MFS – Interviews
- Students will learn how to conduct an interview.
- Students will see that their stories are just as important as those from Jews in the past.
There are two parts to the interview lesson: learning about and practicing interviews in class, and interviewing grandparents or older family members. The former should happen in class, while the latter should happen either at home with the interviewees or over a video chat. Video chatting can be a good solution for a family that lives out of the state or country. The family interviews can happen as a class activity if all students are able to have a grandparent or older family member come in.
Practicing interviewing in class
Through interviews with family or other significant people who can relate important information related to their family story of origin, students will discover the story of where they came from and how things led to who they are today.
Ask students to briefly describe what constitutes a good interview. You can show clips of famous interviews in class to demonstrate the following points of what a good interview includes:
- Schedule interviews ahead of time with the interviewee.
- Come prepared with open-ended questions.
- Speak with respect.
- Focus on making the interviewee comfortable. Show interviewee that you, the interviewer, are listening and interested in their story.
- Record interviews on a recording device or voice recording app to listen to and transcribe (write out) later. Focus on the conversation during the interview, and only write down keywords or important things to come back to later.
Practicing interviewing in class using these (link to MFS PDF pages 78-84) figures from Jewish history. Pair students up, and give each a figure profile to embody. They should take turns interviewing each other as the figure using the interview questions below. After interviewing each other, students should reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
Interviewing grandparents and older family members
Tell students that for this assignment they can choose to interview at least three people who are familiar with their family story. Sometimes they will choose parents and grandparents. But for some students, close relatives are not an option or are not available. You should encourage students to think beyond the immediate circle: sometimes there are good friends or neighbors who also can shed light on a family story. Have students write a list of at least three people they think will make important interviewees. Interviews ideally should be done in person face-to-face, but if this is not an option they can be over video chat. Record the interview on a recording device or voice recording app to listen to and transcribe (write out) later. Focus on the conversation during the interview, and only write down keywords or important things to come back to later. After the interview, students should come back to their recorded interviews and write down the answers to their questions.
Here is a list of suggested interview questions, which can be altered to fit your students’ goals:
Date of Interview:
Method for recording interview:
Name of interviewee:
Relationship to interviewer:
Where were you born?
When were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Names of your family (parents, siblings):
Where were your parents from?
Did your parents tell you stories from their childhood?
What was your childhood like? Happy, sad, troubled, exciting, calm?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What was it like to grow up Jewish in the neighborhood or city you grew up in?
What kind of family traditions did you have growing up?
What was your favorite Jewish holiday growing up? How did you celebrate with your family and community?
Who had the biggest influence on your life?
What is one memory they would like to relive?
What did you do after school?
How did you meet your husband/wife? Tell me about your wedding.
What are your dreams for our family?
Why is it important for you to be Jewish today?
If you, the interviewer, would like more clarification to one of the answers, try asking the following questions: You said this, what did you mean by that? Can you tell me more?
Show students the Beit Hatfutsot databases here, and ask them to read or listen to the interviews posted. They can find an interview done on a similar subject or in the same country as theirs. This can be a good warm-up before their actual interviews to help direct them to what types of questions to ask.