Lesson 4: Voices of Immigrant City - Learning about Lawrence through Oral History

Created by UMass Lowell graduate student/Methuen High School social studies teacher Stephanie Turmel under the supervision of UMass Distinguished Professor of History Robert Forrant and Lawrence History Center staff (2019).

Unit Plan #1: The Immigrant City

Lesson 4: Voices of Immigrant City - Learning about Lawrence through Oral History

Essential Question: How can oral histories help us to understand the past?

Lesson Summary: Students will listen to oral histories of people who are immigrants to Lawrence, Massachusetts to learn more about the experiences of immigrants. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on the importance of oral history and compare the experiences of immigrants today to those of immigrants of the past.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand why oral histories are important.
  • Students will compare the experiences of immigrants during the 19th & 20th century to the experiences of immigrants today.

Lesson Overview:

Prep: Print and distribute Oral History Student Analysis Worksheet (Resource #12)

  1. Opener/Warm-up Activity - Class Discussion Question

    Why do you think looking at oral histories is important when researching a historical event or time period?
    Possible answers - important to understand people’s stories and their experiences related to an event/ Learn about different perspectives of a historical event

  2. Teacher introduction to activity: Review “What is oral history?” with class. Next, tell students, “Oral histories allow us to learn about regular people who may not be involved in writing of the history we read about today. For example, we can look at facts when learning about the Great Depression in the 1920’s, but listening to someone’s recorded story of how they had to choose between housing and food gives us a new perspective. Today we will be listening to oral histories to learn about the stories of people who are immigrants today in Lawrence, Massachusetts.”

  3. Oral History Activity: Students will explore the experiences of Lawrence immigrants today by listening and watching four recorded interviews. While listening to oral histories, complete the graphic organizer below. Have students listen to oral history by clicking the link and watching the video. If students do not have individual access to internet, you could also watch the videos as a class.

    Note: The oral histories for this lesson are courtesy of the Blog: "Nosotros, el pueblo: Voces de la Ciudad de Inmigrantes/We, the People: Voices of the Immigrant City". Please visit their blog for additional resources.

  4. Students will answer questions on the worksheet.

Lesson Extension
Activity: Students will record their own story oral history. They can answer the following questions: Are you an immigrant ? Is one of your relatives or someone you know an immigrant to the United States? They can write questions and conduct and record an interview to create an oral history.

Additional Teacher Resources: If you are interested in obtaining additional oral histories of Lawrence immigrants, you may contact the Lawrence History Center for additional resources. For more information see http://www.lawrencehistorycenter.org/collections/oralhistories