Lesson: Interview

Lesson: Interview

Objectives: To learn how to conduct an interview


  • Paper, pencil
  • Audio/Video  recorder (optional); computer and Skype software (optional)
  • List of questions to ask
  • Handout of tips about interviewing
  • Computer with internet connection





Open-ended question


Yes/no question



Listen to an interview excerpt from those archived at Storycorp: http://storycorps.org/listen/. You might want to choose one where a young person is the interviewer. Explain that these are just little snippets of a longer interview, but they can give us an idea of how special an interview can be. (In our pilot lesson, we actually listened to a StoryCorps interview where an adult daughter, Mary McCormick was interviewing her 84-year- old father, Dan E. Andrews, Jr., about his childhood. The audio clip is titled “Can you tell me the scariest moment when you were a little boy?” It is an exciting, emotional story about a daring rescue on a trestle.

Explain that the art of students going out and interviewing really became popular in the late 1960s when students at a highschool in Georgia started a project they called Foxfire where they went to interview older people who lived up in the mountains about their lives and the way they did things that lots of people never learned how to do, like make a log cabin or cook a squirrel. Their interviews and photographs were collected a magazine published by the students, and then into many books, Foxfire, Foxfire 2, Foxfire 3 and so on. . (Show one of the books, usually readily available in libraries.) These Foxfire students’ work really inspired others to get out there and interview!


  1. What more would you like to know about your family story? As a class, brainstorm a list of questions. To help find the answers, who could you interview?
  2. What are some tips for having a good interview? Using the “Interviewing Tips” handout, cut the handout into strips so that each team of two students in your class has at least one tip to portray in a short skit. The teacher will demonstrate by taking a strip his or herself and acting it out in a short skit that either demonstrates following the interview tip  or not following the tip, and then asking the students, “What interview tip do you think I was trying to show you in this skit?” and then talking about students answers.
  3. Teacher conducts a sample interview with an adult in the classroom that ties into a family story, or else ties into the class research person. Video tape if possible so that class and teacher can watch it over together and pause it as needed to point out how the interview was going, and note when interview tips were being followed or forgotten. You might even be able to arrange a Skype interview that the class could follow/participate in during “real time” and later review and evaluate.
  4. Each student is given the assignment to conduct his/her interview that pertains to his or her own family research story. Give plenty of time for class to debrief, share and reflect after interviews are completed.



Climbing Your Family Tree, by Ira Wolfman (Workman, New York, 2001) “Good Questions for Family Interviews, p. 54-55, and chapter 3 “Let’s Talk about Us”

My Backyard History Book by Weitzman (Little, Brown & Co, Boston, 1975)

Roots for Kids by Beller (Genealogical Publishing Co, Baltimore, 1989) has a wonderful list of questions in the “Asking Questions” chapter

The Kids’ Family Tree Book by Leavitt (Sterling, NY, 2005)

Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors by Taylor (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1999)

Underfoot by Weitzman (Scribners, New York, 1976)

Who Do You Think You Are? Be a Family Tree Detective by Waddell (Candlewick, 2011)

Foxfire books (there are at least 12 volumes now ), published from 1972- present