StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen with Facing History in Los Angeles

Posted by Mary Hendra on November 1, 2015

StoryCorps's mobile booth is in Los Angeles this month, which makes us appreciate all the more the power of stories. I'm always amazed by the depth and breadth of stories a simple conversation with another person can yield. 

Here's one of the animated StoryCorps shorts I found recently that is quickly becoming a favorite:

Whether you go in person between now and November 15th (make a reservation here), or plan to join in the Great Thanksgiving Listen with the new StoryCorps app, here are some questions our Teacher Leadership Team brainstormed to bring the "Facing History" approach to your interview. These are aligned with the categories of questions included in the Teacher Kit for the Great Thanksgiving Listen.

Great Questions for Anyone

  1. How would you like to be remembered?
  2. Was there ever a time that you felt you were being judged unfairly? What happened? How did you feel?
  3. Can you share a time when you treated someone in a way that you now regret?
  4. Was there ever a time when you stood up for someone being treated unfairly? What happened?
  5. How do your childhood memories shape who you are today?

Family Heritage

  1. If the interviewee is from another country: How do "American" values differ from what you grew up with?
  2. If the family moved to America within the last generation or two: Has life in American been what you expected? Why or why not?
  3. What does the term "family" mean to you? Has your definition changed over the years? (how/why?)
  4. When your family expands to include someone new (a child, a spouse, an adoption...), how do you show them they are "part of the family"?


  1. What was the world like when you were growing up? How is it different today?
  2. What is a positive change you see in the world today, compared to your youth?
  3. What is something about life that has not changed when you compare your childhood and mine
  4. Who have you admired as an "upstander"? Why?

Growing Up and School

  1. Did you have a nickname in school? How did you get it? What did you like or not like about your nickname?
  2. Was school a place of learning for you? In what ways?
  3. Tell me about a "best" and "worst" day in school.
  4. Did your school have any bullies? How did bullying at school affect you?
  5. Who was a peer in school who had a positive impact on your life? In what ways did that person influence you?
  6. Tell me about an act of kindness you participated in.
  7. What is something you wished you had known during high school (that you know today)?


  1. Was working an option or expected for you as a kid? Why?
  2. What subtle and overt messages about your future job or job opportunities did you receive when you were growing up?
  3. Has there ever been a situation at your job where someone acted as a "whistle-blower"? What happened?
  4. How have difficulties at your job led to your understanding of others?
  5. How has your career benefited others? Did having an impact on others contribute to your choice of career? In what way?

Military Service

  1. What advice would you give to youth today who might be interested in enlisting?
  2. Have you experienced different treatment while wearing the uniform than when you are not wearing it? In what ways?
  3. While serving abroad, how did you experience local culture/customs?
  4. Have the lessons you learned from serving abroad - or in other parts of the US - helped you understand people differently? Can you give an example?

Religion and Spirituality

  1. How do your beliefs affect your daily life?
  2. How do you turn to religion or your spiritual beliefs in times of strife?
  3. In your understanding of a Higher Being, how does he/she see your role in making the world more just?
  4. Who was most instrumental in shaping your understanding of spirituality? How?
  5. Were your religious or spiritual beliefs ever challenged? What did you do?

Love and Relationships

  1. What did you learn about yourself through the eye of the "love of your life"?
  2. Were there "rules" about who you could date? From whom/where? and how did you "learn" those rules?
  3. If the person was in an interfaith or interracial marriage: What were the struggles faced and how did you overcome them?

Here are 5 interview tips from NPR's Steve Inskeep:

And click here for one way you could use StoryCorps to build community and practice the skill of listening with your colleagues or students.

Topics: Identity, Los Angeles, Community Event, Using Technology

Welcome to Learn+Teach+Share

This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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