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Interviewing Famous Leaders in History



  • Arts and Humanities
  • Social Studies
  • World History
  • U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students research a famous leader and then assume the role of interviewer and responder as they compose a question-and-answer interview with that leader.

This "interview" lesson can be used to teach about great leaders of any place or time period. It can be easily adapted to teach about the presidents of the United States, the emperors of Europe, the kings of England, the pharaohs of Egypt


Students will

  • learn about the lives and careers of famous world leaders (presidents, Roman emperors, English monarchs, or others).
  • assess and paraphrase historical sources.
This lesson is an alternative approach to a traditional research paper. It encourages students to digest material and not simply to parrot back what they read.


leaders, interview, presidents, emperors, kings, Roman history, history, biography

Materials Needed

  • biographical dictionaries or other sources of biographical information about leaders of the period being studied
  • Internet access (optional)

The Lesson

Decide in advance whether students will work on this project independently or in pairs. Compose a list of leaders (for example, presidents or emperors or monarchs -- depending on the era of history your students are studying) and distribute it to students. Students select the individual they would most like to learn more about.

If students know little about any of the leaders, you might include next to each leader's name a little teaser that gives some interesting tidbit of information.

You might give the list to students one day and have them take it home overnight. Ask them to choose three or four leaders in whom they are interested and to be prepared to explain why they selected each of those leaders. (If multiple students choose a leader, you might use their justifications to help determine who will be assigned that leader. The student with the best reason(s) will earn the assignment.)

Give students additional directions such as: "Compose a preliminary list of questions to ask your leader. You must have a minimum of 10 questions. Interviews with more questions of high quality will earn a better grade."

You might also stipulate that question topics include at least one question about

  • the leader's family and background;
  • how the person became leader;
  • a significant contribution for which the leader was responsible (for example, a significant law that was enacted under a president's leaderships, a significant architectural work that was created under an emperor's leadership)
  • military matters under the leader's tenure;
  • social policies during the leader's term/reign;
  • contributions the leader made; or
  • personal habits, likes, and so on.

Students will use available resources (books, Internet sites, and other sources) to research/learn about the leader. Then they will put themselves in the shoes of an interviewer who lived at the same time as the leader; they will compose historically accurate questions and answers to those questions. They should include questions that will lead to sharing of information they found personally interesting as they researched the life and times of the leader.

Recommended: Require students to include a reference to the sources used for each answer; or to include a full and correctly formatted reference list with their interview.

Students should include with their interviews a portrait of the leader

A fun technology integration activity would be to take digital pictures of the students posed to appear as if they are interacting with the image they collected of the leader; then use a photoshop program to superimpose the image of the student on the image of the leader.

As a culminating activity, students will share their interviews with their classmates. They might do this by reading them aloud with a partner (the partner can be the interviewer and the student can pose as the famous leader). This final activity might even include practice/rehearsal and costumes.


Students demonstrate their knowledge of the leader they researched through additional activities. They might, for example,

  • do a rotation activity in which each student sums up information about his or her leader with each other student in the class.
  • plan and play a trivia game with the subject matter.
  • take a test on the material.

Class discussion questions might include

  • Which leaders were most important? influential? likable? best? worst? Why?
  • What information was easiest to learn about famous leaders? Most difficult to track down?
  • Were there any historical sources that seemed spurious? Any facts that students questioned as they did their research?
  • How do we know what we know about the leaders? (primary sources)
  • (If your students are studying leaders of the distant past) Which modern personality is most like each leader?
  • Would students recommend that their classmates spend time with certain leaders? Why or why not?

Submitted By

Lisa Auanger, Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia


Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World


Originally published 02/04/2005
Last updated 07/27/2017