|Grade span:||9 to 12|
|Duration:||many sessions, 30 to 60 minutes|
Description:In 1999, David McKay (a high school English teacher from Aberdeen, Washington), challenged his students to create a professional publication for an authentic audience. Over the next several years, students researched, wrote, published, and sold books of stories from their specific community - stories about bits of wisdom, mothers, fathers, overcoming adversity, and an annual high school football rivalry. The annual publishing project dramatically increased student engagement, inspiring their best writing of the year. This extended activity asks afterschool students to interview community members for personal stories on a shared theme, write them up, polish, publish or perform, distribute, and even sell this collection at community events. If publication of the stories is out of reach (because printing needs to be funded or donated), the stories can be shared at a community event. This project requires a sustained focus over several weeks.
- Generate student/community engagement in an afterschool writing project
- Inspire students' use of writing to explore and express community culture
- Expose students to a complete publication and/or performance process - conception, research, draft composition, revision, publication design and/or rehearsal for performance
- Create an identifiable product or event that will connect afterschool achievements with the community
- Tip sheet about conducting oral history interviews http://memory.loc.gov/learn/
- Description of characteristics of good oral history/ nonfiction writing http://essayinfo.com/tips/
- A good writing skills rubric http://www.nwrel.org/ (PDF)
- Information about possible publishing options and available resources (photocopy/ desktop/ print shop/ etc.)
- Essays that Honor: High School Students Publish Best Sellers http://www.nwrel.org/tapestry/
- Review classroom examples of this activity online (see "Resources" below)
- Work with students to identify a topic that engages and unifies the diverse cultures of the community; everyone has a "story" about it
- Prepare a list of interview questions that will elicit good stories and provide details about the topic
What to Do:
- Select good oral history essays written by students and read them aloud (find examples from sources at end of the "Resources" document below)
- Share characteristics of good oral history writing - what brings stories to life?
- Using an oral history guide, invite one interviewee to your site and conduct a demonstration interview
- Ask each student to briefly interview a few community members of different ages about the selected topic, checking that diverse community cultures are represented.
- Discuss information from these interviews (interest/ age/ culture/ perspective), working with each student to identify the best candidate for a full interview
- Students conduct interviews, using a list of questions, taking notes, and tape recording them if possible
- Students prepare outlines, drafts, and revised write-ups of the interviews
- Students work with peers to polish each essay, using a writing rubric
- Publication team prepares a final manuscript (desktop formats, pictures, etc.), and/or students prepare and rehearse presentation for a community performance, including photos of interviewees, if possible
- Distribute publication and/or carry out performance, with special invitations and/or recognition for interviewees.
Evaluate (Outcomes to look for):
- Student enthusiasm for writing and engagement with the community through the project
- Student knowledge and application of interview skills
- Improvement in student writing through the draft and peer review process
- Student ability to sustain a writing project through stages: conception, research, composition, revision, and publication and/or performance
- Enthusiastic community feedback about the final product