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Philadelphia Stories: African Transitions from West Africa to Philadelphia as a Means to Study Oral Histories

Author: Stephanie R. Wicks


Roxborough High School

Year: 2008

Seminar: From West Africa to West Philadelphia

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: African American History, African immigrants in Philadelphia, English, ethnography, historical research, historiography, learn content through oral history, learning history, love of history, love of learning, oral history project, story time, storytelling

School Subject(s): African American History, American History, English, History, Literature, Social Studies, Writing

Children love to hear stories and tell stories. However by the time they reach high school, the idea of story time sounds juvenile to students and teachers alike. Yet, storytelling is directly related to history and one way we learn history. As a high school history teacher I am always looking for ways to reach my students and encourage a love of history and learning. In this curriculum unit I have created a means for students to learn content through oral history. It is my hope that this form of information gathering will help students to bridge the gap between something they do on a daily basis in telling stories to each other and how they perceive what we learn in the classroom from textbooks and other sources. Students will learn how to use primary sources, how to create an oral history project and about African immigrants in Philadelphia.

It is my objective for students to learn how to use historiography, ethnography and historical research methods to create an oral history project which will culminate in the production of a triptych or a Smartboard or PowerPoint presentation. This unit will consist of four lessons which will be taught in approximately four, fifty minute class periods. They will not be taught consecutively although they will be sequential. Although this unit will be used primarily in an African American History class, it can also be used in an English classroom. The lessons will utilize Pennsylvania’s academic standards for History and Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening which are listed in the appendix.

Download Unit: StephanieWicks-2.pdf

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Full Unit Text

My love of Africa has come from years and years of knowledge. When I was a little girl my father worked for an organization that caused him to travel to and work in many African countries including Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria. Although the work he did there was important, through my five year old eyes it seemed that he had gone to a mythical place of unknown people. When my mother would say “your Dad is going to Africa”, it always sounded like “AFRICA”. Being that my mother was a first grade teacher, she always made things a lesson so I learned at an early age that Africa is a continent and that my father had to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to get there. For me Africa became a place of great intrigue. Upon his arrival home I always asked, “What did you bring me?” Now, as an adult I realize that what he brought me was far greater than the trinkets he was able to acquire that are now long forgotten. What my father brought me was an understanding and an appreciation for the people, culture and continent of Africa. He brought me stories of African kings and queens, of a people with a long rich history. This curriculum unit is a personal journey as well as an educational one. Through the stories of the African people who have come, for various reasons, to Philadelphia and its surrounding areas, I hope for my students to gain a similar appreciation if not love for Africa and for their own personal histories and traditions.

Another driving force behind this unit is the fact that I have had several students that are from West Africa, I have had professors in graduate school who are from Africa, I have had colleagues from Africa and I have friends from Africa. These people have increased my curiosity and enriched my love of the continent of Africa. The African students who have inspired me are among the over 14,000 students in Philadelphia schools who are considered to be “English Language Learners” (ELL). These students come from various countries around the world. However, there has been a struggle to provide equity for this emerging group of students. In 2004 the School District of Philadelphia, moved to standardize the curriculum for ELL students. The emphasis for this program is for ELL students to gain proficiency in English and raise standardized test scores. Around the same time, the school district was moving to implement a new African American History course.

Starting with the Class of 2009, students in the School District of Philadelphia are required to take a course in African American History before they graduate. Because Philadelphia is associated with freedom and liberty it is a reasonable train of thought that we would become the first school district in the nation that has mandated students to take African American History as a required part of their education. However, this institution has been a journey rather than a point of arrival. The narrative that explains this journey is closely tied to Philadelphia’s social history and development. Philadelphia, which hosts the second oldest public education system in the United States, has not always provided an equal education for its students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, especially African Americans. The fight for equality and equity in education could be traced to the 1800s, when the “free black” community began to create their own educational institutions. In addition to those free blacks, the Quakers, who are the religious group who primarily founded the colony, also provided for the education of free blacks in Philadelphia.

To fast forward the story to the more recent history of this struggle, on November 17, 1967, one of the largest student demonstrations in the city of Philadelphia led by David P. Richardson, took place in front of the Board of Education building when 3,500 students walked out of their classrooms in protest. The students protested the inadequate education they were receiving in Philadelphia’s public schools. Protesters distributed leaflets that denounced the lack of Black History in the curriculum. In 1969, an official district policy mandated the inclusion of racial and ethnic history in all curricula materials. As a result, an Ad Hoc Committee was formed to create curricular materials in African and African American History. This subsequently resulted in the creation of an African-American Studies Department (King, 2006). Although this result was considered to be an improvement, “Black Studies” would continue to be pushed to the “back burner” and be marginalized in textbooks and minimized in the classroom.

For the past thirty-seven years, community members, educators, and local politicians have consistently fought to have the 1969 policy come to fruition. Through this process, the teaching and learning of African-American History is becoming a reality for the students in the School District of Philadelphia. (King, 2006). For additional information about this struggle see the following website for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

How does this rich educational history relate to my students in my school? Currently, I teach in a comprehensive neighborhood high school that is located in the Northwest section of the city, in a predominately Caucasian neighborhood. While this school has been integrated for a very long time the student population has shifted from being a predominately “white” school in a predominately “white” neighborhood to a predominately African-American school in a Caucasian neighborhood. It is important to note that this shift in population is not unique to my school and has occurred across Philadelphia as the population of city schools has become more and more African American. In the summer 2005 edition of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook article “Where have all the White kids gone?” Ron Whitestone states “As of the 2003-04 school year, fewer than fifteen percent of the students in Philadelphia public schools were white, a decline that has continued unabated since the 1960’s.” This is remarkable in light of the fact that although the population of Whites in Philadelphia has declined, (in the 1990’s the city lost 181,444 Whites), Whites still make up forty-two percent of the city’s population. Additionally, “as of 2000, over half of White children as opposed to roughly 1 of 10 African American children were enrolled in private schools.” (Whitestone, 2005 p #) In Philadelphia, many whites who cannot afford to move out of the city opt to send their children to Catholic school or charter schools. These choices by the relevant stakeholders are ultimately the cause of racial gaps in achievement and gaps in the resources provided in nonwhite schools. All of these factors contribute to the condition, quality and equity of education for Philadelphia school children.

Historical Context

Philadelphia has always been a destination for many immigrant groups. Most recently, many of those immigrants have been from African nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, and many countries in eastern Africa as well. The idea for this unit is that as humans all of our stories are interconnected. The primary goal for this unit is for students to explore oral history through learning about the cultures of West Africa and the origins of the Philadelphia African immigrant community.

In November 1684, one hundred fifty Africans arrived in chains in Philadelphia carried on the Isabella, out of Bristol England. Merchant William Frampton was the Philadelphia agent of a Bristol firm who negotiated the sale of the Africans to the Quaker settlers of the city. The Quakers used their purchases to clear trees and brush and erect crude house in the village. This introduction of slaves into the small population of white settlers began the intermingling of white and black Philadelphians that has continued. The friction that accompanies this interaction has also been present from the start. (Nash, 1988)

In 1896 W.E.B. DuBois conducted a fifteen month study of Philadelphia’s Negro population which was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. In this study he examined the African American population in the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia which is comprised of the area between South Seventh Street to the Schuylkill River and from Spruce Street to South Street. The primary focus of the study was the overall population and their daily life but it also looked into the migrants who came to the city; where they came from, why they came, what part of the city they lived in and their progress in Philadelphia. Currently there is a research, teaching and outreach project at the University of Pennsylvania that is called “Mapping the DuBois Philadelphia Negro” which is a part of the School of Design. The goal of this project is to recreate the survey conducted by W.E.B. DuBois, which was the basis for the 1899 book “The Philadelphia Negro”. The actual book and this website are excellent resources for teachers to gain more insight into Philadelphia’s African American History and African American history in general. Although “The Philadelphia Negro” does not address African migration specifically, it does give a great context in which the idea of migrants moving to Philadelphia can be explored.

Although the first Africans came to Philadelphia in chains, many immigrants of African descent continue to arrive in the “City of Brotherly Love” yearly. The now defunct Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies conducted a study of African immigrant communities entitled “The African Immigrant Project” which yielded the 2001 publication “Extended Lives: The African Immigrant Experience in Philadelphia”. All of the research and resources have been retained by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and can be accessed on their website which is listed in the appendix. This body of work is an ethnographic study of the African communities in Philadelphia.


It is my objective for students to learn how to use historiography, ethnography and historical research methods to create an oral history project which will culminate in the production of a triptych. This unit will consist of four lessons which will be taught in approximately four, fifty minute class periods. They will not be taught consecutively although they will be sequential. Although this unit will be used primarily in an African American History class, it can also be used in an English classroom. The lessons will utilize Pennsylvania’s academic standards for History and Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening which are listed in the appendix.

After reading the article, “Popularizing African and African American Folklore in the Age of Text Messaging Millennials” by Dr. Debra C. Smith, assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I recognized the need to meet my students where their generation is. In this article, Dr. Smith discusses the rationale for a course on comparative folklore, she created at the university and the impact the course had on her students. Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and sit in most of our high school and college classrooms. One of the most interesting outcomes of the course was that through studying Sundiata, the trickster tales and more modern folklore like rap music and even text messaging, Dr. Smith was able to create an environment for students to study their own commonalities. It is my hope to help my similarly help my students as they explore oral history.


An oral history project is the ultimate primary source lesson. The use of photographs, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, birth certificates, report cards, library cards, or social security cards can be an open door to the conversations that students will need to have to conduct successful research. One of the strategies that will be employed in this unit is to introduce students to Primary Sources. The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC have created a resource for teachers to use in their classroom to help students learn about primary sources. This document can be found at the following web address: In general, this document will allow students to analyze a “souvenir” of their life as a primary source.

Students will also learn the techniques used in interviewing. They will analyze a sound recording and a video recording of an interview and the transcription of an interview. Then students will conduct their own interviews in class and transcribe them as practice.

As a final product the students will create an oral history triptych which is basically a tri-fold display of their work. A triptych is defined as “a painting in three sections, usually an altarpiece, consisting of a central panel and two outer panels or wings. In many medieval triptychs the outer wings were hinged so that they could be closed over the center panel. Early triptychs were often portable. According to the Oral History Consortium, in the case of an oral history project, it is a three paneled backboard display, resembling a collage, which portrays a person’s life experiences. It can consist of a picture or portrait of the person, artifacts that are important to the person and that help tell a story about the person, a news article written about that person, a memoir that has been written or told by that person about a meaningful experience in his life, and anything else that helps convey the personality and life story of that person. If the technology permits in your classroom students can create a PowerPoint presentation or a Smart board presentation of the “triptych”.

My school has “Promethean” smart boards accessible for teachers to use with their students. Therefore, I will incorporate the use of technology in the teaching of the material. Students will also be encouraged to use various means of technology to create their oral history projects. If you do not have this technology in your school, the same goals can be accomplished using PowerPoint and a projector or even to some extent overhead transparencies.

Other strategies that will be employed in teaching this unit are KWL Charting which is a three part graphic organizer in which students write what they already know about a topic before reading, what they want to know about a topic during reading and what they have learned after completing the reading or lesson, Venn Diagrams and T-Charts are used to compare and contrast ideas and/or people, and Concept Mapping employs the use of a semantic map that can be used as a graphic organizer. These tools can be used for both pre and post assessment. The assessment tools that will be used for the project are rubrics which are included in the appendix.

Classroom Activities

Lesson One: Historiography and Ethnography 101: What is Oral History?

Lesson Goals:

Students will be able to:

  1. Define Oral History, historiography, and ethnography.
  2. Analyze Primary Sources


  1. Oral History: historical information obtained in interviews with persons having first-hand knowledge. It is often done through videotaping or tape recording of the person being interviewed.
  2. Historiography: the body of literature dealing with historical matters; histories collectively; the body of techniques, theories, and principles of historical research and presentation; methods of historical scholarship; the narrative presentation of history based on a critical examination, evaluation, and selection of material from primary and secondary sources and subject to scholarly criteria; an official history: medieval historiographies
  3. Ethnography: a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures



In order for students to understand what oral history is they will be required to work in pairs. Have students recall their first day of school. (This is a memory that regardless of where the student is from it should be a common experience.) Once they have this memory in the forefront of their minds, have them tell the story to their partner. Have the students then write down anything that was similar about their stories and any major differences. Have volunteers share-out with the class. Once students have shared, explain that they have participated in hearing and giving an oral history. Explain that what they have done is what historians and ethnographers do in their work. Have students write the definitions for oral history, historiography, and ethnography in their notes for future reference.

Analyzing Primary Sources:

Ask students “What is a Source?” Write the answers on a piece of chart paper, which can be displayed in the classroom for students to refer to during other lessons. Some examples that students should be able to state are: Written Documents – diaries, letters, books, articles, certificates, journals; Artifacts – physical remains, maps, photographs, art, tools, furniture (objects from everyday life that have historical significance); Recordings – video, film, audio recordings; and Personal interviews – in-person discussions, discussions over the phone or via e-mail. Using a Venn diagram have students compare and contrast the characteristics of a “primary source” and a “secondary source”.

Using the worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration website:, have students analyze an oral-history audio, video or transcript. Audio interviews can be obtained at the Library of Congress website: Note: You can find interviews that fit with a particular subject or time period. For my purposes I will be using the Slave Narratives that were collected during the WPA project. These audio interviews can be obtained at the Library of Congress website: Voices from the Time of Slavery:

Have students listen to or read an interview. Have students answer the questions from the

National Archives or the following questions can be used:

  1. Who was interviewed?
  2. Who conducted the interview?
  3. What was the purpose of the interview?
  4. How long was the interview?
  5. Was this enough time to get the information needed?
  6. Did the interviewer stick to a list of questions or did he/she use follow-up questions that referred back to what the interviewee had just said? Or both?
  7. Did the interviewer get some basic facts about the interviewee’s life at the beginning of the interview? What kind of information?
  8. How did the interviewer make the person being interviewed feel at ease?
  9. Summarize the main points of the interview.
  10. What especially interesting things did you get from hearing, viewing or reading this interview?
  11. What lessons did you gain from listening to this interview regarding interviewing skills and techniques?


Ask students to identify to the class their answers for questions numbers ten and eleven.

Lesson Two: Historical Research Methods and the Use of an Interview Guide Lesson Goals:

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify historical research methods
  2. Identify the elements of an interview
  3. Create their own interview questionnaire

The following websites will be helpful in teaching this lesson as background information for the teacher and students.

Grand Generation Interviewing Guide and Questionnaire

The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide


In order to conduct a successful historical research project, students must start by getting organized. Students should select a topic to research which can be based on a theme in history (please see Vital Themes and Narratives in History in the appendix) and then narrowed down to a specific topic. Students should have a notebook in which they keep all of their ideas and research. It may be helpful to have students use index cards as they gather their sources. To practice this skill, have students write a “historical essay”.

Step One: Have students choose a historical document. A text document like a speech would probably be the easiest for students to manipulate. Teachers could also choose one or two documents for all students to use.

Step Two: Students should analyze the document to determine which era it was created in, who wrote it, what was the author’s main point, what was the author trying to accomplish and was the author successful in accomplishing his or her goal? (Students may have to find additional information as background information to support their answers in analyzing the document.) When analyzing the document the students should find relationships: similarities versus differences, comparisons and contrasts, causes and effects, social-economic-political attributes/causes of events. In addition, students should make notes in the margin of the document and identify: point of view, purpose of the document, frame of reference and type of document.

Step Three: Students should then use one or more of the following tasks adapted from Advanced Placement Course Description: History, 2004-5, The College Board to write a question(s) that they would like to have answered about the document and then write a five paragraph essay about the historical document which answers their question(s). Analyze: determine component parts; examine their nature and relationship Assess/Evaluate: judge the value or character of something; appraise; evaluate the positive points and the negative ones; give an opinion regarding the value of; discuss the advantages and disadvantages of.

Compare: examine for the purpose of noting similarities and differences

Contrast: examine in order to show dissimilarities or points of difference

Describe: give an account of; tell about; give a word picture of.

Discuss: talk over; write about; consider or examine by argument or from various points of view; debate present different sides of.

Explain: make clear or plain; make clear the causes or reasons for; make known in detail; tell the meaning of.

Identify: cite specific events, phenomena and show a connection

To assess the essay there is a rubric for Historical Essays in the appendix or you can create your own.


Provide one of the interview guides to students for this lesson. If copying a class set of the interview guides is not possible, teachers can adapt this for their use by creating a PowerPoint of the most important points. The idea of this part of the lesson is for student to gain an understanding of the tools and techniques of folklorists and oral historians.

Once students have read the interview guide have students create questions that they would want to ask a teenager from another country. Pages 12-27 of the Smithsonian Guide would be the most helpful in explaining the purpose and process of interviewing and providing possible questions the students might ask. The Grand Generation Interview Guide also provides similar information in electronic form if you would like students to gather this information at home or in a computer lab.

Closure: Have students write a paragraph to process the assignments. Students should reflect on the parts of the assignment they found to be simple and those they found to be challenging so that the teacher can assess what parts of the lesson to review in order for students to master the skills taught.

Lesson Three: African Immigrant Communities in Philadelphia

Lesson Goals:

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyze the various African immigrant communities in the Philadelphia region.
  2. Identify reasons for migration and immigration.

For this lesson the teacher will need to print copies of interviews of African immigrants from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website: Go to the Education link and then to Pennsylvania’s New Immigrants to obtain the interviews.

PLEASE NOTE: The transcription of these interviews can be extremely lengthy. Therefore it would make it challenging to print and copy all of these interviews for the students. To make it easier partial interviews can be used. Additionally, teachers can use interviews from other immigrant groups as it suits their needs. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has studies on Hispanic and Asian immigrants similar to the one conducted on Africans.

There are eighteen interviews available on the website in PDF format. Students should work in pairs or in groups of no more than three. Give each group an interview. Each interviewee represents a different nationality from Africa. Students should read each interview and answer each of the following questions.

  1. What country did the interviewee immigrate from?
  2. What reasons were stated for the person leaving?
  3. Did they come with family members or alone? Do they still have family in their native country?
  4. What ethnic or national group is the person from?
  5. What languages does the person speak?

Discuss the findings with the class by having students put their answers on a large sheet of paper to hang around the classroom. Once the results have been hung, have students conduct a “gallery walk” to analyze each others findings.

Once students have analyzed the interviews, have students choose one of the following activities to complete as a follow up assignment. They may choose any of the people who are represented in the gallery walk.

  1. Create a fictional letter from one of the immigrants to their family in their country of origin. The letter must discuss what life is life is like in the United States as an immigrant.
  2. Create a detailed timeline of the person’s journey from their home country to the United States.
  3. Create a diary entry which discusses the reasons for immigrating to the United States.

This part of the assignment should be started in class and completed for homework

Lesson Four: Oral History Project

Lesson Goals:

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify a person to interview
  2. Formulate questions to ask an interviewee
  3. Design a triptych display or a digital display and present their work.

In this project, my students will interview the English Language Learners in our school, although this project can be done by interviewing any subject. Based on the previous lesson on Interview Guides, students will develop questions to ask their subject. They must gather the following information from their subject but students are not limited to these subjects.

  1. Where they were born, what they remember about their home country, what languages they speak, and information about their family, childhood memories.
  2. They must gather a picture of the person
  3. They must obtain a memoir from the person
  4. They must write a news article about the person.

All of these elements must be displayed on their presentation board. The presentation can also be created as a Promethean Board (smart board) or PowerPoint presentation. If using a smart board or PowerPoint, students can include actual clips from their interviews in the presentation.

In conducting their research and interviews it would be helpful but not essential for teachers to have the following materials for students to use. Please note some of these items are required school tools that students should already possess.

Checklist of Basic Equipment: (This list was adapted from The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide by Marjorie Hunt)

  • Notepads or notebooks
  • pens/pencils
  • Tape recorder (plug-in microphone, if necessary) or digital recorder
  • Cassette tapes
  • Batteries for tape recorder
  • Extension cord
  • Digital camera
  • Film if not using a digital camera
  • Tape measure
  • Interview release form

The Interview:

Once students have selected their subject, they must develop questions to ask. Have students be sensitive of their subject’s country of origin. If the interviewee is from a war torn country the interviewer should take care not to pressure the person to talk about memories they find difficult. While this may be easy for adults to interpret through body language, teenagers may not pick up on the physical clues; therefore it is important for the teacher to explain this before the interviews are conducted.

After video or audio taping the interview, the interviewer must transcribe the entire interview.

The Memoir:

Ideally the memoir would be written by the interviewee however, the interviewer can take a portion of the interview in which the person talks about a specific time in their life, an event, or a place that is significant to them, to use as the memoir.

The Artifact:

The artifact should represent the person or something significant to the person being interviewed. For example, if the person loves horses or owns a horse then the artifact can be a picture of a horse. The interviewer should describe how this artifact is important to the person. All of this should be included on the presentation board.

The News Article:

Once the student has interviewed their subject, they must conduct some research about the times in which the person lived. Because this project will be conducted among peers the research should be focused on the person’s country of origin. The students will then use their interview and their research to write an article describing the who, what, where, why, when, and how of this person’s life. The article will be included on the display board.

The Presentation:

When students present their displays, they must discuss all of the elements of their board and how this experience has impacted their understanding of people from other countries. The presentation could be done in class or it can be a larger symposium for students, administrators, parents, and community members to attend. If the interviewees are ELL students as they will be in my classroom, they should also be invited.


After the presentation, have students write a journal about their experience as an interviewer.

They can “free write” but they should include their feelings before, during and after the project.

Annotated Bibliography

Campbell, James T. Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 (New York, New York, The Penguin Press)

This book describes the journey of Africans back to their ancestral homelands in Africa from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century. This book includes many of the central figures in American intellectual, political and artistic life.

Carr, Greg “The Origin of Humanity”, School District of Philadelphia Office of Curriculum and Instruction: African American History Course: Lessons in Africana Studies: pp98-115 (Philadelphia, PA, Songhai Press 2006)

This article is part of a larger work by many renowned scholars in Africana Studies. This article discusses key events surrounding the formation of modern human society.

Carson, Clayborne; Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J.; Nash, Gary B. African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom (New York, New York Pearson Longman 2005)

This textbook is a biographical and historical analysis of the lives of African Americans. The text uses personal stories as a basis for the history of African Americans.

DuBois W.E.B., The Philadelphia Negro. New York: Lippincott, 1899

Gordon, April A.; Gordon, Donald L.Understanding Contemporary Africa 4th edition (Bolder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 2007)

This book is a series of articles that discusses various aspects of African life including a historical context, African politics, the economies of Africa, African international relations, population, urbanization and AIDS, Africa’s environmental problems, family and kinship, women and development, religion in Africa, African literature and trends and prospects.

Clark Hine, Darlene; Harrold, Stanley; Hine, William C. African American History (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall 2006)

This textbook discusses the processes Africans went through to become African Americans. The authors begin the discussion with the study of Africa and continue through modern history.

Hunt, Marjorie Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution 2003)

Jalloh, Alusine; Maizlish, Stephen E. The African Diaspora (Arlington, Texas: Texas A&M University Press 1996)

This book is a series of six articles which discuss the African Diaspora from African and non-African perspectives.

Nash, Gary B. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community 1720-1810 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1988)

This book provides a history of Africans and African Americans in Philadelphia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Smith, Debra C. “Popularizing” African and African American Comparative Folklore in the Age of Text Messaging Millennials (Folklore 118 April 2007 pp 91-99)

This article is a reflection on the pedagogical approaches used by a professor of Africana studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It is an excellent resource for teachers who want to better understand the generation of students in our classrooms and approaches to teaching folklore.

Stix, Andi; Social Studies Strategies for Active Learning (Huntington Beach, CA Shell Educational Publishing 2004)

This book is an educational resource for teachers that outline teaching strategies in social studies.

Vandenber-Daves, Jodi; A Guide to Historical Research Through the National History Day Program (National History Day 2006)

This book is a guide for teachers and students who are preparing a project for History Day. It can also be used to teach students historical research skills. It contains sections that include Beginning historical research, advanced historical research, critical research skill for gathering information and historical thinking and analysis of sources.

Vest, Kathleen; Using Primary Sources in the Classroom (Huntington Beach, CA Shell Educational Publishing 2005)

This book is an educational resource for teachers that outline teaching strategies in social studies.

Websites This is the website of the Pennsylvania Historical Society This is the website of the In Motion exhibit at the Schomberg Center for African American Studies at the New York Public Library in Harlem. This website is especially good for studying all migrations of African peoples.


Pennsylvania Academic Standards:

This unit corresponds with Pennsylvania History Standards 8.1,2,3 A, 8.1,2,3 B,

8.1,2,3 C, and 8.1,2,3 D. However it will focus primarily on the standards listed here specifically.

The standards for 8.1.9 Academic Standard: History: Historical Analysis and Skills Development: Pennsylvania’s public schools shall teach, challenge and support every student realize his or her maximum potential and to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to analyze cultural, economic, geographic, political and social relations to:

8.1.9A – Analyze Chronological Thinking: Difference between past, present, and future; Sequential order of historical narrative; Data presented in timelines; Continuity and Change; Context for events.

8.1.9B – Historical Comprehension: Literal meaning of historical passages; Data in historical and contemporary maps, graphs and tables; Different historical perspectives; Data from maps, graphs and tables; Visual data presented in historical evidence.

8.1.9C – Historical Interpretation: Fact versus opinion; Reasons/causes for multiple points of view; Illustrations in historical documents and stories; Causes and results; Author or source used to develop historical narratives; Central issue.

8.1.9D – Historical Research: Historical event (time and place); Facts, folklore and fiction; Historical questions; Primary sources; Secondary sources; Conclusions

The standards for 8.2 Pennsylvania History and 8.3 United States History:

A – Contributions of Individual Groups

B – Documents, Artifacts, and Historical Places

C – Influences of Continuity and Change

D – Conflict and Cooperation Among Groups

Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

1.6. Speaking and Listening

1.6.11. GRADE 11

1.6.11A. Listen to others.

  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Synthesize information, ideas and opinions to determine relevancy.
  • Take notes.

1.6.11B. Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).

  • Relate them to previous knowledge.
  • Predict solutions to identified problems.
  • Summarize and reflect on what has been heard.
  • Identify and define new words and concepts.
  • Analyze and synthesize the selections relating them to other selections heard or read.

1.6.11C. Speak using skills appropriate to formal speech situations.

  • Use a variety of sentence structures to add interest to a presentation.
  • Pace the presentation according to audience and purpose.
  • Adjust stress, volume and inflection to provide emphasis to ideas or to influence the audience.

1.6.11D. Contribute to discussions.

  • Ask relevant, clarifying questions.
  • Respond with relevant information or opinions to questions asked.
  • Listen to and acknowledge the contributions of others.
  • Adjust tone and involvement to encourage equitable participation.
  • Facilitate total group participation.
  • Introduce relevant, facilitating information, ideas and opinions to enrich the discussion.
  • Paraphrase and summarize as needed.

1.6.11E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.

  • Initiate everyday conversation.
  • Select and present an oral reading on an assigned topic.
  • Conduct interviews.
  • Participate in a formal interview (e.g., for a job, college).
  • Organize and participate in informal debate around a specific topic.
  • Use evaluation guides (e.g., National Issues Forum, Toastmasters) to evaluate group discussion (e.g., of peers, on television).

1.6.11F. Use media for learning purposes.

  • Use various forms of media to elicit information, to make a student presentation and to complete class assignments and projects.
  • Evaluate the role of media in focusing attention and forming opinions.
  • Create a multi-media (e.g., film, music, computer-graphic) presentation for display or transmission that demonstrates an understanding of a specific topic or issue or teaches others about it.

1.8. Research

1.8.11A. Select and refine a topic for research.

1.8.11B. Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies.

  • Determine valid resources for researching the topic, including primary and secondary sources.
  • Evaluate the importance and quality of the sources.
  • Select sources appropriate to the breadth and depth of the research (e.g., dictionaries, thesauruses, other reference materials, interviews, observations, computer databases).
  • Use tables of contents, indices, key words, cross-references and appendices.
  • Use traditional and electronic search tools.

1.8.11C. Organize, summarize and present the main ideas from research.

  • Take notes relevant to the research topic.
  • Develop a thesis statement based on research.
  • Anticipate readers’ problems or misunderstandings.
  • Give precise, formal credit for others’ ideas, images or information using a standard method of documentation.
  • Use formatting techniques (e.g., headings, graphics) to aid reader understanding.

The complete standards are available online at:

History’s Vital Themes and Narratives

In the search for historical understanding of us and others, certain themes emerge as vital, whether the subject be world history, the history of Western civilization, or the history of the United States.

  1. Human interaction with the environment

The relationships among geography, technology, and culture, and their effects on economic, social, and political developments. The choices made possible by climate, resources, and location, and the effect of culture and human values on such choices. The gains and losses of technological change. The central role of agriculture. The effect of disease, and disease-fighting, on plants, animals, and human beings.

  1. Values, beliefs, political ideas, and institutions

The origins and spread of influential religions and ideologies. The evolution of political and social institutions, at various stages of industrial and commercial development. The interplay among ideas, material conditions, moral values, and leadership, especially in the evolution of democratic societies. The tensions between the aspirations for freedom and security, for liberty and equality, for distinction and commonality, in human affairs.

  1. Conflict and cooperation

The many and various causes of war, and of approaches to peacemaking and war prevention. Relations between domestic affairs and ways of dealing with the outside world. Contrasts between international conflict and cooperation, between isolation and interdependence. The consequences of war and peace for societies and their cultures.

  1. Patterns of social and political interaction

The changing patterns of class, ethnic, racial, and gender structures and relations. Immigration, migration, and social mobility. The effects of schooling. The new prominence of women, minorities, and the common people in the study of history, and their relation to political power and influential elites. The characteristics of multicultural societies; forces for unity and disunity.

Vital Themes and Narratives taken from: The Bradley Commission. Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools. Westlake, OH: National Council for History Education, 1995. pp. 10-11.

National Council for History Education, Inc.

History’s Habits of the Mind

The perspectives and modes of thoughtful judgment derived from the study of history are many, and they ought to be its principal aim. Courses in history, geography, and government should be designed to take students well beyond formal skills of critical thinking, to help them through their own learning to:

  1. Understand the significance of the past to their lives, both private and public, and to their society.
  2. Distinguish between the important and the inconsequential, to develop the “discriminating memory” needed for a discerning judgment in public and personal life.
  3. Perceive past events and issues as they were experienced by people at the time, to develop historical empathy as opposed to present-mindedness.
  4. Understand how things happen and how things change, how human intentions matter, but also how their consequences are shaped by the means of carrying them out, in a tangle of purpose and process
  5. Prepare to live with uncertainties and exasperating, even perilous, unfinished business, realizing that not all problems have solutions.
  6. Grasp the complexity of historical causation, respect particularity, and avoid excessively abstract generalizations.
  7. Appreciate the often tentative nature of judgments about the past, and thereby avoid the temptation to seize upon particular “lessons” or history as cures for present ills.
  8. Recognize the importance of individuals who have made a difference in history, and the significance of personal character for both good and ill.
  9. Read widely and critically in order to recognize the difference between fact and conjecture, between evidence and assertion, and thereby to frame useful questions.

Habits of Mind taken from:

Bradley Commission on History in Schools. Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching

History in Schools. Westlake, OH: National Council for History Education, 1995. p. 9.

Oral History Project Resources

Following are resource materials, in general, for Oral History, and ones that may help you in developing your own “Conducting An Interview” lesson:

Oral History Resources:

Please note: The following list of resources were compiled by The Oral History Consortium and published on their © 2000 CD Oral History Project Grades K-16: Creating a project for your classroom that implements Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

“You’ve Got To Hear This Story” — a 30-minute “how-to” video for conducting oral history interviews. This is a companion to the book, “Talking Gumbo: An Oral History Manual for Secondary School Teachers,” co-authored by Toby Daspit.

“Listening for A Change: Oral Testimony and Community Development.” Ugo Slim and Paul Thompson. New Society Publishers, Philadelphia. 1995.

Oral History – Questions to Ask

Oral History – Internet Resources

Oral History Techniques

Miscellaneous Oral History Resources

An Ellis Island Oral History

What Did You Do In The War, Grandpa?

Mankato Memories

American Life Histories

Using Oral History Lesson Overview

History Matters

Many Pasts, First Person Accounts

Oral History Projects

American Memory, Library of Congress

Oral History Research Office, Columbia University

Oral History Association

Oral History Research Center, Indiana University

The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Vincent Voice Library, Michigan State University

Southern Oral History Project, University of Chapel Hill

Mississippi Oral History Program

Oral History Online! University of California at


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Oral History Projects by Subject

1968 The Whole World Was Watching

Baum, Willa K. (1977). Transcribing And Editing Oral History. American Association for State and Local History. 127p. Bibliography pp. 123-127.

Brown, Cynthia S. (1988) Like It Was: A Complete Guide To Writing Oral History.

Teachers and Writers Coll. 144p.

Glassie, Henry and Leach, MacEdward. (1973) A Guide For Collectors Of Oral Traditions And Folk Cultural Material In Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Hoopes, James. (1979). Oral History: An Introduction For Students. University of North Carolina Press. 155p. Bibliography pp. 151-155.

Neuenschwander, John N. (1993) Oral History And The Law. (Oral History Association Pamphlet Series, No.1).

Oblinger, Carl. (1990). Interviewing the People of Pennsylvania: A Conceptual Guide To Oral History. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Ritchie, Donald A. (1994). Doing Oral History. Twayne Publishers. 288p. [Has an extensive bibliography on oral history handbooks and methodology.]

Sitton, Thad; George L. Mehaffy; Ozro Luke Davis. (1983) Oral History: A Guide For Teachers (And Others). University of Texas Press. 167p. Bibliography pp. 163-167.

Oral History Project

Name: ________________________

Teacher: ________________________

Date of Presentation:  ________________________

Title of Work: ___________________








Audience cannot understand presentation because there is no sequence of information.

Audience has difficulty following presentation because student jumps around.

Student presents information in logical sequence which audience can follow.

Student presents information in logical, interesting sequence which audience can follow.

Student does not have Student is
Content uncomfortable with Student is at ease
grasp of information; information and is with content, but
Knowledge student cannot answer able to answer only
fails to elaborate.
questions about subject. rudimentary
Student used no Student occasional Visuals related to
Visuals used visuals that text and
visuals. rarely support text
and presentation.
Student’s presentation Presentation had Presentation has no
more than two
Mechanics had four or more three misspellings misspellings
spelling errors and/or and/or grammatical and/or
grammatical errors. errors. grammatical

Student demonstrates full knowledge (more than required) with

explanations and elaboration.

Student used visuals to reinforce screen text and presentation.

Presentation has no misspellings or grammatical errors.


Student mumbles, incorrectly pronounces terms, and speaks too quietly for students in the back of class to hear.

Student incorrectly pronounces terms.

Audience members have difficulty hearing presentation.

Student’s voice is clear. Student pronounces most words correctly.

Student used a clear voice and correct, precise pronunciation of terms.


Teacher Comments:

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Oral History Project

Name: ________________________

Teacher: ________________________

Date Submitted: ____________

Title of Work: ___________________

Criteria Points


4 3 2
Movements seemed Made movements Very little
Body Language fluid and helped the or gestures that movement or
enhanced descriptive
audience visualize.
articulation. gestures.
Holds attention of Consistent use of Displayed
Eye Contact entire audience with minimal eye
direct eye contact
the use of direct eye with audience. contact with
contact. audience.
Student delivers Student displays Student clearly
open and closing
Introduction and uses either an
remarks that capture clear introductory
introductory or
Closure the attention of the or closing
closing remark,
audience and set the remarks.
but not both.


No movement or descriptive gestures. No eye contact with audience.

Student does not display clear introductory or closing remarks.

Good use of drama Delivery is Delivery is in
patterned, but bursts and does
Pacing and student meets
does not meet not meet
apportioned time
apportioned time apportioned time
interval. interval.
Student displays Makes minor Displays mild
mistakes, but
relaxed, self- tension; has
Poise quickly recovers
confident nature trouble
from them;
about self, with no recovering from
displays little or no
mistakes. tension. mistakes.
Use of fluid speech Satisfactory use of Displays some
Voice and inflection inflection, but level of inflection
does not
maintains the interest throughout
consistently use
of the audience. fluid speech. delivery.

Delivery is either too quick or too slow to meet apportioned time interval. Tension and nervousness is obvious; has trouble recovering from mistakes.

Consistently uses a monotone voice.


Teacher Comments:

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Historical Essay

Name: ________________________

Teacher: ___________________

Date Submitted: ____________

Title of Work: ___________________







Sequence of Reader has Student presents Information in
difficulty following information in
Organization logical, interesting
information is difficult work because logical sequence
to follow. student jumps which reader can sequence which
reader can follow.
around. follow.
Student does not have Student is Student
Content uncomfortable with Student is at ease
grasp of information; demonstrates full
Knowledge student cannot answer content and is able with content, but knowledge (more
questions about subject. to demonstrate basic fails to elaborate. than required).
Presentation has Presentation has no
Grammar and Work has four or more more than two Presentation has no
three misspellings misspellings misspellings or
Spelling spelling errors and/or and/or grammatical and/or grammatical
grammatical errors. errors. grammatical errors.
Neatness Work is Illegible. Work has three or Work has one or Work is neatly
four areas that are two areas that are
sloppy. sloppy.


Work displays no references.

Work does not have Reference section Work displays the
the appropriate correct number of
number of required was completed references, written
references. correctly.

Total—->   ____

Teacher Comments:

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