Oral Histories

oral histories

Oral histories are recorded interviews that are collected and studied to preserve the interviewee’s experiences and memories. When used as a strategy in a course, the goal of oral history is to “establish, through memory and narrative, what the past means to the present” (Portelli, 2009, p. 21). Students in the Teaching of English course collect and share interviews with former teachers or current mentor teachers; some examples are provided here. This strategy works with a wide variety of student grades and content areas.

Take a look at resources to learn more about oral histories:

Below are oral histories created by students in EDUC 453,The Teaching of English and Theater Arts  course:

Cheyenne Falls interviews Teacher Ms. Woodie

Clip, What has been your proudest moment as a teacher? (1:17)

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Clip, Tips and Advice, (1:38)

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 Catie LeBouton interviews Teacher Ms. Carneal

Clip, What advice do you have for first year teachers? (:55)

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Clip, What advice do you have for your students? (1:45)

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Kaitlyn Berube interviews Teacher Ms. Reith

Clip, Know what legal rights you have as a teacher (1:06)

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Catie LeBouton interviews Teacher Ms. Traner

Clip, The ‘light blub’ moment (:33)

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Clip, What advice do you have for a new teacher? (2:26)

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Tips for Using Oral History

  • Share the video or audio recordings publicly, whether in class, online, or for the interviewee’s personal use
  • Set up a “pre-interview” meeting to determine the topics your interviewee would like to discuss and ensure familiarityand comfort if you have not met before
  • Select interviewees with lots of life experience and stories to tell


  • Engaging
  • Hands-on
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Builds interpersonal skills
  • Builds interviewing skills (such as preparing for interviews, listening carefully, and asking probing questions)
  • Empowers interviewee; they are able to tell and share their own stories, in their own words
  • Captures memories and experiences from the past for future generations


Portelli, A. (2009). What makes oral history different. Oral history, oral culture, and Italian Americans, 21-30.