This Teaching Idea was created in partnership with StoryCorps, whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
We have all been touched by the upheavals of the last year. We have had to change the way we celebrate, learn, socialize, and mourn. We have lived through a growing movement for racial justice, school closures, and a contentious election. This Teaching Idea is designed to give students space to reflect on how the changes that occurred over the last year have impacted them and their loved ones. The activities below guide students to conduct an interview with a friend, family member, or classmate who they are not able to see in person as a way to reflect on the events of 2020 and connect in a time when travel and gatherings are restricted.
Note: While students can use a number of methods to conduct and record remote interviews, we suggest using StoryCorps Connect1, which is a tool that allows students to conduct and record interviews remotely. StoryCorps Connect interviews can be kept fully private or made public, depending on your preference. You can find more information about how to use StoryCorps Connect in a classroom setting in the StoryCorps Connect Teacher Toolkit.
What follows are teacher-facing instructions for the activities. Get student-facing instructions in the Google Slides for this Teaching Idea.
Ask your students to brainstorm answers to the following question:
What major events or changes have happened over the last year that impacted your life, your community, or the world?
Write students’ responses on the board, grouping similar ideas, and discuss with your class:
Then, ask your students to reflect in their journals using the following prompt:
What is one event or change that happened in 2020 that impacted you? How did it impact you and what did you learn about yourself because of this change?
Remote Learning Note: Students can share their responses to the discussion questions—either synchronously or asynchronously during a defined time period—by adding their ideas to a shared forum such as Padlet.
Explain to your students that they will be conducting an interview with a classmate, friend, or family member about their experiences during the last year and their hopes for 2021. Choose an excerpt from an interview from the StoryCorps collection Civic Duty and Connection in the Days of COVID-19, and play the first 3 to 4 minutes for your students. (For example, you can use the interview between Santana Lee and David Easterly or the interview between Cairo Dye and Henry Godinez). Ask your students:
Then, ask your students to prepare for their own interview. They should plan around 6–8 questions for their interview. Here are some suggestions of Great Questions they could use. Share the handout 10 Conversation Tips for Your StoryCorps Interview with students to help them plan their interview. Students should include the questions they reflected on in their journals (What is one event or change that happened in 2020 that impacted you? How did it impact you and what did you learn about yourself because of this change?), as well as additional warm-up and follow-up questions.
Note: For more resources to help your students prepare for their interviews, see page 4 of the StoryCorps Connect Teacher Toolkit.
After students have written their questions, ask them to share them with a partner and give each other feedback.
Outside of class, students should conduct their interviews. If possible, students should record their interviews, and if they are not able to, they should take notes on what they hear.
Remote Learning Note: Ask your students to listen to the interview and then discuss what they learned in small groups. If you are teaching synchronously, place students into breakout rooms for the discussion. If you are teaching asynchronously, ask students to write or record their responses and share them with their small group. After students write their interview questions, they can email or message them to their partner for review.
After students complete their interviews, ask them to use the Connect, Extend, Challenge strategy to reflect on what they learned during their interviews and how it connects to what they wrote in their initial journal reflection:
Remote Learning Note: Students can complete their reflections individually, either during class time or asynchronously.
Ask students to share a brief response about their own reflection and their interview using two rounds of the Wraparound strategy.
Then, discuss as a class:
Finally, ask students to look ahead to the new year. Ask them to write a sentence on a sticky note using the following sentence stem:
My hope for 2021 is _________.
Students can post the sticky notes on a paper or board in your classroom.
Remote Learning Note: Students can share using the Wraparound (Remote Learning) strategy. Ask students to post their final reflection (My hope for 2021 is _________.) on a shared forum such as Padlet or VoiceThread.
If your students were able to record their interviews, you can ask them to choose a short audio clip or transcribe an excerpt to share with the class in a Gallery Walk.