Review by Amy Lauren Botula, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014


From the everyday to the extraordinary, personal interviews get kids listening

Subjects & skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking

  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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Pros: There's an extensive archive of fascinating and powerful interviews, as well as solid support for preparing, recording, and posting one of your own.

Cons: Transcripts of popular interviews are only available in book form, and for cost.

Bottom Line: It's a great resource to help demonstrate the value of listening and the importance of storytelling and interviewing skills.

Teachers of most any grade level or subject area could use the interviews on StoryCorps as a community-building activity at the start of the year. For example, play one of the interviews on a common theme like friendship, romance, or family, and then use it as a discussion or writing prompt. 

To focus more on listening, teachers could lead students through a discussion that evaluates the questions asked, their timing, and the responses and then ask them to create their own interviews. For social studies, teachers can use the historical-event interviews as curriculum supplements as well as models for how to interview elders about key events from in their lives.

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One of the largest oral history projects of its kind, is a free online resource that houses more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants, and supports the recording and uploading of interviews from other contributors. Interviews are on a range of topics, from universals like love, friendship, and loyalty to historic events like 9/11 and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.

All are organized in a variety of easy-to-access ways, depending on user needs or interests. Users can choose from five tabs -- Featured, Popular, Shuffle, Locations, and Themes -- or click Stories and choose from Featured, Animated Shorts, or Podcasts. Some interviews are in Spanish; some are animated. Should you want to record your own interview, simply click Record Your Story and you'll be linked to support materials to assist you through every step of the process.

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Though not a curriculum-specific platform, StoryCorps can be used to support the new Common Core Speaking and Listening standards, provide witness to historical events, and demonstrate the craft components of memoir and narrative. Students will find the interviews both powerful and accessible -- the interviews that center on specific events, especially, will help students understand history as a lived, intimate experience. The option to record one's own stories and interviews enhances students' experience, as well as the site's potential as a learning tool.

On a separate note for teachers, the site also hosts a section for the National Teachers Initiative. This series of recordings highlights interviews between teachers and their (oftentimes former) students -- they're bound to be both fascinating and affirming to most any teacher. Also, some of the recordings -- if played for students in class -- could offer great opportunities for conversations about the nature of teaching and learning.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The opportunity to listen in on others' conversations has a magnetic pull. Students will appreciate the range of relevant topics -- friendship, romance, and family, for example -- and the honesty with which these subjects are discussed.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Many of the interviews focus on witnesses to historical events, and thus offer powerful firsthand accounts. No matter the topic, each interview models excellent questioning strategies, and an extensive list of possible questions is provided.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Recording tips are provided, as are multiple lists of recommended questions tailored to specific, sometims challenging, scenarios. 

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Leah K. , Other
Cobb County School District
Marietta, GA
Help your students build a sense of community with others!

Overall, StoryCorps is an amazing resource. What we lack so frequently in our world is a sense of community. Students (and teachers) tend to view their immediate area as the world and do not always have the opportunity to meet others from vastly different walks of life. StoryCorps enables all teachers and students to expand their horizons. What I really love about StoryCorps is the ease of searching through the website, the wide variety of content, and the provision of transcripts. When teaching ELLs and students with disabilities, a transcript can make these recordings much more accessible. The brief summaries with background information to the interviews are extremely helpful as these will help students and teachers weed through the sometimes overwhelming number of interviews available. To hear someone talk about their own life experiences can be a very powerful experience. Highly recommend this site!

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