K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learn more about oral history

The value of oral history
In Oral history in the classroom, page 1
Why use oral history with your students? Oral history has benefits that no other historical source provides.
Format: article
By Kathryn Walbert.
Civil rights protests and dilemmas
In this lesson students explore well-known civil rights protests then listen to two oral histories of individuals who protested in their own way to promote equality for African Americans. Students specifically will consider personal risks involved in protest.
Format: lesson plan (multiple pages)
Brown versus Board of Education: Rhetoric and realities
In this lesson, students will listen to three oral histories that shed light on political and personal reactions toward the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown versus Board of Education. Includes a teacher's guide as well as the oral history audio excerpts and transcripts.
Format: lesson plan (multiple pages)
Rethinking Reports
Creative research-based assignments provide alternatives to the President Report, Animal Report, and Famous Person Report that ask students to think about old topics in new ways, work collaboratively, and develop products that support a variety of learning styles.
Format: series (multiple pages)
Race in Charlotte schools
The lesson on this page are designed to help educators teach about school desegregation in the South. In these activities, students immerse themselves in a time period when public schools were first becoming integrated by listening to oral histories of people who experienced this change first-hand.
Format: lesson plan

Find all 305 resources in our collection.

A method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews with individuals who are willing to share their memories of the past.

Additional information

Oral history interviews can provide glimpses into the lives and ideas of everyday people and offer personal perspectives not often found in traditional written sources. This methodology also affords historians the opportunity to ask highly specific questions about the past directly to the people who lived it and to work collaboratively with historical actors to construct their interpretations of history, advantages lacking in static sources written by long-dead historical actors. In the classroom, oral history allows students to make a personal connection to history and to practice a host of research, writing, and interpersonal skills.

Oral history interviews can focus on the entire life story of an individual, or just on specific episodes or experiences and, with minimal equipment, a little training, and age-appropriate modifications, can be successfully conducted by students of all ages.

Oral historians face potential problems such as faulty or embellished memories and the possibility of competing versions of events told by several interviewees, but these potential challenges are more than made up for by the richness of historical insight afforded by the craft and can be accounted for through careful analysis. Oral historians have established useful guidelines for conducting successful interviews and many oral history organizations provide direct support to local schools or make explanatory materials available to teachers wishing to incorporate oral history into their lesson plans.

Examples and resources