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Sample lesson Plan for Using "Black Berea" Website
Oliver Keels
Using Oral Histories

Subject: Kentucky History
Grade Level: Fourth or Fifth
Time: Two
Students will employ the transcripts of interviews with former residents of Berea to explore how personal stories are used to "make history."
Connections: Too often youngsters leave elementary school thinking of history as nothing more than a body of facts about the past. And this body of facts has little to do with them. Thus, they are left with little appreciation, or even recognition, that "History is an account of human activities which is interpretive in nature( the first assertion under Academic Expectation, 2.20)." Through this activity, students should develop the ability to make personal connections to the past. Students should also be able to address Academic Expectation 2.19, assertion: "Mental maps are used to visualize where things are and how they are arranged."
Context: The stories presented in the interviews of some former Berea residents give a rich portrayal of life long ago, as well as personal perspectives on fundamental changes that took place in Kentucky and in Madison County. These stories also introduce students to aspects of Kentucky's past (the role of African Americans and the affects of segregation) given short shrift in textbooks.
Materials: Transcripts and maps from the website, "Early Black Berea."

Copy two or three of the transcripted oral interviews, and edit the dialogue as needed to ensure that the stories and information move smoothly as scripts. [Take care, however, to make certain that students understand what it means to edit, and how, what and why these particular stories have been edited. You might want to compare some unedited dialogue with the edited versions being used for this activity.] Also make enough copies of the maps provided on the website so that each two or three students have copies.

Assign students roles to play as "Berea residents" being interviewed about their past, and the experiences of their families. As the "actors" present the dialogue, groups of students should be marking their map copies in order that place names are mentioned (first site,one, and so forth).

After you have had students act out the interviews, begin a discussion of the events contained in the stories. Through this open-class discussion, create an ordered set of important events-YOUR OWN CLASS TIMELINE. You can then explain to students that they have done what historians do, made interpretations of stories, deciding what was most important in telling a story about the past.


Observations of student participation and the class' ability to recognize critical events will reveal the extent of understanding of the texts involved. You should also use the maps that have been numbered by the students to assess skills in map reading. As an extension activity, you might plan your own classroom/neighborhood oral histories. Brainstorm about the kinds of questions they would need to ask and plan who they might interview.

Plan format, adapted from KTIP Lesson Plan Format

Dr. Jackie Burnside
CPO 1706
Berea, KY 40404
(859) 985-3811

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Berea College

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