Admittedly, many of my best lessons have been by accident. My favorite lesson, judged largely by the positive reaction not only from my students but their parents and grandparents, involved the fairly simple task of interviewing a member of your family. As I hashed out the details, I added the fact that the person interviewed had to be the family elder. Unless there was some significant reason otherwise-ill health, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia for instance, the student was to interview the oldest living person or couple left in the family tree.
Still further, I wanted the interviews recorded for us to see and hear in class. Only later would we recognize the power of this task. This simple requirement changed the depth of the assignment from fun lesson for the grandkids to ask about life in the old days to a serious attempt at A&E Biography.
Everyone took things much more seriously. Questions had to offer more enlightenment and exploration of the subject, the lighting, sound, and setting of the interviews themselves took on greater consideration. I found that several days of good and bad examples in the use of light and microphones, good vs. weak questions, and the value in learning how to edit your interview, proved valuable in my students creating quality interviews of their family members.
The end product proved to be valuable in unpredictable ways. Years later I still hear from parents and students whose projects now carry the weight of gold for capturing those moments of both youth and age. Some answers given amused, moved or even stunned the adult children; tears flowed, epiphanies revealed.
Today, most of the interviewed subjects are gone, their young reporters all grown up, but the digital assignment remains as a permanent reminder of that moment.