Lately, I have come across lots of fun projects that utilize interviews. Many are the more traditional oral history style projects, but some use the interview model as a way for students to apply content knowledge and demonstrate understanding.The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts insist on shared responsibility for literacy instruction, including specific informational text standards for Science and Social Studies. With the wealth of information, data, and primary source material, in these disciplines, it would be easy to copy and paste information.
Because interviews are written in first person style, they help prevent a simple copy and paste of information. In her great article Foundations for Independent Thinking, Liz Allen shares, "When students are given an assignment that encourages higher-level thinking, the opportunity for "data dumping" (copying and pasting) is almost nonexistent."
One of the great things about creating an interview from research and information is the actions students need to build them – dramatize, order, arrange, prioritize, combine, and plan. These words can be found in the higher-order area of Bloom's taxonomy.
Most importantly, developing an interview from research and information requires students to determine the questions that should be asked. As Sara Armstrong explains, "Effective inquiry skills are essential for success in our rapidly changing world." In a world of near-constant testing, so often classrooms are focused on getting the answer correct. Paying attention to questions helps us think critically about information as well as prioritize.
Interviews with Historical Figures
Wouldn't it be more fun to learn about Paul Revere's famous ride from his horse? or listen to Chief Pontiac himself? Asking students to share their historical learning through an interview with a person living at the time is not only an engaging performance task but is a great way to keep students from copying and pasting boring facts from their note-taking.
Another example comes from 4th graders at Ellis Elementary School in Manasses, Virginia. To summarize their learning about Colonial Virginia, students interviewed a Colonial Virginian. Based on their notes from their studies, students worked to develop the questions for their interviews. They used a green screen to combine themselves, clip art, and site photos into a more authentic product.
After completing a unit on owls during a larger unit about endangered species, third-grade students at Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore, Maryland, were challenged to interview an owl. They worked in teams to research an owl, write questions, develop a script, illustrate their interview, record it, and create an interview movie.
Interviews with Book Characters
Crafting an interview with a character from a book they are reading helps you evaluate student comprehension. It is also a great way to get students thinking more deeply about a character's traits and motivations and how they experience events in the story.
Interviews with Artifacts
Historical artifacts, like documents, buildings, artwork, and household objects, are a great way to learn about life in the past. Students can help bring these artifacts to life and make history more personal by interviewing the objects. Interviewing helps students identify the perspective of a historian as they personify the object with gender and other human characteristics.
Documenting Oral History
Sharing the content of interviews through digital storytelling values the experiences and ways of knowing in our own communities. Interviews showcase the knowledge, wisdom, and values a person holds and reflect a way of looking at our world. When students conduct interviews, collect oral histories, and create living multimedia memories, they act as community researchers.
When Pat Leslie and her students at Robert Hunter Elementary in Flemington, New Jersey, were learning about the experience of immigrants at Ellis Island, recent immigrants visited the classroom to share their stories. Students listened, asked questions, and responded to what they learned through visual representations and a class movie on their Journey to Freedom. As Leslie so eloquently shares, "When the collected oral histories were transformed into a digital story, it proa a vided deeper understanding of the recent past."