

We often think of history as big events—think battles, coronations, explorations—that’s observed impartially, recorded, and carefully preserved in libraries and universities for later generations. But history is as much about the lives of every day people as so-called great events, and we all can play an important part in preserving our own, and our community’s, history.

During the second half of the quarter, you and your group will be completing an oral history project. Since we’ve begun this quarter by reading, writing, and discussing issues of immigration, you’ll continue with this theme and interview an immigrant to California. You’ll choose a subject, conduct background research, conduct the interview, preserve the interview, and get it in shape to share with the world.

Your group will be responsible for the following portions of the project:

  1. Create and submit a group Oral Histories Project plan.
    • Meet with your group, review the project requirements, and assign the work to individuals. Be sure to divide work as equally as possible and keep in mind each group member’s strengths and weaknesses. You are required to turn this in to Emily. Use this list to help you anticipate the work that you’ll be responsible for doing.
    • This plan can, and probably will, change over the course of the project. You’ll note that in your final self/group project evaluation.
  2. Identifying an interview subject and coordinating the interview. YOUR SUBJECT CANNOT BE A MEMBER OF THIS CLASS. Beyond that, anyone with an immigration story to tell is qualified.
    • Approaching the subject to request an interview
    • Setting up meeting times and places that work for everyone
    • Getting the basic facts about the interviewee’s story in order to conduct background research (ie where they immigrated from, when, etc.)
    • Having a backup plan!
  3. Preparing and submitting a formal group work distribution plan.
  4. Conducting background research both before and after the interview
    • Before the interview: use research to help formulate questions. You should know a little bit about the interviewee’s homeland and immigration situation. Were many other people making the same journey at the same time? Was immigration driven by world events?
    • Before the presentation and essay portion: Follow up on anything the interviewee mentioned that you don’t know much about. This will help you put this particular story in context.
  5. Generating interview questions
    • Create a list, longer than you think you need, of potential questions to ask. Storycorps is a great place to begin.
    • Prioritize and prepare your potential questions for easy access during the interview
  6. The interview! THIS MUST TAKE PLACE IN PERSON!
    • Coordinate the interview! Choose an appropriate and comfortable time and place for the interviewee. Be sure to consider the needs of the interviewers for recording purposes.
    • Know everyone’s roles.
      1. Who will make sure that the interviewee and interviewers know when and where to meet?
      2. Who will ask questions?
      3. Who will manage the recording (audio required; video optional)
      4. Who will provide any other necessary support?
  • Find out whether interviewee is open to follow up questions after the official interview, whether via phone, email, or any other method.
  • Be sure to have a backup plan and contact information for everyone.
  1. After the interview
    • Send the interviewee prompt thank yous and an invitation to presentations.
    • Group review and recap ASAP to be sure you’re on track with all the project work and requirements.
    • Identify further areas to research.
    • Any follow up questions for the interviewee? Ask!
  2. Presentations, location TBA
    • Your audience: classmates, community members, and your interviewees, if they can make it.
    • Five-ten minutes to present background, summary of interview, and why/how this story is important. You are required to incorporate both audio and visual elements (ie voice recordings, photos or maps, props, and any other material that can help the audience appreciate the history that you’ve taken).
    • Sharing more broadly: preservation techniques. We’ll discuss options in class.
  3. Written requirement: Oral History Essay
    • Each group member is responsible for his/her own final essay on the interview
    • Your essay will incorporate some of your background research and the interview material and will make an argument about why this story is important to preserve. We’ll discuss how this will work more as we get closer to the deadline.
  4. Self and Group Evaluation
    • You’ll complete an evaluation for both your own role and that of your group in completing this project.

 

 

Guest Post: “How Far Does the Apple Fall?”

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We are thrilled to present our first-ever guest post, via writer and teacher Rashaan Alexis Meneses, currently a professor at St. Mary’s College of California. Her essay prompt, “How Far Does the Apple Fall?” is designed for an intro-level college writing course, but may well be appropriate for advanced high school students.

Examining Assumptions Essay #1

“How Far Does the Apple Fall?” 

We are all of us influenced by the people closest to us, and to them we owe a great deal. For this assignment you will examine how your parents, guardians, or grandparents influenced your political perspective. Try to think as broadly as possible. Political doesn’t just mean red or blue, liberal or conservative. Politics run deep in terms of social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, environmental concerns or lack thereof, global or local—there are many ways to see the world politically.

Focus on one or two specific ways in which older family members, parents or guardians, have shaped your political perspective. Whether you have adopted some of their political leanings or outright rejected them, this is a chance for you to reflect upon and examine your assumptions about yourself and the world you live in. You will want to depict at least two and no more than four specific events, circumstances, or conversations that you can reference as evidence as to how you are politically influenced or not by your parents or guardians.

This is a chance to be creative with voice and form, so you will want to rely on concrete actions. Avoid using adjectives. Give your readers specific evidence to show not tell how you are or are not politically influenced by your parents/guardians. I encourage you to refer back to the reading assignments we have covered in class that deal with family and identity. Note how each author uses tone and style. How do they assert authority? What kind of evidence do they use to develop their stance and build a thesis?

Essay Requirements: 

Your essay should be a minimum of (4)-pages long, typed in Times or Times New Roman only, double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. Always carefully proofread your paper several times. I highly recommend reading it aloud to yourself at least twice to catch typos, faulty language, missing points, etc. Be sure to refer to your past graded essays to address strengths and weaknesses.

Grading Criteria: 

For this assignment, I will be looking for essays that 1) demonstrate that students understand competing viewpoints, 2) that students can generate a plausible thesis and that 3) students can identify and reflect upon their own assumptions on a particular topic. You will also want to be sure to include 4) a strong and persuasive voice that can substantiate all claims with evidence.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses teaches English/Composition and Collegiate Seminar at Saint Mary’s College of California and has received fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. With work forthcoming in Kartika Review, her publications include Puerto Del SolNew LettersBorderSensesKurungabaaThe Coachella ReviewPembroke MagazineDoveglion Press, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. http://rashaanalexismeneses.com/    

Small Stones: A Recap

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Here’s what we’ve been up to since our initial post in November 2016:

Curating Curricula and Lesson Plans: 

We prioritize finding lesson plans and curricula that are high-quality, free to access and use, and applicable to the present political reality.

Reading Lists and Research:

We highlight resources and background reading that can be helpful for educators and students.

Original Lesson Plans and Activities:

Small stones creates lesson plans and activities where they don’t already exist. Keep an eye on this space for more coming soon.

small stones Lesson Plan: Contacting Your Representatives

Contacting Your Representatives

A sample lesson plan for middle school through community college students

Goals:

  • Students will work together to communicate their opinion on an important issue with their senators and congressperson.
  • Students will think and talk about congressional districts and how they come to exist.

Important Vocabulary:

  • Senator
  • Congressperson
  • Senate
  • House of Representatives
  • Districts
  • Redistricting
  • Gerrymandering

 Preparation:

  • If students will not have access to research tools, ID local and state representatives and have their contact information ready to share.
  • Using the US Census site, prepare to display your state or regions’ map of congressional districting lines.
  • Decide how best to group students—preselected groups, self-chosen groups, etc. You might also choose to group students whom you know live in the same area (i.e., will have the same representatives).
  • ID the roles that you’ll use with your students. Be mindful that students’ citizenship or immigration statuses could impact how comfortable they are taking certain roles or giving their names to representatives.
  • Decide whether students will be contacting their representatives about issues of their own or whether the class will focus on one or two issues in particular.
  • Come up with a method for calling or writing representatives that will work with your students. You might have them make calls during class time using a school phone, for example, or they may be responsible for emailing representatives out of class.

Continue reading “small stones Lesson Plan: Contacting Your Representatives”