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In Search Of Wisdom:
An Interview With An Elder



  • Language Arts
  • Sociology


  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Interview a person age 60 or older to learn about significant events in their lives.


Students will
  • gain an understanding of the importance of oral history.
  • build listening skills.
  • practice effective interviewing and note-taking techniques.
  • demonstate effective presentation methods.


elder, interview, oral history, writing, narrative, presentation, public speaking

Materials Needed

  • a typed sheet of questions
  • a tape recorder or camcorder (optional)
  • a permission/verification sheet to be signed by the interviewee
  • costume/props for presentation

The Lesson

In this activity, each student interviews a person age 60 or older in order to gain information about significant times/events in that person's life. The student writes a narrative in the voice of the individual interviewed, and then takes on the persona of that individual as he or she shares the narrative with the rest of the class.

Writing Good Interview Questions
The key to writing a good narrative is having good material to work with; and the key to getting good material is asking good questions. Have students work individually or in small groups to come up with questions to ask. Then you might set aside a time for students to share the questions they create. Talk about the questions that are most interesting, and why those questions are interesting. In that way, students think critically about the reasons for asking questions and about the questions that might result in the most interesting responses. After talking about what makes questions good, students create their final question sheet, which should contain 15 to 20 questions. Questions might include some of the following:

  • What was the happiest time in your life?
  • What are the most significant ways in which the world has changed since you were a student my age?
  • What technological advance has most surprised you?
  • What one or two things have changed little or not at all since your were a student?
  • What is the most significant political event you have witnessed?
  • What did you do for fun as a child?
  • What is the most important lesson you've learned in your life? How did you learn it?

More Project Tips for Students
You might recommend the following to students:

  • Take good notes as you record the elder's responses to your questions. To ensure that you remember the responses accurately, you might ask the elder if you can tape record or videotape the conversation.
  • When you prepare your presentation in the elder's persona, try to recreate as accurately as possible the language, expressions, and idioms the individual used.
  • When creating your presentation, stay true to the information you gathered in the interview.
  • Present information in a logical order.
  • Include as many vivid details as possible in your presentation.
  • Use humor where it is appropriate.


Use a rubric to grade students' narratives and presentations. You might ask them to hand in their interview questions with their notes or tapes.

Submitted By

Leah-Rae Bivins, Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 03/12/2004
Last updated 08/25/2009