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Using Oral History Projects to Boost SEL

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When middle and high school students listen to each other tell their stories, they build stronger relationships—a key part of social and emotional learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the lack of connection and personal engagement that many students experience at school, even as most of us have returned to the days of face-to-face programming. The need for social and Emotional learning (SEL) is greater than ever.
In the sound of “Witness” (Voice of Witness) this is committed to expanding affected by injustice and people struggling with the Voice of the non-profit organization, we found that by sharing stories and active listening, oral history based activity is to build a powerful tool to SEL skills, different language and cultural levels of the students can use this method. Oral history creates space for students and their community to experience life and becomes a central part of the curriculum. They develop empathy by listening and learning from each other’s experiences, and make personal connections to the curriculum through first-person narratives.

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The following two examples are valuable activities that witness Voices education programs help students develop SEL, as well as writing, editing, communication and critical thinking skills. Artefacts interviews serve as an introduction to oral history in the classroom, and Youth Participation in Action Research (YPAR) uses oral history as part of a larger project.
Artifact interviews
Artifact interviews can be reduced to a classroom session or expanded to a larger project including gallery walks. This is a simple outline of the basic interview process that introduces students to an optional oral history culture.
Community Agreements: Before starting any interview project, we recommend developing class and community agreements that allow students to reflect on what they need to feel comfortable sharing their stories. We started with the question, “If you have a story to share, what do you need to make you feel safe and brave?” Their responses can range from respect, trust and non-judgment to more physical demands, such as quiet space and positive body language. These documents should be displayed on the classroom wall or designed to be signed by all students and agreed to abide by.