Voices from the Past: Exploring World War II through Oral History

For the next portion of the summer blog series, Chris Morris and I will be providing sample lesson plans and teaching materials to help educators incorporate oral history interviews and methods within their classrooms.
This lesson plan addresses the following standards from the Ohio Department of Education’s Model Curriculum for American History and Modern World History:

    • Topic: Historical Thinking and Skills – Students apply skills by using a variety of resources to construct theses and support or refute contentions made by others. Alternative explanations of historical events are analyzed and questions of historical inevitability are explored.
      • Content Statement #1: Historical events provide opportunities to examine alternative courses of action.
      • Content Statement #2: The use of primary and secondary sources of information includes an examination of the credibility of each source.

This lesson focuses on incorporating historical thinking skills with materials on World War II by exposing students to an oral history interview and then asking them to develop a series of questions they feel would be appropriate follow-ups to help them build more knowledge about the topic. I chose this specific topic and range of activities because I feel they adequately provide students with the opportunity to interact with primary source materials and develop critical thinking skills based upon those interactions. However, while the lesson focuses upon the content of World War II, it is important to note that the set induction, interview activities and follow up/assessment activities could be used with almost any historical theme or event. The practices of historical thinking and interacting with primary source materials can be applied to countless educational opportunities within the classroom, and provide students with the opportunities to become more independent and critical thinkers.
Below, I have provided additional resources relating to using oral history resources within the classroom that pertain specifically to the history of World War II.

  • The National WWII Museum – New Orleans  (http://www.nationalww2museum.org/see-hear/collections/oral-histories/?referrer=https://www.google.com/) – This website provides a collection of oral history interviews in the form of YouTube videos. Interviews include stories from members of all branches of the United States Armed Forces and a nurse that served during World War II. Other resources include color slides and images of battles and occupations from all around the world and instructions for students about how to complete their own oral history interviews.
  • VOCES Oral History Project – The University of Texas at Austin (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/voces/) – This website provides a unique perspective into the American experience during World War II – those who served who were of Latin or Hispanic descent. Through mini-documentaries, images and audio files, the public is able to discover the large impact U.S. Latinos made towards the war effort.
  • What is Historical Thinking? – TeachingHistory.org (http://teachinghistory.org/historical-thinking-intro) – This website, developed by the groundbreaking research by Sam Wineburg, provides teachers with information about how to incorporate historical thinking into their classrooms. Other resources include lesson plans, best practices, website reviews, and a database of state standards.
  • Pearson Prentice Hall – eTeach (http://www.phschool.com/eteach/social_studies/2003_04/essay.html) – This website provides teachers with an in-depth guide on using oral history resources in the classroom, in addition to best practices when conducting a class-wide oral history interview activity. This guide also provides useful links and a bibliography teachers can reference when planning a lesson including oral history resources.
  • Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection – Engaged Scholarship (http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/do/search/?q=internment&start=0&context=3075131) – This website, compiled by faculty, staff and students from Cleveland State University, contains a plethora of oral history interviews on a diverse range of local topics and topics that impact history on a global scale as well. The link above takes researchers directly to the interviews that discuss Japanese internment during World War II.
  • Imperial War Museum (http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research/about/sound) – This website contains resources from the Imperial War Museums located all over the English nation. Resources from this website include pictures, documents, sound clips and interviews, art, and even films.

Click here for the lesson plan in PDF format.
Check back soon for another lesson plan by Chris Morris! Feel free to comment with any resources or ideas you might like to share with others about incorporating oral history methods in the classroom. And as always, feel free to tweet me your questions, comments or ideas (https://twitter.com/CSUMcTori2016)!
Lesson Bibliography:
Morris, Chris. “Chris Morris: Summer Research Assistant”. Social Studies @ CSU Blog. http://socialstudies.clevelandhistory.org/2015/06/05/chris-morris-summer-research-assistant/.
Morris, Chris. “Audacity Tutorial: Creating a Story Clip”. Social Studies @ CSU Blog. http://socialstudies.clevelandhistory.org/2015/06/24/audacity-tutorial-creating-a-story-clip/.
Ohio Department of Education. “Ohio’s New Learning Standards: K-12 Social Studies, American History”. http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Ohio-s-New-Learning-Standards/Social-Studies/High-School_American-History_Model_Curriculum_Aug2014.pdf.aspx.
Ruddy, John D. “World War 2 in 7 Minutes”. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvDFsxjaPaE.
Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/crohc/.
“Patricia Kilpatrick Interview, 18 March 2014” (2014). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection.Interview 913027.
Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/crohc/.

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