Learning Across Generations – Table of Contents

Lesson 3: Doing Oral History: Active Listening

Teachers: access the online lesson plan for this section by clicking here!


For ideas on how you can incorporate oral history into curriculum, check out the “Project and Activity Ideas” section . The primary purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the method of oral history and to convey the importance of “active listening”.


  1. To Understand what oral history is, why it’s done and how listening to people’s stories about their history helps us to form a more complete picture of the past.
  2. To  have practice tips on how to formulate questions and to conduct an oral history interview.
  3. To reflect on and to practice active listening skills.
  4. To en
  5. themselves as historymakers whose individual and collective stories because, as we often say “if you don’t somebody else will… and they’re probably going to get it wrong!”




    1. Begin by sharing a story from your own past or a story you have learned about from someone else by listening to them. Ask them what they thought about the story and share with them what the story means to you and how it felt to share it.
    2. Share the Jackson Center slideshow, How to Do Oral History, with students.
      • They may want to take notes as they watch and listen. You might also want to print out copies of slide 5 which explains the difference types of questions to ask.
      • To illustrate the importance of ‘active listening’, ask students to choose a partner or someone around them.
      • Tell them that this is an active listening exercise; they will be listening to each other and then summarizing what they heard their partner say.
    3. Next, tell students they should take a few moments to think of a story to tell their partner. (You can tell them that the story can be about anything- something good or exciting that happened to them, something not so great, or even just that  they did after school the day before.) Then let them know that they will each have exactly 30 second (you can also choose a longer period, but not more than 1 minute) to tell the story. They then should  decide who goes first: begin the timer and say, stop, when the time is up. Without waiting long, tell students to switch roles and start the clock. When the time is up, let students know that they will be taking turns telling the class what they learned about their partner.
      • When everyone has finished, ask students what they thought about the process. Did they listen well? Did they feel heard? ( they can also write down their thoughts on an exit pass.)


Teachers: access the teacher surveys by clicking here !