Holiday celebrations often include music, conversation and storytelling. The American Memory collections contain numerous audio files that provide clues to the traditions, ideas, language, speaking style, vocabulary, accents and dialects of generations past. Exposure to America's songs, sounds and oral histories will enhance students' understanding of written and visual documents. Learning to listen carefully provides another means for understanding the past. Begin by listening to this 1994 interview about collecting molly moochers.
• Observe: "Observing" an audio file means listening carefully. Create a quiet environment. Set the scene for the students. For an initial listening experience, provide them with background information. Let them know whose voices they will hear and the date and place of the recording. Explain that this interview is part of the Coal River Folklife Project (1992-99) documenting traditional uses of the mountains in Southern West Virginia's Big Coal River Valley. Find the location of Hardy County on a map of Virginia. Have students listen to the recording. What is the topic of the interview? What facts did the narrator give about molly moochers? What else was discussed? Have students jot down unfamiliar words. If students have difficulty understanding the dialogue, play the recording again.
• Think: After completing the listening and note- taking process, conduct a class discussion. Ask students to share what they learned about molly moochers. Have they heard this term before? What else did they learn about mushroom collecting? Could the students understand the speech or did they have difficulty with the vocabulary? What do they know about the setting of the interview? What did they learn about the lifestyle of the narrator? Did listening to the voices help create a visual picture of the speaker and setting? Does this interview relate in any way to the students' own lives?
• Ask: After listening to and discussing the speech, do students still have questions? What resources could help them learn more about life in the coal regions of West Virginia? Where can they find more information about edible mushrooms? Are there related audio files in the American Memory collections? Can they find a photograph of a molly moocher? (Hint: A search using the words - molly moocher - will come up with more than 50 related items.) Can students find out more about the people being interviewed? (Hint: Search the collection using the narrators' names to find photos and related interviews.)
Effective listening is an art. With frequent practice, students can develop this important life skill. Explore the interviews, sound files, music and speeches that can be found in the American Memory collections. Link to the sample selections on the left side of this page or search for more sound files on your own. Select "sound recordings" from the "Limit Search to:" box on the right side of the search page.
Link to photo: Glenna Bailey With Fried Molly Moochers