Resources for Teaching Oral History

Oral history is a collection of a people's testimony about their experiences; it is an interactive and living method of research that relies upon the memories of individuals and firsthand accounts of past and/or current events. Oral history is a personal word-for-word account of one’s own story—often focusing on a specific time period or event. It is a powerful method by which eyewitnesses or their descendents remember the day-to-day experiences of people, families and societies.

The following resources can assist you with collecting materials to teach and equip your students to become involved in oral history, whether as a class project or for personal exploration.

Teaching Resources

Project Notes: Conducting Oral History in the Secondary Classroom, by Kerry McKibbin
This curriculum guide (Student Press Initiative, 2005) provides a detailed narrative, framework, and student examples for creating an oral history curriculum and publishing program in your classroom.

Studs Terkel’s Working: A Teaching Guide, by Rick Ayers
An invaluable educational resource (The New Press, 2001) for introducing Studs Terkel's classic work of oral history to today's students.

Like It Was: A Complete Guide to Writing Oral History, by Cynthia Stokes Brown
In this how-to guide (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1988) Brown succeeds in sharing her oral history methods with prospective historians. Separate chapters focus on using the tape recorder, interview techniques, transcription of the interview, editing, writing short pieces or full biographies, and publishing the results.

Oral History: An Introduction for Students, by James Hoopes
A how-to oral history manual (University of North Carolina Press, 1979) designed especially for students.

Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide (2nd edition), by Donald A. Ritchie
This comprehensive handbook (Oxford University Press, 2003) explains the principles and guidelines created by the Oral History Association to ensure the professional standards of oral historians.

The Oral History Manual (American Association for State and Local History Book Series), by Barbara W. Sommer and Mary Kay Quinlan
This manual (AltaMira Press, 2003) offers step-by-step instructions, checklists, full-size reproducible forms, project descriptions and summary sheets, and extensive illustrations to help guide readers in taking ideas for an oral history project and turning them into a successful format.

Dialogue with the Past: Engaging Students and Meeting Standards through Oral History, by Glenn Whitman
Tips, examples from students and teachers, and reproducible forms, along with an comprehensive bibliography, make this book (AltaMira Press, 2004) a vital tool for anyone working with secondary students to plan and carryout oral history projects.

Websites of Interest

Studs Terkel in the Classroom
This website from the Chicago Historical Society provides a host of educational tools and documents for students, teachers and the general public, including sample lesson plans on oral history with suggestions for how to use Studs Terkel recordings in the classroom.

Institute for Oral History at Baylor University
This site offers an "Oral History Workshop on the Web" which includes an overview, guidance for K-12 teachers and students in planning and executing oral history research, transcribing style guide, interview tips and more.

Oral History Association
The website of the Oral History Association, founded in 1966, features an educators section which includes an overview on how to use oral history in your classroom; post-secondary and professional oral history programs and projects; a list of pre-collegiate oral history projects; and, a directory of nationwide oral history educator workshops.

StoryCorps
A modern oral history project supported by National Public Radio, StoryCorps sets up booths with audio recording equipment in cities across America. The result: a national sound portrait of modern America.

Folklore Project
In 1936, the U.S. government paid more than 300 writers from 24 states to travel around the country and document the oral histories of thousands of Americans. These oral histories are preserved in the Library of Congress and online.

Family Search
In a vault built into a mountain in Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) holds the world’s largest family history collection, including oral histories, genealogical charts, and records from all over the world.

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