Applying Oral History in Iranian Schools Based on Lesson Plan

Faezeh Tavakoli (PhD Candidate)
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Abstract: Oral history is used in various centers as a new approach and method for recording developments of contemporary history. Schools also play an important role as educational basis in secondary schools. This credit, explores role of oral history in understanding social history. Students will use oral histories as a starting point for researching social history of their family, school, religion and customs. They will examine role of oral historians and will interview with family members.



Introduction: Oral history, after invention of tape recorder and in advanced format, digital recorders who could record for a long time and applying the recorded in computer systems and sending it, have played a very important role in exchanging historical data. Citing remarks and memories of those who played a major role in events can be considered as "a major and complementary source in historiography." Prominent feature of oral history in comparison with historiography based on document and official reports is to record and depict psychological characteristics and present a less or more visual image based on direct and indirect experiences of individuals. In this way, recording events by inserting song and upping and downing voice and verbal subtleties is somehow that emotions of people are represented, and their experiences are combined with historical reports. In oral history, behaviors and reactions of individuals are even more rationalized because history is alive. "Here is where oral history reflects its importance. Regardless of extent to which these documents are used to understand and interpret the past, it has a double value in terms of that oral history approach provides many documents to the historian and helps him to understand various dimensions of human action. Historical data helps scientific nature of history when help historian in answering questions that he/she does not understand their answers. From this perspective, data which are extracted from interviews and filming and expatiations of events, works, and buildings, in terms of being alive, having more dynamism and ability to transfer discourse governing time of the event or time of constructing works, is more advantageous for history scholar, and by creating context for more dialogue and interaction of historian (interviewer) with other side (interviewee), would make it possible to respond more adequately to his/her questions."[[1]]


What is history?

It is important that what history is. History is not just what is found in writings, letters or books, but history is in minds of people who have witnessed events in an important historical period in their lives, or were directly involved in context of transformations. Historical writings are often story of conquerors and powerful of history, not subordinates and the weak. Pen has often been in hands of power, so low information is available on lives of slaves, workers, farmers, women and clerics. [[2]]


Some definitions of oral history
Oral history has been defined and understood in field of research and in light of experiences of each scholars of this field of science. He some definitions of this area are presented:

1. Oral history is a history that is said not to be written and is the most traditional way of retelling history.
2. Oral history is recording, maintenance and interpretation of historical information based on experiences and personal opinions of speakers. In fact, we narrate history from words of past eyewitnesses, which includes folk culture, stories and songs that they have made around subject of research in that era of history. By using this method, as we collect valuable information of the elderly, we can interview younger generation too. [[3]]
3. Oral history is collecting initial information which is based on an interview with a person and aims to record experiences of people's lives or documenting incidents. [[4]]
4. Oral history as a process contributes historical understanding of people for knowing the past. Oral history is a way for better understanding of history and a critical understanding of its meaning that engages the public to create their history.[[5]]
5. Oral history is a way to enter people who have not previously participated in creating their past documents, and it is an opportunity to popularize nature of history, not only by interviewing them but by seeing them, and is an introduction for a method that allows people to express their concepts of their past experiences in a structured way. Oral history is unmatched in creating its documents; documents which is formed of a clear and blunt conversation about past experiences and modern notion of memories. [[6]]


Necessity for Oral History in Schools
In the current era, pace of transformation has been undergone in field of all sciences and over the past few decades, information society has been able to influence management, culture, technology, education, services and institutions of power in a way and have challenged contemporary history; In a way that in the course of expansion and adaptation of sciences and increasing scope of existing information, rethinking and changing of methods in various fields has become inevitable. History credit in field of humanities in schools has had some disadvantages in teaching and how to present content, and it's time to take important steps by presenting an applied dimension of history for high school students as getting skill through oral history. Oral history in schools, because of the current age which is media time and need of the young to use media educations, will meet major of applied history and record historical developments of the country, and in the other side, changing form of historiography by digital media requires basic developments. Here the two points are addressed more detailed:

1. Importance of media: In the current period, media are one of important sources of information and education, and direction of learning from man to man has become from media to human. Every day, three million new pages are created on the web, and in each second, a lot of data, such as video and audio, and text are produced worldwide. Evolution of educational and learning models is inevitable. Oral history can be a new, separate curriculum with an applied approach alongside history credit in schools by using interview tool.

2. Changing form of teaching history in a practical way: Everyone has a story for himself/herself and each generation has its own history. Oral history is a way of teaching students with goal of linking history to their daily lives; [[7]] as well as relationship of students with previous generations who involved in developments, provides educating theoretical field of subject of interview practically and not mentally, and opens a different point of view for students to historical knowledge.


Oral history in schools has many scientific benefits:
1. Familiarity of students with active interview method as a social skill;
2. Changing function of history from theoretical field to practical field;
3- Practicing communication technic as an interactional and skill-oriented field;
4. In different research forms, according, family, organizational, or local and regional oral history can lead to increasing students' knowledge;
5. History will change its nature from meaning of "science of the past" to "a science in the present";
6. Developing critical thinking in students by reviewing information about family and identity and etc. interviews;
7. Creating small research skills to reach analyzing social issues of society at macro level;
8. Creating creativity in students for subject finding, guiding and leading interviews and setting them up;
9. Enhancing ability to understand historical, social and cultural issues in students;
10. Assisting teachers in easy instruction for students and making historical events objective for teachers;
11. Increasing information literacy of students and identifying valuable resources and research in each field;
12. Increasing awareness of students about environment which ultimately will increase their social commitment. [[8]]


An example of oral history lesson plan
Lesson 1: Role of oral history in understanding Social history (an example of Case Study)
This lesson explores role of oral history in understanding social history. Students will use oral histories as a starting point for researching social history of their family, school, religion, and customs. They will examine role of oral historians and will interview with family members. They will record interview through any recording tool or by filling questionnaire.

Purpose of the lesson: Students will learn to lead an interview; analyze obtained information; and interpret their findings in the final innovative project.
This lesson prepares students to better understand common experiences, as well as unique experiences of family members (parents), school teachers and other students, religious issues (local mosques and local people), and native customs and social history.

Teachable concepts and discussion on collecting oral history:
- Collecting oral history of stories from family history, ancestors and career backgrounds and ...
- Interacting with experiences of teachers and other students.
Religious issues revive people and plebs communities who had never been recorded.
- Valuing oral history of people and familiarity with customs and values ​​that show themselves in form of student stories.
- Collecting oral history helps to a wider understanding of the intended subject.
Teachable concepts and discussion on social history:
- Social history is daily history and opinions of ordinary people.
- Social historians study social history of masses.
- Every dimension of daily life -family life, morality, work, social life, religious beliefs etc...- is called social history.
- Social historians usually have a specialized field, such as studying a group of people (for example, teenagers), a particular region (southern and northern parts of Tehran), or a particular topic (such as family life).
After completing this credit, students will be able to:
- Define social history and formulate questions about social history issues.
-Analyze, interpret, and direct research by using oral history collection methods.
- Use oral history interview techniques to gather information about social history.

Grade levels: This credit can be compatible with these grading levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
Related Curriculum: Social Studies, History, and Language Arts (It can be selected when it is needed and in accordance with curriculum of different regions)
This course consists of: three class workshops, interview meetings at home, project design at home.

Time required:
- 120 minutes; 40 minutes for each workshop.
This credit is flexible according to time available for class and number of people in the class.
- Some time at home to direct interview.
Evaluating based on: oral history interview (question design, interview quality, writing a question and answer), final innovative project, class participation.
Tools required: interview guide, interview questions, photo log, selecting sample interview.

Equipment required: an audio recorder is preferred, although it would not be handy (video recorder is optional), computer and other recording, storage and copying devices (optional).
- Advanced planning is needed before beginning this credit.
- Printing all documents related to this course and copying them.
- Forcing students to browse the specified website, at home or during school days before beginning of the class.
- When computer is not available, website pages cannot be printed and viewed.


Workshop 1- Introduction

1. Introducing the specified website to student and explaining its subject.
2. Explaining social history (see teachable concepts and discussion about social history) and oral history (see teachable concepts and discussion about collecting oral history) and how to use oral history to examine social history on this website.
3. Visiting the website and seeing or listening to multiple visual/audio selections or selecting best writings. A group discussion on some selected subjects and asking students to guess questions that interviewers should ask.
4. Evaluation of the class about their family history.
5. Presenting the course for students:

- Students will become social historians, through interviewing family members about family history, with an emphasis on ancestors or lives of people who decided to immigrate.
- Students will conduct interviews at home by using audio and video equipment, or by filling interview questionnaire.
- Students will share interviews in class for their classmates through one of the following ways:
- Bringing recording tool and presenting some parts of their interview.
- Uploading interview for class by computer or laptop and playing some parts in the classroom.
- Reading loud one of the written questions and answers. (Students will choose one of questions and answers that they feel would describe nature of the interview they have written or have in their hand.)
- Students will create a final project of their family history using their own means. (See suggestions for Workshop 2)
- Students are scored based on oral history interviews (including written questions and answers), final project and class participation:

1. Analyzing interview guide and reviewing it in the class.
2. Analyzing interview questionnaire and reviewing it with the class.
3. Analyzing photo log and reviewing it with the class.


Workshop 2- Sharing
1. Students share interviews with one of the following methods:
- Bringing audio recording tools and performing some parts of the interview.
- Uploading interviews for class or computer and running some parts of the interview.
- Reading written questions and answers loudly.
2. The following questions will be useful:

- Have your interview created surprising information? Why is this information surprising?
- Which questions will lead to relevant and interesting answers? Which questions have less impact?
- What makes the interview more creative?
- Do the interviews have a common point? (Time period, common experiences, outcomes)
3. Depending on time allocated to the class, there will be only a time for several presentations and a time for discussion/ criticism.
4. Collecting written questions and answers of students.
5. Reviewing choices for final innovative project:

- a mixture on art board of photos which are taken during the interviews, combined with interview selection and writing it by students.
- A blog about photos, selecting interview and writing it by students.
- Short biography/"Graphic Novel" of social history of family, with an emphasis on just one topic (such as work).
- A speech poem that includes interview choices.
- Discussion on added issues by students.


Workshop 3 - Presentation of the project
1. Students present the project for the class.
2. A time for general discussion in class.
3. The following questions may be helpful:
- Did the interview change your thinking about your family and country?
- Which dimension of social history did you learn through the interview?
- Has your family story anything common with story of your classmate's family?
- Has your family story anything common with production of oral historians on the specified website?


Some examples of projects of school oral history
High school students at San Francisco City Academy have conducted three oral history interviews that are available on the website. [[10]] City Academy students have handled, filmed and rewritten interviews, provided hundreds of video files for each quotation, and then posted interviews with full text and video on this public website. National Association of Independent Schools commended City Academy for storytelling projects, superb helped and well-coordinated, with award of recognizing "Guide Edges".
American Century project [[11]] was developed by Glenn Whitman, author of "Dialogue with the Past: Engaging Students and Meeting Standards through Oral History."[[12]] For this project, students interview individuals who have helped realizing events or have seen events or periods that make up experiences of USA in twentieth century. Interviewees include soldiers, civil rights activists, politicians and restaurant waiters/waitresses. Whitman has developed procedures to guide students in field of oral history, and an archive of student projects. There is also a workshop for coaches in this process.

"The whole world was watching: an oral history of 1968" [[13]] which was designed and implemented by South Kingston High School and Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group. Basis of this project is re-assembly of a group of the Rhode Island people, with an emphasis on major events and issues that occurred in 1968, and includes transcripts, audio recordings and edited stories. Their stories include references to the Vietnam War, the struggle for Civil Rights, and the Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
In Oral History Project of " The Voice of the Past: Oral History" [[14]], which is provided for 6 to 12 grades, students trace oral history process until call and interview with a WWII veteran and a person who had lived in World War II. Students make an archive of numbered tapes of oral history and then analyze information obtained during research and interview.

" Documenting the American South (DAS)" [[15]] is a collection of provided resources by the University of North Carolina on North American history, literature and culture form the colonial period in early decades of twentieth century. Documenting the American South has provided a wide range of titles for teachers, students and scholars that they can use as reference, study, education and research, and today has ten subject collections of first-hand sources for studying North American History, Literature and Culture Such as "True and Candid Artistic Compositions: Pre-War Writings", "First-Person Narratives of the American South" and "North American Slaves Narrations".
Educational website of "American-Japanese Veterans of World War II" [[16]] is one of the main sources for educators, students, researchers and the general public to learn about the legacy of World War II veterans. This site has some videos available on oral history as well as teaching plans, student activities, glossaries, time lines, photos and interactive maps.

Website of "The Voice of World War II In The Classroom" [[17]] also has plenty pages of resources, lesson plans and ideas for student teachers, more than 130 interview transcripts, a part for step-by-step guide to oral history, as well as a wealth of information on categories, research Academic, competitions and links to veterans organizations, maps and geographic resources, research sites, documents and images, translations, and oral history sites.

1- Active Websites in Oral History, translated by Alireza Jaberi, Documents Center of the Library of Parliament, Dec. 14, 2014,
2- Hasanabadi, Abolfazl (2010) "Oral History in Schools", Yade Ayam Journal (52): 38-41.
3- Razavi, Abolfazl (2008) "Importance and Position of Oral Approach in Historical Studies," Specialized Monthly in Month Book of History and Geography (118): 16-25.
Ronald j, Grele "preface" in Envelopes of Sound: The Art of Oral History. 2d ed., rev. and enl. Chicago: Precedent, 1985. P: 56.
Frisch, Michael, "Quality in History Programs", In A Shared Authority; Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History. Albany, NY: statue of the University of New York press, 1990), 188.
Using oral history / Section 1: Introduction to Social History / Student Lesson.

Oral History and the Federal Writers' Project, The Library of Congress| American Memory, Last updated 26.09.2002


[1] Razavi, Abolfazl (2008) "Importance and Position of Oral Approach in Historical Studies," Specialized Monthly in Month Book of History and Geography (118): 16-25, p: 16.




[5] Ronald j, Grele "preface" in Envelopes of Sound: The Art of Oral History. 2d ed., rev. and enl. Chicago: Precedent, 1985. P: 56.

[6] Frisch, Michael, "Quality in History Programs", In A Shared Authority; Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History. Albany, NY: statue of the University of New York press, 1990), 188.

[7] Hasanabadi, Abolfazl (2010) "Oral History in Schools", Yade Ayam Journal (52): 38-41.

[8] Hasanabadi, ibid

[9] Oral History and the Federal Writers' Project, The Library of Congress| American Memory, Last updated 26.09.2002

[10] Telling Their Stories


[12] AltaMira Press 2004






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