Our Stories teachers guide

Jump to: navigation, search

OurStories: Listen, Learn, Live


Welcome to the OurStories Teachers Guide.

This guide is designed for teachers working with students on storytelling and oral histories. We hope it answers the questions you and your students have about recording personal stories on OLPC computers. This guide won\’t cover technical details about the computers; instead, we\’ll cover how to help students develop their interviewing skills for recording oral histories.


What is OurStories?

It\’s a brand new project using the latest digital technology to record and preserve the spoken word stories of people around the world, online.

Who is involved in creating the OurStories project?

To give voice to those who have never been heard, especially children and their loved ones. Here\’s a little bit about how each sponsor is involved:

  • StoryCorps is offering proven expertise: they have recorded more than 10,000 American stories and many are played on the radio in the US.
  • One Laptop Per Child is arranging the distribution of millions of laptops for students in developing countries.
  • UNICEF\’s UNIwiki platform is providing visual access to audio and multimedia materials, even in places with low or restricted connectivity.

What is the mission of OurStories?

We believe there is value in individual spirit and collective wisdom. We want to give voice to both by creating a global network that connects storytellers and their listeners. By the year 2010, we plan to have captured a digital record of humanity through recording and preserving at least five million personal stories. We aim to gather stories from around the world – from people in every country, every city, every village, from paved road to dirt lane and big city to tiny hamlet. We hope that today\’s children and future generations alike will find insight, joy and inspiration in these many and varied voices, words and lives. Because their stories are OurStories.


What role do teachers play?

It\’s never too early to teach the power and joy of true communication. Encourage even the quietest voices to speak up – to ask, and answer questions. Listening is an act of love. Help spread the word! Please use the guide, on the following pages.


For Children Interviewing Adults, or Other Children

  1. Choose someone to interview
  2. Practice interviewing skills
  3. Conduct the interview
  4. Catalog the interview information

1. Choose someone to interview

This is the child\’s chance to be a reporter. He should think like one. Encourage the student to consider who in his or her family or community might have the most interesting story to tell. Who is quiet with a sneaky smile? Who tells funny stories? Who has a little secret they might want to share? There are no bad choices. It should be the child\’s decision who to interview. With good questions (see samples below), he may will be able to get a great story out of anyone. The only rule: the student should make sure the person wants to be interviewed, and is comfortable being recorded.

Here are some good interview subjects for children:

  • Family members (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings)
  • Classmates and, friends
  • Teachers and mentors
  • Community leaders and local townspeople
  • Out of town visitors with a unique perspective

2. Practice interviewing skills

Ask the children to interview each other, and adults, in the classroom. Share the tips below with your students so they can learn good interviewing techniques.


  • The student should tell the person being interviewed that the recording may be shared with others and should ask permission to conduct the interview.
  • Preserve important information about the interview by "initialing" the content. This involves record both people\’s names (first names are fine for children), ages, and relationship to each other. Also add the current location and the date.
  • Ease the person being interviewed into the situation. Open with small talk, easy questions.
  • Start a theme with an open-ended question such as "What was the happiest time in your life?"


  • The student should focus on the person and try not to interrupt or make noise when they are talking, and he should...
  • Use nonverbal cues for encouragement, nodding or smiling.
  • Go with the flow. Let the other person take charge of the conversation, and talk about what\’s important or interesting or amusing to him or her.
  • Be willing to abandon prepared questions!
  • Ask follow-up questions that are emotional and open-ended: "How did that make you feel?"
  • And urge the person being interviewed to be specific if they can: "What crops was your family growing at the time?" or "What did your mother wear?" etc.


  • The student should always end with a final question, such as "Is there anything else you\’d like to tell me about?" or "Is there something I forgot to ask?" etc.

3. Conduct the interview

Now the children are ready for real interviews. Below are sample questions. But the students also should be encouraged to make up their own, before the interview and during it! Some of the best questions and answers are surprises, and come naturally from the conversation.

Suggested questions for interviewing an adult:

  • What has life taught you?
  • Who and what has surprised you in your life?
  • What do you see in your future?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are your regrets?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest? The most memorable?
  • Is there something about yourself that no one knows?
  • How would you like to be remembered?

Suggested questions for interviewing another child:

  • Who are the most important people in your life?
  • What\’s your favorite part of school?
  • Describe the place where you live – what\’s it like there? What is it like, the place where you live?
  • What are your big goals in life?
  • Who\’s your best friend? What do you like to do together?
  • Do you have any siblings? How are they like you and how are they different?
  • Are you like your parents? Your grandparents?
  • What\’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest?

4. Catalog the interview information

When the interview is done, help the child document information about each interview for later reference and search. The information should include:

  • All the "initial" details (as described earlier)
  • Key subject matters that were discussed, such as "Life lessons," "How I met your mother," "Pet stories," etc.
  • The approximate length of the interview
  • An interview file name, so it can be searched for and located later.

For more interviewing suggestions, please see the StoryCorps guide: [1]