Student Oral History Interview Packet

Project Description

Yellow Springs McKinney Middle School students are conducting interviews in order to
collect personal experiences and stories during community research for an African
American Experience Unit. Students have identified particular research themes (i.e. African
American athletes, authors, musicians; Notable African American women; Major court cases,
civil rights era in Yellow Springs, National riots and revolts).

Students seek community members and friends of family to ask a short series of questions,
hoping to find personal stories that reflect the character of a social era, and/or how being an
African American impacted their experience. Excerpts of these stories may become part of
an audio/visual exhibit held in the Yellow Springs High School gym, and may be archived at
the school for future educational purposes. Interviewees will be identified by their full name
unless they request to be anonymous. Thanks for your participation!

Student Interviewer’s Name
Interviewee’s Name
Email ______________________ Telephone ____________________
Date of Birth ____________________
Volunteer Activities & Hobbies
Great Interview Questions
Modified from the Question Generator

Don't worry about recording facts, such as names and dates, in your interview. You can
get those details down on paper using the questionnaire. Instead, use the session to
capture stories, memories, and reflections on the big life questions.

We are looking for the character of a community during a certain place and time. We are
looking to understand how people made sense of their world.

Start your interview with a lead:

"My name is and I am a student doing community research for McKinney
Middle School's African American Experience unit. The date today is ________.
“ , can you tell me your full name, age, and where we are?"

Basic Information

How long have you lived here?

How has it changed over those years?

What was it like when you grew up here/first
moved here?

What do you miss most about the way it used to

Who are some of the great characters from here?

Do you remember any great stories or legends
about our town?

What issues does the community face?

On Growing Up

Where did you grow up? What was it like?

What were your parents like?

Did you get into trouble? What was the worst
thing you did?

What did you look like? Did you have a
nickname? How did you get it?

Who were your best friends? What were they

What did you think your life would be like when
you were older?
For Grandparents

What is your earliest memory?

Who were your favorite relatives?

Do you remember any of the stories they used to
tell you?

What have you learned in life?

Do you have any regrets?

How would you like to be remembered?

What's it like getting old?

What was the happiest moment of your life?

What are you most proud of?

What are the most important lessons you've
learned in life?

How would you like to be remembered?

Are there any words of wisdom you'd like to
pass along to me?

On Current Community

How is our community different than it was in
times past?

How have your experiences changed you?

Brooke's Thoughts on Oral History:

Oral History interviews aren‟t always conducted in an effort to
record facts and figures. Often, those are more easily gathered
on paper through a questionnaire or through primary source
research. Oral histories are conducted to record reflections and
deeper meanings about human experience. We want to capture
the character of our community. We want to understand what it
was like to live during a particular historical social era. We want
to know how people understand themselves as a part and
product of this environment, this era.

Even when we ask an interviewee about a historical event, what
we seek is the story behind that event. What did it mean to
them? How did it feel? How did it impact their life or change
their thinking? What is important to take away from that
story— what does it mean for us today?

Most people experience a certain amount of pre-interview
anxiety. Your goal is to be completely present to the person you
are interviewing. Listen deeply.

Avoid vocalizations, instead nod and smile so that your
interviewee knows you are listening. Don‟t be afraid to ask
someone to elaborate. Take notes so you can return to a topic of
interest when the conversation dies down. Be bold enough to ask
someone, “How did that make you feel?” And always leave time
for a pause— silence is generative!

Keep your headphones on the whole time! As long as you keep
the mic within 4-6 inches of your interviewee‟s mouth, you will
record a rich and compelling sound. To avoid „pops‟ and hissing,
angle your microphone in from the side instead of placing
directly in front of the mouth. Beware of introducing handling
noise. If your fingers are moving on the recorder, or you are
jiggling the mic cord, you will hear this.

Everyone has a story worth catching. Sometimes the best
stories are about the little things.

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