Learn All Year Long
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Recording Family Stories
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Activity Time||Six hour-long sessions, spread over approximately two weeks|
Fredonia, New York
- Copies of “Coming Home, Again”
- Memoir Definition handout, one for each participant
- Working together, read Memoir Definition handout to better understand memoirs. Invite teens to discuss any other memoirs and identify the qualities they liked about them.
- To become more familiar with memoirs, read the essay "Coming Home, Again" by Chang-rae Lee. The author of the essay is a Korean-American immigrant who taps recollections of his parents driving him to school as a way to remember them and his relationship with them.
- Discuss this memoir, asking teens to share their favorite parts of the story.
- Explain to the teens that they will be creating their own family memoir, through writing or through alternative artistic means.
- Ask teens to choose the family members or friends who will be the subject of their memoirs. To help build a family history, suggest that teens choose a family member who is at least one generation older than they are. Family histories can also include important family friends and mentors. In addition to family members, teens can write a memoir on someone in their community, a religious elder, a teacher, or a civic leader.
- Prepare to interview the selected person for the memoir. Visit the following websites for ideas for their interview questions:
- Once interview questions have been determined, schedule the interviews.
- Ask teens to take notes during the interviews to record important facts and bits of information. If desired and with permission, they can also tape-record the conversation.
- If desired, bring a camera and take pictures during the interview.
- After the interviews have been completed, decide how the memoir information is going to be shared:
- Once all of the memoirs have been completed, share them with others-including with the subject of the memoir!
- Memoirs can be written about a famous person that has been researched, or simply written about yourself!
- A memoir can be shared based on the character of a book or movie.
- If you prefer, shift the focus from building family histories to building community histories. Rather than having teens focus on family members, ask them to interview and record the stories of significant community members and remembrances of meaningful community events.
Point of view
The angle from which an author tells a story using characters, events, and ideas. Stories can be told from an omniscient point of view, where the person telling the story sees and knows everything, or from a limited point of view, where the reader only sees, hears, or knows what a certain narrator does. Some stories use different points of view at different points in the story.
While some interviews are formal, informal interviews with family members and peers should be friendly and more casual. Interviewers still need to be prepared with a list of questions that lead to an extended response, not a yes or no answer, and need to record their interviewees’ responses carefully to maintain accuracy and show respect for their answers.
Discussion is a natural way for children and teens to express or explain what they already know or what they are learning. When possible, let children and teens lead the direction of a discussion. Ask questions that lead to an extended response (“What do you think about…?” or “Why do you think…?”) rather than questions that might result in a yes or no or a simple answer.