November 23rd, 2015

Class Activity — The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Arts & Culture


By Adelyn Baxter

“Back when I was a kid…”

Some of you may recall hearing one of your grandparents begin a story or memory with this phrase. And though a few of you may even groan, we all know how valuable these stories are because they show us how much some things have changed from one generation to another, and how much others remain the same.

This year, a nation-wide project led by StoryCorps, a non-profit organization that records and shares personal interviews with Americans of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, will work with middle and high school teachers to archive these stories for future generations.

Using the free StoryCorps mobile app, participating middle and high school students will interview older relatives or grandparents over the 2015 Thanksgiving break. Afterward, they can upload their recordings to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal of the program is to “capture an entire generation of American lives and experiences” in a single holiday weekend.

Watch this video to learn more about The Great Thanksgiving Listen:

Use this activity as a chance for your class to use technology to learn about journalism and history as they broaden their communication skills. Assign each student the task of interviewing at least one family member or elderly friend over Thanksgiving break using the free StoryCorps mobile app. You can use StoryCorps’ Teacher Toolkit to help prepare students and have them brainstorm interview questions in class. When students return next week, have them talk about what they learned from the experience and, if they like, play their recordings out loud so their classmates can also listen.

To start things off before students leave for Thanksgiving break, ask students to discuss the following questions briefly in class:

What is the value of listening?

Do you think we spend as much time listening to one another today as we have in the past? Why or why not?

After students return from break, have them talk about what it was like to sit down with their interview subject. Use the following questions as a jumping-off point:

Who did you decide to interview and why did you choose them?

How did you prepare for your interview?

Did you learn anything that surprised you?

What can be learned from listening to other people that we may not be able to learn from a textbook or in class?

As an added social media element, have students share their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #TheGreatListen.

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