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Classroom Voices

This Thanksgiving, elevate student voice through the power of listening

November 23, 2021

This Thanksgiving holiday, teach students the importance of storytelling, and most of all, listening. Based on StoryCorp’s The Great Thanksgiving Listen, students will record an interview with an elder relative, hone interview and listening skills and become part of America’s great oral history project.


ELA, English, Social Studies, U.S. Government, Civics, Science, Mathematics, Journalism, STEM, Language

Estimated Time

Flexible: 20-minutes to a full-class period

Grade Level



To hone interviewing skills, particularly listening.

To understand that school is a place where students with unique strengths come to grow and learn about themselves and others, something at the heart of StoryCorps.

Warm up activity

StoryCorps was founded as a way to help people share and preserve their stories in order to create a more just and compassionate world. Watch the NewsHour video below with StoryCorps’ founder Dave Isay. You may also want to watch this animated version of Isay discussing how he interviewed his elders growing up and why it meant so much to him.

Main activity

Students will use class time to learn the basics of The Great Thanksgiving Listen project, including basic interviewing skills, feeling comfortable using the app and choosing the questions on the placemat that they will ask family members about over the holiday. Note: You can do this activity after Thanksgiving as well, or any time of the year for that matter!


1. Watch this short video on The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Print copies of The Great Thanksgiving Listen placemat here and give to your students. Ask them if they need additional copies for their family members and friends to use over Thanksgiving. Send students a link to this lesson, too, so they can email it to family and friends ahead of their Thanksgiving get-together. Check out the hashtag #TheGreatListen via Twitter for helpful tips.

Photo courtesy of The Great Listen via StoryCorps

1. Print placemat here, download free StoryCorps App and use it with your friends or family over the Thanksgiving holiday to record their thoughts. Or for some reflection time, why not record it out on your own?

2. Download the free StoryCorps app. Explain how your students are going to practice the Great Thanksgiving Listen in class first before doing the real thing over the Thanksgiving holiday with an older relative, family friend or neighbor.

3. To get started on the right foot, use the “Getting Started” tip sheet. Then read the quote on the top-right corner of the placemat created as part of StoryCorp’s The Great Thanksgiving Listen. It says, “Great conversations start with great questions.” Let your students know that The Great Thanksgiving Listen activity is about how people communicate with one another by telling stories. Help put the person you are interviewing at ease by showing them that you are listening to what they are saying. And don’t worry about messing up. As long as you are really listening to the person who is talking (try to ask them a follow-up question or two), it will be a success.

4. Have students choose at least one of the questions from the placemat, which are also copied below. Use the Interview Tips article here, and for helpful sound quality tips, read this article.

Tell me about your parents or grandparents.

What are your hopes for the future of this country?

What is one of your happiest memories?

Where did you grow up?

How would you like to be remembered?

What are you proudest of in your life?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Tell me about a family tradition you have.

Class debrief after the Thanksgiving holiday: When you return to school, debrief with your teacher and a partner about the interview. What went well? What were some challenges? Play your interview with another classmate and have them do the same. Who did they interview? How long did the interview last? What questions did they ask? Were there any themes that developed? Did you find it was difficult or easy to listen?

Now that you have recorded your interview and shared it with StoryCorps and one of your classmates, what are your next plans for telling stories? Let us know using #TheGreatListen and @NewsHourExtra.

Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.

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