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Historical Voices

Using Studs Terkel’s Interviews in World History, US History, and Humanities

Subject: World History, US History, and Humanities
Grade: 10, 11, 12

Boston Learning Standards English Language Art

  • Engage in effective discussion.
  • Understand & employ structures of written language.
  • Learn & use the writing process.
  • Make effective presentations
  • Employ different genres of academic writing.

Boston Learning Standards History and Social Studies

  • Examine events and people given norms and values of the time.
  • Engage in historical and social issue analysis and decision making.
  • Understand and express different points of view.
  • Conduct historical and social studies research.
  • Explain the important domestic events that took place during WWII

School to Career Competencies

  • Practice Communication and Technology skills.
  • Use Technology.
  • Solve Problems.
  • Organize and Analyze Information.


  • Headphones and computer for each students
  • Computer w/LCD projector for teacher
  • Assignment sheet with room for notes and quotes
  • Pencil/pens


After a unit on World War II, introduce students to Historical Voices Site and then the Voices of the War – Studs site – listen to a selection of interviews and allow students to explore site prior to beginning the assignment

Direct students to listen to Dellies Hahne, Nora Watson, Joseph Small and E. J. Sledgehammer and to find 5 quotes to exhibit the impact of the war on the home front and America’s vision of their nation’s global responsibility. Specifically to find examples of changes in perception or perspective on race in US; examples of the US commitment to ‘total war’; examples of how war impacted life at home, examples of how war changed the roles of women, note how many times interviewees made reference to the Depression.


  • To analyze primary sources
  • To develop historical perspectives
  • To understand a variety of points of view
  • To enhance understanding of quotations by hearing it in context


Students will listen to interviews, select quotes and fill in assignment sheet. Students then participate in a pair share and evaluate each other’s quotes in a peer review format. On returning to the classroom, students are broken down into groups and each group is given a subject category. Students compile their quotes develop a presentation on ‘big paper’ which includes historical context descriptions and illustrations. A Culminating activity is a gallery tour. Students are asked to find the quotes that impact them the most and include in a reflection piece in their interactive notebooks


By allowing students to explore and listen to interviews on the headphones at their own pace I hope this assignment will engage all my students. When we examine quotes in class by reading and having discussions many times only a few students participate. By having students work at their own pace in their own space I believe a greater number of students will grasp the material. The quality of the big paper presentations and reflection pieces serve as a guide for determining the effectiveness of the lesson and material.


I did not leave enough time for the assignment. I should have booked 3 days in the lab. The students re-listened to portions of their interviews. This re-listening added much more time to the task than I had imagined. I explored this with the students during and after the lesson. I asked why they were repeating some of the interviews some explained they realized they had become distracted while others explained they had to go back in order to get the quote. Both these explanations I believe show skills of meta cognition that might not be activated when reading. I think my students are more skilled at listening than reading and have developed a deeper awareness of their own comprehension of what they are listening than of their own comprehension of what they’re reading. This is the benefit of the Historical Voice web site as a tool for my students in this lesson.