Current & Trending

Help Your Students Make History This Fall

  • SHARE:

Explore the power of recording, preserving and sharing people’s stories to strengthen social and emotional muscles and build powerful, personal connections. Using these skills is an act of love and can help you bring lasting personal connections into your classroom. 

Every voice matters, young people’s voices added to our national archive is essential to the fabric and the future of this country.  

The Power of Intergenerational Learning 

The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a project of StoryCorp which recognizes the importance of intergenerational learning. 

The Impact of Honoring Special People in Students’ Lives

Give your students the opportunity to consider someone in their lives they want to honor and remember. As family gathers over the holiday season, it’s a great time to record interviews and keep the memories alive. Thousands of schools and students from all 50 states have participated and preserved more than 100,000 stories using the free StoryCorps App.

Creating an Oral History for Posterity

This year marks the fifth Great Thanksgiving Listen. You and your students can make meaningful connections with elders in their families or communities -- and create an oral history. This experience helps students form bonds across families and indeed across the 50 states from the many people who participate.  

With the consent of participants, interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, where they will serve as an invaluable resource for future generations. In addition, students have the opportunity to introduce the special person they have chosen to their own classmates, family and friends.

As part of your classroom experience, students can sit across from a grandparent, a sibling, a mentor, or a friend for 40 minutes, asking important questions, and listening carefully to their answers.

Explore the 2019 Teacher Toolkit to help support your lessons. In addition to the lesson plans and suggestions provided in the toolkit to successfully prepare for and record a StoryCorps interview, here are 10 ideas to get your creativity flowing in the classroom. Once they have conducted a StoryCorps interview, invite your students to:

  1. Watch the Great Thanksgiving Listen YouTube playlist with your family at home, and then share some of the stories that make your family unique (use the app to record the conversation, if you like!).
  2. Write a reflection paper, a follow-up essay, or a poem inspired by your interview.
  3. Transcribe a part of your interview, and use primary source quotes from your interview to support another project or research paper.
  4. Create a video inspired by a TED Talk with Adobe Spark Video and present it to the class.
  5. Edit your interview using free editing software (such as Audacity) to create a two-minute excerpt.
  6. Produce a podcast of your interviews using excerpts from different interviews.
  7. Create a visual storyboard of the process of preparing for and conducting the interview, plus what was learned, and present it to the class.
  8. Draw or paint a portrait of your partner inspired by your interview with them.
  9. Hold an assembly to highlight favorite stories from your class.
  10. Use the app to investigate a social issue in your community (make a list of “sources” you’d like to interview).

Sharing Collected Stories 

Another beautiful way to showcase and share student interviews is to host a classroom listening party. Based on feedback from teachers in prior years, we have introduced new features at, including the ability to create a community for your classrooms. 

Use the “Community” feature to create custom question lists, track interview progress, and collect your students’ stories in one place. Then invite students to share out a 2–3 minute clip from each interview during a classroom listening party post-Thanksgiving weekend.

Here are a few examples of classroom communities from English, history, and social studies classes that have inspired me recently:

You can learn more about how to create a classroom community with these resources. You can also hear from fellow educators and share your own experiences and tips for The Great Thanksgiving Listen in the StoryCorps in the Classroom Facebook group.

Are you using StoryCorps animations and interviews in creative ways in your classroom? How have you adapted the Teacher Toolkit resources for your own students? Have you listened to student interviews that are especially inspiring? We encourage you to share your experiences. 

Sharing and recording experiences helps weave meaningful intergenerational relationships while creating an archive for generations to come.  

Lisa Gale

Lisa Gale Chief Programming Officer

Lisa V. Gale has been at StoryCorps since 2017. She has more than 25 years of experience in the administration and management of nonprofit organizations in the fields of adult education and community development. Prior to joining StoryCorps, she served as Deputy Commissioner, Employment Services, for the Human Resources Administration of the City of New York, a $200 million employment services division, offering city programs such as Back2Work, Business Link, Training Assistance Group, and more.

Before her position with the City, Lisa managed a portfolio of workforce development programs funded by the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation; she worked as the Deputy Executive Director for the Literacy Assistance Center; and held various senior leadership positions at nonprofits focused on adult literacy and community and economic development. Lisa holds a PhD in Social Welfare from The CUNY Graduate Center and an MSW from the Hunter College School of Social Work.

Join the PBS Teachers Community

Stay up to date on the latest blog posts, content, tools, and more from PBS Education!