Standard Lesson

My Life/Your Life: A Look at Your Parents' Past

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 60-minute sessions
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In this lesson, students explore what their parents' lives were like when they were in middle school. They examine the interview process and identify effective interviewing techniques. They then conduct interviews with their parents and write imaginary diary entries describing events that may have occurred in their parents' lives when they were in middle school. As a final project, students create a “Day in the Life” skit that captures the differences and similarities between their lives and their parents' school experiences. Preparation for the skit also involves using web resources to add a historical context to the dramatic scene.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Using the Internet as a learning resource can be highly motivating for developing literacy learners.

  • There is no one best way to incorporate computers into the literacy classroom. Instead, teachers should use computers to enhance their instructional goals.

  • Computer use is about discovery of the ways language works and what students can do with language as they pursue both intellectual and social goals.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • The classroom computer with a projection screen




1. Visit the sites listed in the Websites section. Bookmark these sites on the computers you will be using with students. If you do not have classroom computers available with Internet access, you will need to reserve two sessions in your school’s computer lab (see Sessions 2 and 3). In addition, if possible, arrange to use a classroom computer with Internet access and a projector for Session 1, Step 2.

2. The goal of this lesson is to help students make connections between their experiences and those of their parents through reflection and writing. You may wish to help students think about their relationships with their parents by looking at other examples of parent–child relationships. For example, as students are reading books, magazines, or informational websites, encourage them to observe how people relate to their parents. This may help broaden the scope of the lesson for students.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Develop effective interviewing techniques (e.g., how to select appropriate questions, make connections with the interviewee) by reading sample interviews, analyzing the interview process, and using role-play to practice

  • Learn about a different time period by interviewing their parents about their middle school experiences and using Web and print resources to find historical context

  • Compare the similarities and differences between their own experiences and those of their parents using a Venn diagram

  • Demonstrate growth in verbal expression as they clearly and succinctly share ideas with group members and the class

  • Synthesize what they have learned through role-play, journal writing, and the creation of a dramatic skit

Session 1

1. Tell your students that they are going to conduct interviews of their parents to find out what it was like when they were in middle school. If a parent is not available, students may choose another adult to interview.

2. The goal of this session is to encourage students to think about what constitutes an effective interview. Share the following online interviews with your students: You have the options of accessing these interviews in print, audio, or video form from the Academy of Achievement website.

3. After each interview, have students brainstorm answers to the following questions:
  • What did you learn from this interview?

  • What surprised you the most?

  • What kind of questions did the interviewer ask his or her subject?

  • What kind of connections did the interviewer make with his or her subject?
4. Conduct a role-playing exercise that will enable students to apply what they have learned about the interviewing process. Since this lesson is about facilitating communication and eliciting information, it is important for students to understand how to connect with the person they are interviewing.
  • Ask for student volunteers to play the roles of the interviewer and interviewee. (You may also choose to invite school personnel to act as interview subjects or have students interview you for additional practice.)

  • Brainstorm possible topics for the interviews. For example, you might decide to have students interview one another about their experiences outside of school, such as sports, music, or family vacations.

  • As the interviewer begins the mock interview, model how to ask follow-up questions. For example, if the interviewee mentions an interest in hip-hop, you might ask about favorite artists.

  • Tell students that making connections is about careful and active listening to the interviewee’s responses and responding accordingly.
5. After the interviews are complete, lead a class discussion critiquing the effectiveness of the interview process. Sample questions include:
  • Did the interviewer connect with the person he or she was interviewing? What evidence do you have to support your answer?

  • Did the interviewer ask follow-up questions? Provide examples.

  • After the interview, did you feel like you understood more about the interviewee? Why or why not?
6. Create a class list of guidelines entitled, “Tips for Effective Interviewing.” Post this list to use as a shared classroom resource.

7. Tell students that they are going to conduct interviews of their parents to learn about what their lives were like when they were in middle school. Give each student a copy of the Tell Me All About It! interview sheet. Students can feel free to add additional interview questions to the sheet. Instruct students to bring their interview results to share with the entire class in the next session.

Session 2

1. Tell students that they are going to use a Venn diagram to help them analyze the results of their interview responses. Access the interactive Venn Diagram tool and model for students how to use it. Then have students work independently to create a Venn diagram that compares their school experiences with those of their parents. Remind them to print their diagrams before closing the program.

2. Divide the class into small groups, and ask them to discuss their interview results and share their completed Venn diagrams. Post the following questions on the board to guide students in their discussion and help them to prepare a presentation of their results for the class:
  • What was the most surprising thing you learned about your parents?

  • How were your parents’ experiences different from your own?

  • How were your parents’ experiences similar to your own?
Ask for volunteers to share the results of their small-group discussions with the entire class.

3. After the class discussion, ask students to write imaginary diary entries describing events that might have occurred in their parents’ lives as middle school students. Students should finish their diary entries for homework.

Session 3

1. Have students return to their small groups and share their individual diary entries with one another.

2. Tell students that they will be using their diary entries to write a group skit entitled “A Day in the Life.” The skit could consist of dramatic readings of their diaries or the development of composite characters and dialogue based on the diaries. The skit will need to include the following elements:
  • The differences and similarities between their parents’ experiences and their own experiences as middle school students

  • A historical context

  • A musical context
3. To assist them in incorporating the second element into their skits (i.e., historical context), students will be using the Internet to investigate the time period in which their parents grew up. Provide the class with the following resources to use for gathering historical context: Tell students that they can also use materials such as encyclopedias, textbooks, magazines, and journals as references.

4. Have students access the print and online resources to gather information about what was happening in the world during the time when their parents were teenagers. Students can also choose to ask their parents about historical events they remember as teenagers and then conduct further research about the events using the Internet.

5. After gathering historical information about the time period, students should use it to add richness, depth, and authenticity to their skits. For example, remind students that they would not include an iPod in a skit about when their parents were teenagers.

6. To incorporate the third element into their skits (i.e., musical context), have students research the songs that their parents listened to as teenagers. Encourage them to incorporate this music into their skits or make references to particular songs to provide a musical context to their dramatic scene.

7. Circulate while students are working in their groups and provide assistance as needed.

Session 4

1. As a class, create a rubric that you can use to evaluate students’ skits. Some questions that you might use as a guide include:
  • How effectively did you represent your parents’ and your own experiences in the skit?

  • How could you have improved your skit?

  • How effectively did you integrate historical resources into your skit?

  • How did you incorporate music into your skit?
2. Allow time for students to work in their groups to finish their skit and ensure that it meets the criteria from the class-generated rubric. You may also wish to have students create a stage set or backdrop that contains quotations from their interviews for the presentation.

3. Ask students to present their “A Day in the Life” skits for the class.

4. Provide time for students to reflect on what they learned from their skits and their interviews (see Student Assessment/Reflections).


  • Have students create a popular culture mural highlighting examples from their middle school experiences and those from their parents.

  • Have students create a popular culture mural highlighting examples from their middle school experiences and those from their parents.

  • Have students summarize what they learned about the adult they interviewed using the online Bio-Cube tool. They can then write a brief biography that they share with that person.

  • Ask students to create a CD that features music their parents listened to in middle school and music they like to listen to. Students can then share the CD with their parents and discuss their likes and dislikes.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Ask students to respond to the following questions in their writing journals:
  • What did you learn about yourself in this lesson?

  • What did you learn about your parents in this lesson?

  • What did you learn about the world your parents grew up in?

  • How effectively did you represent your parents’ and your own experiences in the skit?

  • What could you have done better?

  • What was the purpose of this lesson?

  • How can you apply what you learned in this lesson to other areas of your life?
  • Read students’ responses, and lead a class discussion on the importance of communication in understanding other people’s life experiences. Some possible discussion questions include:
  • Why is it important to listen to others?

  • What did you learn about the past in this lesson?

  • How can you become a better communicator?

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