Ten Ways to Bring StoryCorps to Your Classroom
Use these suggestions from students and teachers to add listening, interviewing and storytelling skills to your lesson plans throughout the school year.
1. Listen to our weekly broadcast with your class
StoryCorps’ weekly broadcast airs every Friday on NPR’s Morning Edition and is featured on our Listen pages. Listening to the weekly broadcast introduces students to oral history, invites students to reflect on the lives and experiences of everyday Americans, and is a great way to spark discussion.
2. Research oral history interviews on our Listen pages
Hundreds of edited listening clips are available on our Listen pages, which feature a searchable index and a drop-down menu organized by theme.
As primary sources, edited listening clips make great supplemental content and can be used alongside traditional history books or incorporated into lessons on current events. In the past, teachers have included listening clips in units on memory, the Civil Rights movement, local history, and 9/11.
3. Teach students to ask and recognize Great Questions
Knowing how to craft a good question is a valuable real-world skill, applicable to situations such as job interviews, applying to college, or conducting research for newspaper articles.
Students can use our Great Questions List or our Question Generator to jump-start their thinking about different types of questions before practicing creating questions on their own. As a follow up, ask students to practice asking questions in pair-share interviews.
4. Invite students to conduct peer interviews
Interviews are a great way to build community in the classroom and for students to get to know each other. Provide a few starter questions such as, What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? What is your earliest memory? Give students time to come up with their own. The Question Generator is also useful in this activity.
Divide the class into pairs and ask students to take turns interviewing one another. After the interviews are complete, ask students to report back what they learned about their peers. This activity is a great ice-breaker and a way to build listening and note-taking skills. As a follow-up, students can write a profile of their peers in the form of a news article or journal what it felt like to conduct an interview and to be interviewed.
5. Teach students to produce their own audio
Digital recorders to suit a variety of price ranges are widely available for purchase. Read the Portable Digital Recorder Comparison for more information. Teach students how to record peer interviews or ask them to record interviews of family members, school leaders, or community members.
Once recordings have been captured, ask students to listen to their audio and use a log sheet to choose excerpts to play for the class. Web software such as Audacity is a great way to combine their excerpts with music and other effects.
6. Read StoryCorps books as a class or as a school
StoryCorps has published two bestselling books, Listening is an Act of Love and Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. Both books make great reading for middle school, high school and college-level students, and have been used in many schools in Book of the Year or Book of the Semester programs.
7. Encourage students to tell their own story
Many StoryCorps listening clips express meaningful and significant themes in a poignant manner. As such, the clips can be valuable springboards for journal-writing or personal reflection. After listening to a StoryCorps clip, ask students to think about what they would have done in the same situation or how the listening clip applies to them. What memories were sparked by listening to this story? What stories from their own lives can they share in response?
8. Celebrate heritage months by listening to StoryCorps content
StoryCorps interviews can support lessons and programming related to heritage months throughout the year. Explore our suggested heritage month clips.
9. Ideas for StoryCorps in ESL classrooms
Listening to StoryCorps’ edited interviews provides a great opportunity for non-native English speakers to build their English-language skills. The interviews available on our Listen pages represent engaging, real-world content, and are a way for ELL students to practice listening to a variety of regional accents and colloquialisms. Students can also practice transcribing interviews to test their comprehension and build their vocabulary.
10. Celebrate the National Day of Listening
The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.
- Assign Do-It-Yourself interviews to your students during the holiday season. Students can conduct interviews with local senior citizens, older relatives, and mentors.
- Open a quiet location in your school or community to record interviews.
- Sponsor a National Day of Listening essay contest: ask students to write about what they learned from participating in the day’s events.
- If you have experience with audio equipment, host training seminars for interviews, recording, and audio editing.
- Write a blog post or article in your school newsletter explaining how and why you are participating in the National Day of Listening.
If you would like to share your use of StoryCorps in the classroom, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, StoryCorps traveled to the Philadelphia Folklore Project to record the stories of a group of students who were victims of targeted attacks.