Lesson Plans & Ideas
Suggestions & Other Thoughts
Let your administrators know about your project. There may be a process for registering visitors on campus which you will need to be aware of.
Keep it small. (I worked with one class.)
Begin with people who have ties to your school. Often people who are not accustomed to being at school sites are hesitant to come to the school. Those with ties to the school may be more willing to be on your campus.
Have 2 or 3 students work together to interview and write the sketch. (A small group of biographical subjects makes logistics easier to schedule and work with. Also, students automatically act as peer editors for each other.)
Write an explanation of the project and send the explanation sheet to the persons you are inviting to participate in the project. Be sure to inform people that their biographical sketches will be published on the Internet and secure signed permission forms from each person.
Follow up with phone calls. People often have questions. (I made the first contact with the subjects to let them know this was being organized by a teacher and, also, I could answer any questions at that time. Since I had students work in groups, we only had about thirteen subjects involved.)
Set dates and times when interviews can take place. Giving subjects a choice of a few dates was helpful. ( I tried to schedule all interviews on a few specific dates and during my class time.)
Plan at least two times for the interviewers and subjects to meet so adequate information can be gathered.
Find places around the school for the interviews to take place. Your classroom can be used for some, but you may need additional sites if there are several interviews going on at the same time. The library, especially if there are conference rooms available, is a good place. (I talked to the librarian, explained our project, and she helped to monitor students in the library.) You may also be able to use the classrooms of those teachers who have planning periods during the time of the interviews. (Again, I explained our project, and those teachers whose rooms we used were usually happy to be in the classroom when the two or three students and the subject were working.)
Send a list of the questions each team has generated to the subject each team will interview. (I found this made the subjects a lot more comfortable and allowed them to reflect on their answers first, students got better information if the subjects knew the questions before the interview, and the students knew that the interview questions they were going to use had to be written early in the project.)
Be sure the students are prepared for the interview process. This means they know what the final product will be, a written biographical sketch for publication on the Internet; they know what information they need and, therefore, they know what questions to ask; they know how they will take notes and if they will record any part of the interview (If they record, be sure they receive permission first); they know where they will conduct their interview and the behavior expected of them during the interview.
Once the date and time is set for each subject, have students send a handwritten note verifying the date and time and thanking the subject, beforehand, for her / his participation in the project. (We never had any no-shows for the interviews. I believe the student thank you notes beforehand helped the subjects to understand how important the project was to us.)
Arrange for someone to meet the subjects at the front entrance of the school so they can be escorted to your classroom. Again, those people not accustomed to being on a public school campus were more willing to be a part of the project if they knew someone would meet them at the door.
During the interviews, have someone check on each group's progress. You may be able to do this if all students are interviewing on the same day but you may also want to ask administrators, counselors, or others who are available to help. (One comforting piece of information - I did this project with my most difficult, 6th period, freshmen class and none of the students ever caused any problems when the subjects were on campus. They were great!)
Have students write thank you notes after the interviews were completed.
After the interviews were completed and the biographical sketches were written, the subjects were invited one more time to read and correct any information before we published.
Give copies of the published work to the subjects. (Since the biographical sketches will be published on the Internet, you may want to send copies printed from the website.)
* You may want your students to do some peer editing of the written sketches. One exciting way to facilitate this may be to make a connection with a teacher in another school and use email to send copies of the students' written oral histories to the other teacher. The second teacher can save the attached documents to a floppy disk or print the oral histories, have his/her students do the peer editing, and return the edited documents via email to the first teacher.
* There are also websites which may help. Listed below is one that you may want to look at. Each has some information about peer editing.
* TUSD guidelines for publishing student work on the Internet: