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Lesson Plan Exploring Community Through Local History: Oral Stories, Landmarks and Traditions

Students explore the local history of the community in which they live through written and spoken stories; through landmarks such as buildings, parks, restaurants, or businesses; and through traditions such as food, festivals and other events of the community or of individual families. Students learn the value of local culture and traditions as primary sources. They relate stories, landmarks and traditions of their community to history, place and environment.


Students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of local history;
  • develop interview skills;
  • demonstrate knowledge of library research skills;
  • analyze, interpret, and conduct research with primary sources.

Time Required

Two weeks

Lesson Preparation


Lesson Procedure

Possible teaching options are noted with individual activities.

  1. Introduce students to the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 collection. Students read the Special Presentation of the collection. For additional resources for teaching from the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, see the lesson Using Oral History.
  2. Discuss how to structure an interview for the best results. Note that open-ended rather than yes/no questions get more detailed responses. For additional resources about types of interview questions, see the lesson Immigration and Oral History.
  3. Discuss the types of local landmarks, traditions and customs that could be project subjects, such as a plaque commemorating WW II veterans or a mural showing a state or local event. Decide in advance whether students will work alone, with a partner or with a small group; and whether to limit the number of projects on a particular landmark or tradition. Allow students to self-select a subject. For additional ideas on how to generate project ideas, see Explore Your Community: A Community Heritage Poster for the Classroom
  4. Assign students to take pictures of traditional customs, activities or landmarks for their project as homework.
  5. Provide access to books, materials, pictures, and artifacts from the school library to gain insight into the community's past.
  6. Have students visit the local public library and work with primary documents from the local history collection.
  7. Ask students to submit a plan for their interviews, including specific questions and possible candidates for the interview, for peer or teacher review before conducting their interviews. Students might benefit from a reminder to form open-ended questions and a review of interview etiquette. Possible interview candidates for a landmark might include people who work, visit, shop, or eat at the site, or other passersby. Students conduct interviews, taking notes. Students write a report of the interview, which should be evaluated based on the number and variety of people interviewed, the types of questions developed, and the types of responses elicited.
  8. Teach students how to combine their pictures and text in a multimedia presentation.
  9. Students share their presentations with the class. Presentations should include an explanation of how interviews were conducted, and what the student learned about the community. Class members write a summary and a critique of each presentation. (Teacher option: provide guidelines for the critiques, or generate them with the class before beginning the presentations. Students may evaluate all presentations, or be assigned particular presentations.)


The high school library will store the students’ work to be used as a resource by future students. Web projects may be shared on the school Web site.

Lesson Evaluation

Develop a rubric on your own or with the students.

  1. Students demonstrate understanding of interviewing techniques and oral traditions through a written essay about their interview and through their multimedia project.
  2. Students successfully prepare a multimedia presentation.
  3. Students present their local history project to the class in a clear and informative manner in order that other students in the class can write a summary and a critique of their presentation.
  4. Students submit a self-evaluation clarifying what they learned and what materials and experiences were valuable in learning about local history.


Marilyn Frenz and Mel Sanchez